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Sibling Rivalry: 2021 Mazda CX-30 versus 2021 Mazda CX-5

Which small and sporty Mazda SUV is right for you?

Best known for its MX-5 roadster, Mazda has always tried to bake into its cars and SUVs the same style and engaging driving experiences found in its iconic sports car. Witness the 2021 Mazda CX-30 and CX-5. While both are considered small SUVs, the subcompact CX-30 and slightly larger compact CX-5 share a lot of engineering with the Mazda5 cars. Yet each differs enough to make deciding between this pair of small Mazda SUV siblings a purchasing challenge.

Although the list of sub-compact SUVs grows every day, the 2021 Mazda CX-30 doesn’t fit neatly into any pre-existing size categories. The 5-passenger CX-30 packs a decent amount of power and has a chassis that’s perfectly suited to exploit that muscle. Like every other Mazda, there’s an aesthetic sensibility that’s rare in anything below the typical luxury level. A certain sophistication permeates everything the CX-30 does and has.

If you need the practicality of a compact SUV but still enjoy clipping apexes, the 2021 Mazda CX-5 deserves your attention. Indeed, the CX-5 is one of the sportiest compact SUVs available, thanks in part to its responsive steering and top-notch balance. What’s more, the CX-5 feels like it came from a luxury brand but is priced more like its mainstream competition.

So which one to choose? Read on to find out which of these small and sporty Mazda SUV siblings is just right for you.

 

Price

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of the base, front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2021 Mazda CX-30 GX trim starts at $24,550 (all prices in Canadian dollars). Power comes from a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. Traction at all four wheels is a $1,500 option. The mid-line GS trim gets a larger 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine and starts at $27,350 in FWD form; AWD versions start at $28,850. The topline $33,850 CX-30 GT gets AWD standard, a turbocharged version of the 2.5 unit.

Marketed one-class up, it’s no surprise the 2021 Mazda CX-5’s starting MSRP of $28,500 in base, FWD GX trim is higher than the base CX-30. One reason to justify the CX-5’s higher pricing is the larger 2.5 engine becomes standard. The only engine upgrade in the CX-5 is the same turbocharged 4-cylinder found in the CX-30, starting with the $37,800 CX-5 GT Turbo AWD trim. The most expensive CX-5 is the $43,550 100th Anniversary Edition celebrating Mazda’s centennial as an automaker.

As well, both Mazdas share the automaker's unique 3-year/unlimited-kilometre factory warranty.

Winner: 2021 Mazda CX-30

 

Interior 

Despite the price differences, both Mazda small SUVs offer class-leading interiors. 

Inside, the Mazda CX-30 and CX-5 accommodations are full of classy touches. The use of high-quality materials and elegant style wouldn’t look out of place in more expensive vehicles with luxury brand badges. Mazda has worked hard on how everything looks and feels, and those efforts have paid off, with beautiful accents and a pleasant tactility to the switchgear.

Every 2021 CX-30 has the Mazda Connect infotainment system and an 8.8-inch screen sitting on the dash. The 2021 CX-5 gets a slightly smaller 8-inch infotainment system situated atop its centre console. For both, Mazda offers plenty of luxury features, like leather-clad seats that can be heated and cooled and two-tone interior treatments, in their respective higher trim levels.

Where the two Mazda small SUVs differ is available interior space.

Except for front legroom (where the CX-30 scores 17 additional millimetres over the CX-5’s 1,041-millimetre measurement), the CX-5 is the roomier small Mazda SUV for passengers. The same applies to cargo room. The CX-5 offers 875 litres of cargo space behind its rear seats, compared to the CX-30’s 572 rating.

Winner: 2021 Mazda CX-5

 

Performance & Fuel Economy

As mentioned, the 2021 Mazda CX-30 gets a smaller, 2.0-litre engine as its base powerplant. The 4-cylinder makes 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. After that lone divergence, the Mazda siblings share the naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions of the larger 2.5-litre 4-cylinder.

The non-turbo 2.5 unit makes 186 horsepower in the CX-30 and 187 in the CX-5. Torque is the same (186 pound-feet) for both. The shared turbo-4 makes a more robust 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque using 87 octane fuel, and 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque if you can afford to fill up with 93 octane.

Both Mazda SUVs use a crisp-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission.

Despite the similarities between the Mazda SUV siblings’ powertrain hardware, the tidier CX-30 scores better fuel economy estimates all around than its heavier CX-5 sibling.

Winner: 2021 Mazda CX-30

 

Ride and Handling

Did you really think all mainstream small SUVs were boring to drive? If so, Mazda continues to prove that practicality doesn’t have to be puritanical. And both the CX-30 and CX-5 will reward owners who like to drive.

Although it's one step larger than the CX-30, the CX-5's handling is nimble and precise, able to change direction with grace thanks in part to a standard, sophisticated torque-vectoring system. While the ride quality lacks the suppleness of a Honda CR-V, the CX-5 longer wheelbase gives it a smoother ride over rough roads than the CX-30. Overall, the CX-5's suspension, steering, brakes, and standard G-Vectoring Control Plus conspire to make this Mazda especially rewarding to drive.

The CX-30 has smooth, responsive steering and a sporty ride without compromising any ride comfort. The front seats have been designed to support the spine's natural position for better posture, more comfort, and less fatigue than a regular car seat. Of this pair, the CX-30's smaller footprint and lighter weight make it more fun to drive in town and on twisty roads.

Winner: 2021 Mazda CX-30

 

Overall Winner: 2021 Mazda CX-30

With this pair of Mazda SUV siblings sharing so much hardware and delivering similar aesthetic executions, in the end, we found the differences relatively narrow.

If you need the extra space and can afford its elevated pricing, we think the 2021 Mazda CX-5 is an excellent choice for buyers looking for a compact SUV that drives well and gives off some serious luxury SUV vibes. Especially when compared to other more direct rivals, like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.

However, the slightly smaller 2021 Mazda CX-30 outshines its larger sibling in so many ways. Due to its lighter weight and smaller footprint, the CX-30 is more fun to drive and delivers better fuel economy while doing it. And with the available turbocharged engine and luxury features in higher trims, the CX-30 can match the CX-5 when it comes to features and amenities.

 

Specs

2021 Mazda CX-30

2021 Mazda CX-5

Engine(s)

2.0-litre I4

2.5-litre I4

2.5-litre Turbocharged I4

2.5-litre I4
2.5-litre Turbocharged I4

 

Horsepower

2.0 - 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm

2.5 - 186 hp @ 6,000 rpm

2.5T- 227 hp @ 5,000 rpm/87 octane/250 hp @ 5,000 rpm/93 octane

2.5 - 187 hp @ 6,000 rpm
2.5T - 227 hp @ 5,000 rpm/87 octane/250 hp @ 5,000 rpm/93 octane

Torque

2.0 - 150 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

2.5 - 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

2.5T- 310  lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm/87 octane/320 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm/93 octane

2.5 - 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

2.5T - 310  lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm/87 octane/320 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm/93 octane

Transmission

6-speed automatic

6-speed automatic

Fuel Economy

2.0 FWD - 8.1 L/100 km (8.9 city, 7.1 hwy)

2.5 FWD - 8.3 L/100 km (9.3 city, 7.1 hwy)

2.0 AWD - 8.6 L/100 km (9.4 city, 7.7 hwy)

2.5 AWD - 8.9 L/100 km (9.9 city, 7.7 hwy)

2.5T AWD – 9.3 L/100 km (10.5 city, 7.9 hwy)

2.5 FWD - 8.8 L/100 km (9.7 city, 7.8 hwy)

2.5 AWD – 9.3 L/100 km (10.8 city, 8.2 hwy)

2.5T AWD – 9.8 L/100 km (10.8 city, 8.7 hwy)

Warranty

3 years/Unlimited kilometres

3 years/Unlimited kilometres

Max Seating Capacity

5

5

Curb Weight

1,414-1,592 kg

1,559-1,734 kg

Wheelbase

2,652 mm

2,698 mm

Overall Length

4,395 mm

4,550 mm

Width

2,040 mm

1,842-2,115 mm

Height

1,568-1,580 mm

1,681 mm

Headroom, Front

961-967 mm

1,009 mm

Headroom, Rear

973 mm

991 mm

Legroom, Front

1,058 mm

1,041 mm

Legroom, Rear

921 mm

1,007 mm

Shoulder Room, Front

1,412 mm

1,451 mm

Shoulder Room, Rear

1,361 mm

1,392 mm

Cargo Volume

Behind rear seats - 572 L

Rear seats folded – 1,280 L

Behind rear seats - 875 L

Rear seats folded – 1,687 L

 

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