2021 Mazda 3 Plus vs. CX-30 Premium

Mazda has long held the reputation for packing tons of enticing tech and exciting hardware, into aggressively styled and reasonably priced packages. With plenty of turbocharged magic, and an approach to chassis and suspension design that focuses on keeping things extra fun behind the wheel. When comparing many Mazda models to the competition within a certain price point, the value and pure driving appeal often wins the day. How then do two similarly priced models within the same Mazda family compare? To the discerning customer torn between the popular Mazda 3, and relatively new CX-30, let’s take a closer look. 

Having debuted in Geneva just a few years ago, the 2019 Mazda CX-30 promised to deliver a bit more space and ground clearance to the growing crowd of crossover enthusiasts. While largely the same in every other way, the CX-30 does add an extra 5” of height, with added inches of headroom and legroom in the back. 

Styling is quite a bit different between the two as well. With the extra ground clearance and softer, more subdued design features, the CX-30 fits the crossover theme perfectly. Little extras not to be found in the Mazda 3 are a more upscale looking grille with chrome accents, a power lift gate, rails-only roof rack and more conservatively styled wheels. By comparison, the Mazda 3 features an all black grille and prominent black front splitter, combined with aggressive wheels and a low ride height. Stirred together to serve up a more menacing, sporty runway look. With a little lip spoiler as an end-cap before the tail plunges down into that hot hatch style. Clearly, two very different design direction are being taken here. While the CX-30 offers more space in the back and general ride height underneath, the Mazda 3 looks and feels much more sporty, while delivering a more arresting exterior aesthetic. 

Image via: Mazda

On the inside, the similarities abound over the differences. The Mazda 3 uses an almost all black palate, with chrome accents on the speaker covers, interior and steering wheel. As a slight departure, the CX-30 mixes some dark brown interior color with the black. Both feature heated leather buckets up front, a seating capacity of five, the same dual zone climate control, Bose audio and smart device connection. The simple, clean and clutter free interior style looks and feels upscale. The rotary dial to control the infotainment center is a breeze to use and the digital graphics and heads up display on both models are colorful and bright.

Image via: Mazda

Powering the two Mazdas is the same 2.5L 4-cylinder turbo. Horsepower is good at 227. Torque is much better at 310 lb-ft. The 6-speed automatic transmission is geared to accommodate the generous helping of acceleration, with steering wheel mounted sequential shift controls at the ready. Speed sensitive steering helps to tighten things up as you really get going, and an identical suspension set up works wonders, though the lower center of gravity in the Mazda 3 allows it to turn tightly, with less pitching and rolling. 

In regards to safety and driving aides, the two are almost identical. The Mazda CX-30 adds a few extras, like Driver Attention Alert, Smart Brake Support with pedestrian detection and adaptive front LED headlights. Otherwise, the choice will come down to which style you prefer and if you need the extra ground clearance and space in the back. 

Mazda CX-30 Turbo Premium: Starting at $34,050.00

Mazda 3 Premium Plus: Starting at $33,900.00

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