In theory, the Lexus UX250h and Mazda CX-30 shouldn’t be compared. A Lexus versus a Mazda. A company known for luxury and an older demographic compared to a company focused on sportiness at a great price. With the UX costing nearly $12,000 more, it confirms it should not even be a consideration. But, as with most things, until you actually experience them both you really don’t know.
Normally, a Lexus and a Mazda would not be great comparisons, but after getting out of the CX-30 and into the Lexus UX, I was surprised. Compact crossovers are insanely popular right now and this a not-insignificant reason why I ended up with two in a row. People want to sit higher than a sedan, but understandably do not want the massive footprint, both physically and environmentally of normal crossovers and SUVs. But here we go, two compact crossovers and I have thoughts.
When driving the two back to back (as I did) you find that though they are similar in concept, the driving experience is two different worlds. While the Mazda is really nice, the Lexus reminds you that it is the patron saint of comfort and refinement for most classes of cars.
The interior experience is obviously nicer in the Lexus. I would give the CX30 major points as it is generally a nice place to be, but a problem remains. When I had the CX-5 last year, it had a black and dark brown interior that is my opinion, terrible. The colors are so close to each other that it looks like a manufacturing error but it is something that Mazda continues to push in their otherwise very nice automobiles. The other thing the CX-30 retains is what I believe to be the absolute worst infotainment system in the business. The MX-5 Miata would be one of my favorite vehicles veer were it not for this failure of technology. It remains one of the least usable interfaces I have dealt with, and this is even when compared to the Lexus with the trackpad. It is that bad.
For on-road dynamics, I give the win to the Mazda. The heavy hybrid system does not help the Lexus, but Mazda has always been known for their ability to make a car easy to throw around the corners. Where the Lexus does pull ahead is its overall feel. The Lexus felt more like a lifted sedan than a shortened crossover. To someone that really enjoys sedan dynamics, that is a huge plus. The lifted sedan dynamics are more luxurious and give the feel of something more expensive.
Finally, in the looks department, I have to give the UX the win. The spindle grill is not a crowd favorite, but it does give it presence. On top of that, the red of the Lexus is a much better color than the admittedly pretty, but kind of boring Soul Red available on the CX-30. Also, the apparently necessary plastic trim is just much better done on the Lexus. While the cladding runs over the wheels and down the middle, it is much more subtle than the CX-30, which gives off a sort of cheap vibe because of it.
So in the matchup of brands and cars with completely different prices, who wins? Really… it is the CX-5. The CX-30, while “cool”, apparently, just doesn’t hit the right buttons. The CX-5 has the same interior but for just a little bit more than the CX-30 is faster, better looking and much cheaper than the UX. I know that isn’t the answer you were looking when looking reading a UX250h vs CX-30 comparison, but when it comes down to it, my job is tell you what to buy. Not what to settle on.