When small and medium isn't quite what fits, maybe something in-between will.
That's Mazda's idea in bringing out the CX-30, its newest crossover. It's not the smallest, but it's not quite medium-sized, either.
What It Is
The CX-30 is a five-passenger crossover SUV that bridges the gap between the subcompact CX-3 and the midsize CX-5. In addition to offering a different size, it comes standard with more power than you can get in a CX-3 for much less money than you'd pay to get into a CX-5.
Prices start at $21,900 for the base trim with front-wheel drive, a 2.5-liter engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.
All-wheel drive is optional in the base and the other trims — Select, Preferred and Premium — the latter topping the price range at $29,600 with all-wheel drive.
The CX-30 is a new addition to Mazda's model lineup.
It has the power of the CX-5 without the price — or the additional size.
It has more space than the CX-3 — for just a slightly higher price.
It has the looks — and fun-to-drive attributes — of its brothers.
What's Not So Good
It'd be more fun to drive if you could get it with a manual transmission.
Mazda won't be offering its high-efficiency diesel engine in this one.
The good looks make it a bit less practical than some others in the same general class, such as the smaller but roomier Honda HR-V.
Under the Hood
The CX-30 is bigger — under the hood — than its smaller sibling, the CX-3.
Standard equipment is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 186 horsepower; it's the same basic engine that's standard in the CX-30's larger sibling, the CX-5, which also offers a more powerful (and turbocharged) version of this engine, which makes 227 horsepower.
Performance is what you'd expect — right in between.
The CX-30 is quicker than the CX-3 (which makes due with 2.0 liters and 148 horsepower) but not as quick as the CX-5, with its available turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter four.
Zero to 60 mph takes about 7.7 seconds, versus about 8.2 for the CX-3 and about 6.2 for the turbocharged CX-5.
Mileage for the front-wheel drive version is 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway for the all-wheel drive-equipped version.
For comparison purposes, the lesser-engined CX-3 delivers 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway (in the front-wheel-drive versions; all-wheel-drive versions post 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway). The stronger CX-5 turbo comes in at 22 mpg city, 24 mpg highway (with all-wheel drive, mandatory with the more powerful engine).
On the Road
Mazda vehicles are not the most practical vehicles — even when the model is a type that touts practicality.
But they are close to being the practicality leaders — in terms of such things as passenger and cargo room, as well as fuel efficiency — while almost always being noticeably more fun to drive.
The CX-30 doesn't depart from this tradition.
For openers, it has the winning mix of more engine than similarly sized models such as the more practical Honda HR-V, which musters only 141 horsepower from one of the smallest engines (1.8 liters) in the class.
For seconds, the Mazda comes with a six-speed automatic transmission rather than a continuously variable, or CVT, automatic, the latter rapidly approaching the default standard (and only available) transmission in this class — chiefly because CVTs are more ... practical.
There is a fuel efficiency edge versus a conventional automatic with set gears (e.g., one through six) rather than a ratio that can be varied continuously. But transmissions that shift through the gears feel more responsive; there are downshifts and upshifts rather than a continuous surge delivered by the CVT.
There is also handling, which Mazda emphasizes, too — even at the cost of a little practicality.
The CX-30 has 6.9 inches of ground clearance, a bit less than some — so it's not quite the snowmobile that some crossovers (like the Subaru Crosstrek) are. But being closer to the ground has its advantages when there's no snow on the road and you're wanting to go around a corner faster — which this one does better than those that ride higher.
At the Curb
The CX-30 looks a lot like the CX-3 and the CX-5 ... until you take out the tape measure. It's about half of a foot shorter overall than the CX-5 and about the same amount longer than the CX-3.
These exterior dimensional differences translate into a bit more second-row legroom (36.3 inches) than inside the CX-3 (35 inches), and a bit less legroom than in the CX-5 (39.6 inches).
The same differences can be measured in cargo capacity. The CX-30 has 20.2 cubic feet behind its second row and 45.2 with its second row folded flat — versus 17.8 cubic feet and 42.7 cubic feet, respectively, in the CX-3 and 30.9 cubic feet and 59.6 cubic feet, respectively, in the CX-5.
One way that all of Mazda's CXs are identical is that they are powered by gasoline engines — which is too bad, because Mazda had toyed with offering a diesel engine in the CX-5 at least.
If that had happened, the CX-30 might have gotten this engine as well — and with it, the capability of delivering 45 mpg on the highway — something no other crossover can do.
But it doesn't look like it's going to happen — in any Mazda sold in the United States.
The Bottom Line
The CX-30 could also have been named the Goldilocks — since it might be just the right size.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.