JULIAN, Calif. — An Aveo wanders in the lane ahead, its gas flap open and waving in the 30-mph slipstream as it creeps along some of the best roads in all of Southern California as swiftly as a retreating glacier. The 2020 Mazda CX-30’s speedometer needle quivers and then falls. The longing for a passing zone becomes unbearable. Even with a merely adequate 186 horsepower and a standard automatic, I can’t wait to smoke this Aveo as I arc into another corner, tap brakes to transfer weight, and scoot into the next. And then a sort of calm washes over, provoking the slightest smile. The smile is a realization that, short of a few performance models from the German brands, most compact crossovers don’t beg for this sort of action. The CX-30 is not most crossovers – it’s built on the bones of the dynamically overachieving Mazda3, making it legitimately rewarding to drive. Think of it more as a car that happens to be marketed as a crossover. The careful attention to vehicle dynamics means it doesn’t wallow like you might expect a jacked-up 3 might. What it feels like is a 3 variant, not an entirely different vehicle — analogous to the Subaru Crosstrek’s relationship to the Impreza, albeit with greater visual differentiation and a much more sophisticated driving experience. That’s a very, very good thing indeed – and let’s take a moment to review the virtues of the 3 to explain why. There’s nothing in its class that nails its brief so well. The interior looks exceptionally premium in higher trim grades, it drives better than anything in its class, and the sheetmetal “oozes sex appeal,” as contributing writer Jason Cammisa put it – although less oozing is present in the awkward hatchback. It’s even available with all-wheel drive. However, I respectfully disagree that the engine is refined – the Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter inline-four, a carryover from the last generation and shared between the 3 and CX-30, is harsh and clattery. In both vehicles it gets the job done. That 186 hp is backed up with 186 pound-feet of torque, channeled exclusively through a six-speed automatic in the CX-30. Front- or all-wheel drive is available in every CX-30 trim. And while there’s roughly a 200-lb weight penalty over the 3, the CX-30 manages to feel perky, not porky. Nor is the fuel economy hit as much as you might imagine. Its EPA-estimated numbers are 1-2 mpg off the Mazda3 hatchback across the board, despite every configuration of the 3 hatchback offering cylinder deactivation (it’s only available on the top-trim CX-30). For example, the CX-30 AWD delivers 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway; the 3 hatchback AWD delivers 24 and 32, respectively. Inside, too, the design DNA is mostly 3. Mazda has the sort of interior ergonomic focus that we haven’t seen enough of lately. The major controls are well located and pitch-perfect. The steering wheel has a nice diameter and is meaty but not too thick, and steering …
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|MPG||24 City / 31 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||186 @ 6000 rpm|
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