I first started testing cars way back in 2010.
It’s nice to have an exact date for this because there is a record of everything I’ve done as a journalist dating back to 2001. In this case, it’s a FoxNews.com piece about the future car from May of that year. Shortly after that feature came out (and this segment on the national network based off of the predictions), my journey testing cars started in earnest.
In all of that time, I’ve noticed a consistent trend: Cars have become much quieter over the last 10 years. In a recent test of the 2020 Mazda CX-30, I was surprised by the almost non-existent road noise. It’s almost eerie how you can hear passengers so clearly.
Mazda used a wind tunnel and other relatively common techniques to reduce friction with the wind, including streamlining the side mirrors (in the CX-30, they have an angular look). I must say, they succeeded. It’s interesting how they went a few steps further. One example they gave has to do with the audio speakers. In many cars, speakers in the doors tend to produce more road noise because they have to be cavernous enough to allow audio to billow. Essentially an open shell that generates the lush tones of Radiohead becomes an irritant when you are not playing any music. Road noise seeps in. Mazda moved these speakers to the footwells instead, so I noticed how the cab seemed noticeably more insulated and private.
Another tweak had to with actual insulation. The product description for this car is helpful as a way to understand what they did: “The entire cabin is constructed with a two-layer wall structure, incorporating an insulating layer to further dampen unwanted sound. Holes were eliminated throughout the cabin where possible to enhance the effects of the sound insulation.”
To test how this all works, I took three other passengers on a road trip. We paid attention to how much you can hear the other people in the car and have a conversation. Mazda also notes how this type of construction is not intended just to reduce annoyance but to foster conversations and togetherness, which is especially important (in my view) during COVID-19. We’re all in our own bubbles with people we know, and a car is a great escape mechanism.
In another test, we noticed how you don’t have to speak as loud from the backseat and conversations felt a little more private and subdued (in a good way). The CX-30 is a smaller crossover and my typical reaction to these vehicles is — great, road noise problems. Mazda has improved the CX-30 in a way that makes it seem more like a luxury crossover. I liked everything about it — it’s sporty, handles well on the highway, and has an exceptional sound system.
Speaking of which, that was all part of the cab design as well and is a noticeable and welcome upgrade. As Mazda states: “Engineers were able to position the speakers in a layout for optimal sound playback and transmission to the human ear. This has the effect of balancing out the audio while increasing the dynamic bass range and enhancing mid-range sound clarity to create an immersive quality and clarity of sound reminiscent of a sound studio.”
I like how the car looks, how it drives — I even like the landing page with a video that shows some of the perks of driving this crossover. Startlingly, it’s an unusually quiet ride.