Mazda CX-30 review – crossover fighting to find its place

Mazda CX-30 review – crossover fighting to find its place
Mazda CX-30 review – crossover fighting to find its place

It’s been designed to sit between the still smart-looking, excellent but ageing CX-3, and the also excellent, but slightly newer CX-5; so naturally you would expect Mazda to badge its latest crossover CX-4. Right? Wrong! It’s actually the CX-30.

Confused? Well there is a rather straightforward explanation. A Mazda CX-4 already exists. Unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show in 2016, the compact crossover is produced and sold exclusively in China. So, somewhat confusingly, the model we, and the rest of Europe gets, is the CX-30.

A topic which would have been interesting to debate with the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is; what exactly is the CX-30?

I have to be honest. I’m not exactly sure what it’s meant to achieve or who it’s aimed at. Yes it’s a good-looking thing (should be; it’s based on the latest, pinpoint-sharp Mazda3 hatchback), drives excellently, is beautifully equipped inside and has a superb driving position with two of the most comfortable front seats recently found in any new car.

But there is a ‘but’. And in my own simplified mind, it’s: “But why would you not buy either a new Mazda3, CX-3 or CX-5 instead?”

Mazda CX-30
(Photo: Dave Smith)

Mazda CX-30 SkyActiv-G 120 GT Sport

Price: £27,500 (est)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 120bhp
Torque: 157lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 1116mph
0-62mph: 10.9secs
Economy (WLTP): 42.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 126g/km (NEDC)

Perhaps my view is blurred by the fact I, like many others, think both the CX-3 and CX-5 are class-leaders in their own sectors. There’s nothing really to match them. Okay, they’re bit more expensive than the opposition, but boy are they good.

So; let’s look at the CX-30 objectively. Measuring 4395mm long and 1540mm in height, the new crossover is around 7cm shorter and 10cm taller than the Mazda3 hatchback on which it’s based. Significantly, Mazda says the CX-30 is shorter because it believes it will make the car easier to manoeuvre in towns where, it believes, the newcomer will essentially live.

Ok, I get that. But why is it taller? To spot more easily in the supermarket car park? Nah; of course it’s taller because it allows the driver to sit slightly higher up, as is the appeal of the flood of modern-day crossovers. After all, it’s expected to go head-to-head with the likes of the Peugeot 3008, Toyota C-HR, Volkswagen T-Roc and even Volvo XC40. By comparison, the CX-5 meanwhile takes on the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga.

Mazda CX-30
On the road, the CX-30 is sure-footed and dynamic. (Photo: Dave Smith)

Mazda has a lot of faith in the CX-30. It actually believes it could become its best-selling car in Europe.

As I mentioned earlier, the CX-30 is based on the Mazda3, so that means the same engines. There’s a 114bhp 1.8-litre SkyActiv-D diesel and a 120bhp SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre petrol, with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto gearbox. The new SkyActiv-X compression-ignition petrol engine will also be available when the CX-30 arrives in dealers in November.

And it would be wrong to see the CX-30 simply as a Mazda3 on stilts or steroids. The newcomer’s bodywork is totally new and subtly different. There’s also a more practical rear third to go with the rugged-looking black cladding that lines the sills and wheelarches. From certain angles, it is a bit of a head turner.

Inside the spacious, and rather luxurious — certainly on the GT Sport spec I tested — cabin, it’s pretty much a new Mazda3, which is certainly no bad thing.

The Mazda CX-30's interior is largely lifted from the Mazda3. (Photo: Dave Smith)
The Mazda CX-30’s interior is largely lifted from the Mazda3. (Photo: Dave Smith)

The centre console is dominated by the excellent new 8.8-inch infotainment display, and all the materials used are strong and high-quality. There’s no denying it’s a comfortable place to be. In fact not only does the CX-30 leave its more mainstream rivals well behind, it challenges some of its premium rivals for luxury.

Rear space will be more than fine for the average family. I’m 5ft 8in and I could happily sit behind my driving position. Sure some 6ft+ journos were bemoaning they struggled for legroom if they sat behind themselves. But let’s be honest: how often to you actually fill your car with five adults? Even if they are all just 5ft 8in?

More likely it’s mum, dad and the one, two or three kids. Interestingly, Mazda says there’s as much space between the front seats as there is in the bigger CX-5. Bootspace too is up to the mark, with a capacity of 430 litres, accessed via a wide and tall opening.

Mazda CX-30

Out on the road, the diesel is an attractive proposition if you know you’re going to be racking up the miles. Otherwise the 2.0-litre 120bhp SkyActiv-G petrol is a sound, if rather relaxed choice; it takes 11.2secs to reach 62mph from standstill. The new Skyactiv-X will more likely be a better petrol option. And I would definitely recommend the six-speed manual over the auto.

The ride is surefooted, relaxed and quiet at motorway speeds, and equally unobtrusive when dawdling through town, or doing the school run.

As for prices and UK spec? Well we’ll need to wait till closer to the car’s launch at the end of this year. It’s probably fair to speculate the CX-30 will cost more than the Mazda3. That will likely mean an entry-level at around £25,000, rising through the £30k barrier with Skyactiv-X and all-wheel drive.

(Photo: Dave Smith)

Final thoughts? Well, remember my uncertainty; maybe I’m missing something here. After all, the Mazda gurus believe the CX-30 will be its top seller in Europe. Sure, it’s a smart-looking car and, yes, it does “everything it says on the tin”.

Ah, the penny’s dropped; perhaps the word I’m looking for is ‘uninspiring’. That’s it. That’s what I’ve been feeling about the CX-30. But that’s only by comparison to the rest of the dynamic Mazda range.

There’s no denying the Mazda3 is the better handling, more economical, faster, just as practical, and certainly cheaper option. It’s the sensible buy. But in a market ever-more dominated by crossovers … the CX-30 will attract its own loyal following. I just wonder what Confucius would say?

Mazda CX-30
(Photo: Dave Smith)

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