With many Canadian consumers foregoing sedans and hatchbacks in favour of SUVs and crossovers, the subcompact SUV segment has become more important than ever for automakers. Vehicles in this segment pair the manoeuvrability and fuel-efficient nature of a subcompact car with the spaciousness and capability of a traditional SUV – making them popular with Canadian consumers who have active lifestyles or budding families.

The subcompact SUV segment is one of the most crowded in the auto industry right now, and with many entries offering a similar driving and ownership experience at an almost identical price point, it can be hard to choose between them. Our panel of more than 20 automotive experts from across the country considered every single subcompact SUV on sale in Canada today and voted to determine the best of the best, with the Mazda CX-30 getting enough votes to be named AutoTrader’s Best Subcompact SUV.

The Mazda CX-30 is not to be confused with the similarly named Mazda CX-3, which is an older and slightly smaller subcompact SUV from the Japanese brand. The CX-30, by comparison, is slightly longer, wider and taller, putting it directly in the crosshairs of popular subcompact SUVs like the Kia Seltos (last year’s winner of this category) and the Hyundai Kona. The CX-30 is also of much higher build quality – falling in line with Mazda’s newly implemented strategy of aiming for a more premium vibe.

One of the main draws of the Mazda CX-30 is the impressive lineup of available powertrains. The base engine is a 155-hp 2.0L four-cylinder, while an available 2.5L with 186 hp powers mid- and top-level trims. Finally, there’s the optional 2.5L turbo, which produces an impressive 250 hp and gives the CX-30 enough performance to match pricier luxury CUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. The availability of this engine also makes the CX-30 particularly appealing to driving enthusiasts.

While the 2.5L turbo should be the go-to engine for people who prioritize performance, the CX-30 retains its fun-to-drive nature no matter which of the above engines the buyer opts for. As AutoTrader contributor Jeff Wilson pointed out when he reviewed the Mazda CX-30, the crossover’s handling is “well-controlled and its grip and composure inspires spirited driving when the opportunity allows.” The CX-30 does ride a bit stiffer than other subcompact SUVs like the Subaru Crosstrek, Wilson said, but it’s still far from being uncomfortable.

While not the most budget-friendly entry in the subcompact SUV segment, the Mazda CX-30 still offers decent value for money. The base GX trim level starts at $24,850 before destination and freight charges and includes an 8.8-inch display screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, cruise control, keyless entry with push button start, rain-sensing wipers and LED headlamps and taillights, among more. Customers can also add all-wheel drive for a $1,500 price premium – giving them a well-equipped and capable family crossover for under $30,000.

Our jury places safety high up on our criteria when judging vehicles in this segment, and the CX-30 delivers in this regard. The crossover is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, a designation that is reserved for only the safest vehicles available on the market today. Even the base GX model offers an impressive array of safety tech, including advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a wide-angle backup camera, and automatic headlamps. The mid-grade GS and range-topping GT trims also add even more active safety features from Mazda’s i-Activsense suite, including lane departure warning and active brake assist, among others.

Fuel efficiency is also high on our list of priorities when judging a subcompact SUV. While the Canadian government has not yet provided a fuel economy rating for the 2022 model, the 2021 CX-30 2.0L AWD has impressive fuel economy ratings of 9.4 L/100 km city, 7.7L/100 km highway, and 8.6L/100 km combined. The powerful 2.5L Turbo engine is hardly less efficient, too, boasting ratings of 9.9 L/100 km city, 7.7L/100 km highway, and 8.9L/100 km combined. Canadian drivers may be flocking to SUVs, but that doesn’t mean they have to accept poor fuel economy in the process.

As Wilson pointed out in his review, buyers in the subcompact category “have plenty of choice with several great options available.” But while the CX-30 is neither the most luxurious nor the most rugged, this offering is “comfortably the segment’s top choice for driving enthusiasts,” and is a smart choice for consumers who value safety, build quality, and fuel efficiency.

In receiving AutoTrader’s 2022 Best Subcompact SUV award, the Mazda CX-30 has been solidified as the one of the best vehicles in its segment. This is a crossover our panel of judges can confidently recommend to our readers, as well as our family and friends. With an impressive array of powertrains and safety technology, along with build quality not seen in many luxury vehicles, the CX-30 represents the cream of the crop in the subcompact SUV segment.