Mazda needed a wider SUV range and this compact CX-30 model broadens it usefully. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Mazda's third compact SUV is this car, the CX-30. It borrows its engineering from the Mazda3 hatch, but clothes it with the trendier SUV body styling that family buyers now increasingly want. Consider it carefully if you're not fussed about having a premium badge, like the idea of eye-catching looks and cutting-edge engineering and find yourself interested in trendy segment contenders like Toyota's C-HR and Ford's Puma.
Really, this car ought to be called the 'CX-4'. It does, after all, sit between the CX-3 and the CX-5 in Mazda's SUV line-up. Unfortunately for European zone continuity though, the 'CX-4' badge already exists in the Chinese market, where it's applied to quite a different car, so the model we're going to look at here has adopted a 'CX-30' moniker. Glad we got that cleared up. Basically what we've got here is a Crossover version of the Mazda3 family hatch - no bad thing; that's the sort of product the market wants. It features the second chapter of the brand's 'KODO' design language and a clever Skyactiv-X petrol engine we really liked when we tried it in the Mazda3. Sounds promising.
Mazda is offering a choice of two engines to CX-30 buyers, both petrol-powered and both borrowed from the Mazda3 hatch. The base unit is a 122PS 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G petrol powerplant (a mild hybrid). We'd suggest though, that you try and stretch to the alternative engine, the brand's more advanced Skyactiv-X Spark Controlled Compression Ignition engine, a 180PS supercharged unit which runs on petrol but uses a combination of spark ignition and compression ignition to deliver, Mazda claims, the driver appeal of a petrol unit along with the fuel efficiency and torque of a diesel. This Skyactiv-X powerplant is able to switch from compression ignition, which best suits day-to-day driving, to a form of spark ignition, generally when the engine is started from cold or the driver demands maximum power at high revs. The 'X' engine comes paired with front wheel drive or four wheel drive and either way, there's the choice of manual or automatic transmission. Mazda isn't bothering to offer the diesel powerplant that's available on this car in other markets. The drive dynamics aren't very different from those of the Mazda3 hatch, which means that they're very good indeed. It also means that this car gets the slickest-shifting manual gearbox you can have in the compact SUV segment.
Mazda reckons that the CX-30 combining the bold stance of an SUV with the sleek profile of a coupe, styling that's supposed to be a sophisticated evolution of the brand's KODO design philosophy. Looks are certainly one reason why you might want to consider this car. The other reason you might want to consider this model would be if you liked the Mazda3 hatch but found it lacking in terms of rear seat space and luggage room. The CX-30 certainly does better than its showroom sibling in these two regards, though legroom in the back still isn't what you'd call generous. Headspace in the rear is quite good, but the D-pillar is substantial, which darkens the interior rear half of the car quite a lot. The 430-litre boot is a big improvement on the limited trunk you get in the Mazda3, a substantial 135-litres bigger. Mind you, it's still quite a bit smaller than the space you'd get in something like a comparably-priced BMW X1. As in the Mazda3, the front-of-cabin experience is impressive, with a digital instrument cluster display and a big, clear 8.8-inch screen on top of the dash nicely angled towards the driver. And there's a lower rotary controller for it so you don't have to stab away at inexact touchscreen functionality in the kind of way that's necessary with many rival set-ups.
CX-30 prices sit in the £23,000-£33,000 bracket, spread across five trim levels, 'SE-L', 'SE-L Lux', 'Sport Lux', 'GT Sport' and 'GT Sport Tech'. Every version features a colour windscreen projecting head-up display, radar cruise control and LED headlights. With a choice of eight exterior colours, 'SE-L' and 'SE-L Lux' cars feature 16-inch grey metallic wheels, while from 'Sport Lux' onwards, 18-inch wheels are standard: silver metallic on Skyactiv-G and bright silver metallic on Skyactiv-X models. Inside, premium dark grey cloth with navy blue accents is standard, as is a 7-inch TFT instrument display. So is an 8.8-inch central infotainment screen incorporating Navigation, an 8-speaker DAB audio system and 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. There's also radar cruise control, Smart Brake Support autonomous braking and Intelligent Speed Assist, which can adapt your velocity according to posted speed limits. 'GT Sport' and 'GT Sport Tech' models feature black leather with rich brown accents or (for £200 more), stone-coloured leather. The plushest models get niceties like a 12-speaker Bose surround system. And a 360-degree View Monitor camera system.
Let's get to the figures. The base petrol Skyactiv-G engine manages 45.6mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and 116g/km of CO2. Or 42.8mpg and 126g/km as an auto. We'd recommend you try and stretch to the more powerful but, conversely, more economic Skyactiv-X petrol unit, which improves that showing to 47.9mpg and 105g/km as a manual or 43.5mpg and 118g/km as an auto. This same Skyactiv-X petrol engine also comes with AWD. In this guise, it manages 43.5mpg and 111g/km as a manual or 40.4mpg and 128g/km as an auto. We should also mention the warranty, the usual unremarkable three year / 60,000 mile package. If you want to extend that, you can do so via optional 'Essential', 'Elite' and 'Complete' plans. Included in the standard package is a three year paintwork warranty and 12 years of anti-perforation cover. In addition, there's a 'Mazda Accident Aftercare' scheme which sees the company liaise with your insurer after an accident, making sure that you have access to a courtesy car if you need one and ensuring that all repairs are carried out to full Mazda standards.
The CX-30 makes a reasonable case for itself in an increasingly crowded segment. It lacks a premium badge on the bonnet of course, but then it also lacks the kind of inflated prices you'd pay from premium brand contenders in this market space. Plus under the bonnet of a Skyactiv-X variant, there's arguably the cleverest petrol engine you can have in the compact SUV segment, delivering an enticing combination of very sprightly performance and diesel-like economy. Yes, there are more practical choices in this market segment. And arguably, there are also more fashionably-styled ones. But our overall impression of the CX-30 is of a very complete and thoughtfully-positioned package. Add it to your lengthening shopping list if you're in search of a car of this kind.
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