How different can one subcompact SUV be from another? Dramatically different.

The 2023 Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen Taos are both subcompact crossovers from automakers that build affordable cars, but like to make the luxury carmakers a little nervous. Both pack a lot of features into a small package and a reasonable price tag.

But their personalities make them very different choices. Let’s explore.

2023 Mazda CX-30

This year, the 2023 Mazda CX-30 is the lowest-priced new vehicle on a Mazda dealer’s sales lot. Its $22,950 starting price is excellent for what it gets you – a 191-horsepower 4-cylinder engine more powerful than most automakers provide in this class and lively handling that makes the CX-30 fun to drive. If you want more performance, the 2.5 Turbo Premium uses a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine good for 250 horsepower and carries a starting price of $33,800.

Mazda CX-30 Highlights

Standard all-wheel-drive (AWD): Mazda builds its reputation on fun-to-drive cars, but all of its SUVs also offer standard AWD this year. That added grip means a lot in cold-weather states. Volkswagen charges for it. Mazda doesn’t.

Two engine choices, both a lot of fun: Most subcompact SUVs provide around 150 to 160 horsepower. The Taos’ 158 is typical for the class. CX-30 buyers, though, have two engine choices – one with 191 horses and the other with 250.

Curvy good looks and jewel-like colors: Most automotive designers seem to have gotten the same memo for the 2023 model year. SUVs keep getting boxier and more rugged-looking. The CX-30 is reasonably capable, thanks to that standard AWD system. But it looks sportier than rivals thanks to a design theme heavy on curves. Mazda pairs it with some exceptional paint jobs this year and real visual depth, making the CX-30 a lovely SUV.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Mazda CX-30 models for sale near you.

2023 Volkswagen Taos

2022 Volkswagen Taos

The 2023 Taos isn’t quite the least expensive thing on the Volkswagen sales lot since VW still produces a strong budget model Jetta. But it’s close, with a starting price of just $24,155. For that price, you can take home a roomy, handsome Taos known for a suite of technologies that feel more expensive than its price suggests.

Volkswagen Taos Highlights

Abundant space: Subcompact SUVs aren’t known for their roomy nature. But the Taos leads most of the class in headroom, space for rear-seat passengers, and cargo capacity.

Digital Cockpit: Most new vehicles now place a digital screen in front of the driver instead of old-fashioned gauges. Except in this price range. The CX-30, like most rivals, uses a traditional gauge cluster. The Taos, on the other hand, has a more luxurious-looking digital setup.

Complimentary maintenance: If you’re shopping in the subcompact classes because you don’t want to spend more than you have to, VW’s complimentary maintenance program might win your attention. For the first two years or 20,000 miles, standard maintenance appointments are free. To be fair, a new car shouldn’t need much maintenance in the first 20,000 miles. But saving on oil changes and tire rotations is nice.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Volkswagen Taos models for sale near you.


Compact size for easy maneuverability, great road manners, similar prices


The Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen Taos both feel premium for their price range. Both are among the better-handling vehicles in their class. The CX-30 looks sleek and fun, while the Taos looks boxy and more rugged. You’ll get more space out of the VW but probably more fun out of the Mazda.

Is there a wrong choice? Probably not. But which one you’d enjoy owning comes down to which set of traits attracts you.


2023 Mazda CX-30 2023 Volkswagen Taos
Starting Price $22,950 $24,155
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.5-liter 4-cylinder 1.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder
Horsepower 191 hp @ 6,000 rpm 158 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 184 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission 6-spd automatic 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 29 mpg (26 city/33 hwy) 31 mpg (28 city/36 hwy)
Also Available 2.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder 7-spd automatic; AWD
Basic Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 4 stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 104.4 inches 99.2 inches
Overall Length 173.0 inches 161.3 inches
Width 70.7 inches 69.5 inches
Height 61.7 inches 64.8 inches
Turning Diameter 34.8 feet 36.8 feet
Headroom, Front 38.1 inches 40.7 inches
Headroom, Rear 38.3 inches 39.8 inches
Legroom, Front 41.7 inches 40.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 36.3 inches 37.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 55.6 inches 56.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 53.6 inches 55.2 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 94.1 cubic feet 99.9 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 20.2/45.2 cubic feet 27.9/65.9 cubic feet


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