There isn’t a single tiny crossover out there at the 2021 Mazda CX-30’s price point that has a more lavish and upscale interior. That makes perfect sense, considering it was exactly Mazda’s aim to punch up into the entry-level luxury market.
Mazda likes to talk endlessly about ergonomics and adapting the interior to work best for the driver, and it’s not just talk. Its design is inherently pretty to look at, but it’s also made to be a joy to use. Being a crossover, the entry and exit into the driver’s seat is high enough to just slide right in without needing to crouch downwards or hoist yourself upward — I prefer a low car, but there’s no denying the benefit to crossover height for old knees.
Once inside, you’re instantly met with Mazda3 vibes. That’s because it’s nearly identical to the 3 (pictured below right in red), though there are some notable differences. For one, the dash top is slightly different. It’s still a two-tiered design, but the infotainment screen integration is done differently. They accomplish the same goal, but the Mazda3’s swooping top layer and additional stitching is a touch more elegant. Mazda also adopted a rounded and curved outward-facing element that is different from the more sharp-edged Mazda3. The beautifully integrated air vents flanking the steering wheel and hiding in the passenger side trim remain, and the simple climate control interface is tactile bliss.
CX-30 left; Mazda3 right
All the buttons, knobs and things you interact with seem designed with intention and are wonderfully damped like that of a more expensive Mercedes-Benz or Audi. The soft leather steering wheel isn’t overly thick and doesn’t suggest any contrived sportiness. Even the metallic-feeling buttons are intuitive, as there are protruding tabs for things like volume and cruise control speed that make quick and hands-free adjustments easy. This theme carries forward to the audio and infotainment system controls.
The old Mazda screen could be operated by touch, but only when stopped. For this latest generation, Mazda dumped that quasi-touch capability for a pure rotary-controlled system paired with an enlarged and relocated screen. This new unit is positioned higher and far forward such that you don’t need to avert your eyes from the road by much to see what’s going on. It’s tough to say without a definitive test, but Mazda’s infotainment might be the least distracting of all — there’s little need to readjust your vision to see it, and you can control it using the knob without even shifting your body. The downside is that a knob is an imperfect way to control Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Mazda’s cleverly integrated digital screen (real gauges flanking a central screen) in the instrument cluster is another great way to integrate technology without being distracting or overwhelming to the driver.
Not every last bit about this interior is sunshine and rose petals, though. The CX-30’s achilles heel is its interior utility, or rather, the lack thereof. Simply put, it’s small. The opening to get into the backseat is narrow, and once you’re back there, knee room is just insufficient for larger adults. I (an average height male) can just barely fit back there when the seat is in my preferred driving position. My knees are pushed up against the seatback that is thankfully soft, and my feet are tucked under the chair. Being stuck in this position for too long on a road trip would be irritating. For kids, it’s not so bad.
You’d think there would be an abundance of space in the cargo hold then, right? Wrong. West Coast Editor James Riswick compared the Mazda3 (hatchback and sedan) to a CX-30 and actually found that the sedan was the luggage king of them all. The CX-30’s 20.2 cubic-feet of tall storage space isn’t useless, but it’s just barely better than the Mazda3 hatchback, and would surely lose to some of its more space efficient competitors. It’s just one of the compromises you have to make for the devilishly good exterior styling.
Utility isn’t why you’d buy a CX-30, though. This interior is compelling because the interior quality and design are comparable to cars like the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3 and BMW X2. The three-tone white, brown and black interior pictured in this post is the most impressive color combination available — I’d love to see the Mazda3’s red interior (pictured above right) make the list one day, but there’s a blue and black combo (upper left) that’s available if you want to spice it up with some color now.