This week we get two compact SUVs to drive, starting with the Mazda CX-30. This all new rig is based on the Mazda3 sedan platform and has a low starting price of $22K. Ours was loaded up with everything, so it had some sticker shock at over $31K. This includes four-wheel drive for best traction.
We also got a spare tire. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter engine with 186 horsepower and six-speed automatic gearbox. A separate switch provides normal or sport mode driving. Fuel economy is listed at 25/32 mpg. We noticed from the paperwork this is made in Mexico.
This vehicle was loaded with everything, which can be a good or bad thing. First there is a computer system that wants to control the steering and is very annoying. It can be turned off. There is also a heads-up display that reflects into the windscreen and can be turned off. But it takes an annoying five-step process to do so every time the car is started, and another with that steering system. So if you want all these disconnected, there will now be a seven-step process every time you turn the ignition on. I solved some of this aggravation by stuffing a sock into the HUD unit so the image can’t be projected!
The CX-30 is very pleasant to drive on the street. While it can be taken off-road, keep in mind this is basically a car and not very happy bouncing around on dirt trails. But few of these will be taken off pavement.
One SUV that will be in the dirt is our Toyota RAV with TRD off-road package. The base price is $26K, but with this TRD unit the price is $35K. With items like navigation, 11-speaker stereo and tons of silly items not needed, the fee soared to a shocking $43K! Either price gets you a 2.5-liter, 203-hp motor and eight-speed transmission. Fuel economy is claimed to be 25/32 mpg. We got 25/28.
The RAV is a great street machine but has plenty of features for playing in the dirt as well. The TRD unit comes with upgraded wheels and tires, beefed suspension/shocks, hill descent control and torque vectoring AWD. The latter has settings for sand, mud, snow, rocks and dirt. Surprisingly, there are no tow hooks or skid plates. Also, the ride height is no higher, but 8.6 inches is enough for the intended use.
We drove the TRD for a week and enjoyed it completely. For light-duty off-road chores, it does just fine. But if it was me, I would skip all the fluffy options and stay with the $35K version for better value.
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.