CROSSOVERS CAN BE COOL
Having enjoyed a Toyota C-HR and Lexus UX as daily drivers previously, I've come to appreciate the everyday drivability of a small SUV, aka CUV, aka crossover. While equipped with noble handling, these compact-sized grocery haulers weren't meant for the open road or to get your adrenaline pumping, but more so used to battle busy city streets and embark on occasional trips to grandma's house. The majority of America seems to agree as small crossover sales reached 778,000 units in 2019. The affordable models are as functional as can be, but minus all the fun; however, recently, we had the opportunity to jump into the new 2020 Mazda CX-30, and needless to say, we could appreciate the well-designed crossover so much more, plus, it also got our wheels turning in regard to a future project car.
MAZDA NAILS IT
To preface the CX-30, I had the opportunity to spend a good amount of time in the Mazda3 hatchback last year and I was already a big fan. It looks exceptionally sleek and also feels more "Euro premium" despite its affordable price tag ($21,900/$23,300 starting MSRP for FWD/AWD). Its interior and controls are simple, straight to the point and relaxing to use. It also ponied up 186hp and 186 lb-ft out of its 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Of course, not the boosted powertrain enthusiasts like us hope for, but it wasn't totally gutless (0-60mph at 7-seconds flat). When it came time for the new CX-30, Mazda carried over the same basic architecture, suspension characteristics and powerplant (0-60mph at 7.8-seconds) as well as an AWD model, not to mention a new off-road traction assist option would make the CX-30 attractive for weekend snow bunnies. The new CX-30 is nimble like the Mazda3, albeit it stands a tad taller (5-inches taller than the Mazda3 hatch). Even the six-speed automatic shifts surprisingly smooth. Comparing my previous crossover projects, it certainly had more pep than the 144hp C-HR and 169hp UX that I was accustomed to (more bang for your buck with the Mazda). Its design is modern and quite liberal; however, the CX-30's body cladding is a bit much to take in, which is what lead me to think that it just needed a bit of "Super Street flair."
To read a full driving review of the CX-30, visit our friends at MotorTrend.
JON SIBAL RENDERING: WHEELS, SUSPENSION AND MORE
Whenever I have an idea or vision about modifying a car, I often pick up the phone and dial Jon Sibal. The former comic book artist turned automotive visionary genius has become well-known around the industry for creating digital masterpieces that have gone on to inspire enthusiasts, and even automakers, in their vehicle concepts. I owe Jon many thanks for supporting a couple of our recent builds like my A90 Toyota Supra and Corolla hatchback. I've enlisted his help again to shed some light on Mazda's latest CX-30 in its OEM color: Polymetal Gray Metallic.
- Lowered Stance. Not slammed on air suspension but perhaps lowered on coilovers or springs. Yes, it makes it look more along the lines of a Mazda3, but we're not thinking of raising this one or going off-roading. And can you argue that it doesn't look sharp lowered?
- Volk Racing TE37 Wheels. It's our favorite wheel of all-time and like your favorite jacket you wore every day in high school, it looks good on pretty much everything, including the new CX-30. It comes with 16-18" wheels standard and we opted for a set of 19" TE37SL.
- Colormatched Body Trim. The black plastic body trim around the entire exterior looked a bit odd to us and we feel it's a forced attempt to make the CX-30 a more bold and rugged-looking SUV than it truly is. So, we had Jon paint match everything in the factory body color which makes the overall exterior feel more finished.
- Black Out. We're not huge fans of chrome on anything so we smoked the grille and window trim, plus painted the roof and side mirrors piano black.
- Roof Rack with Pelican Cases. Similar to our Lexus UX project from last year, adding more cargo options isn't a bad idea, and makes the small SUV a bit more road trip-ready.
- Painted Lower Rocker Panel. Similar to the Porsche Macan, Jon added black accents on the lower side rocker panels to break up the paint.