New car review

Mazda CX-30 review

Another crossover from Mazda – why is the CX-30 set to become a best-selling model?

Summary

The Mazda CX-30 may not be much smaller than a CX-5 or larger than a CX-3, but it's the best of all worlds with stylish looks and impressive quality.
Design
8.5
Comfort
7
Driving experience
8.5
Value for money
8
Safety
9

Summary

The Mazda CX-30 may not be much smaller than a CX-5 or larger than a CX-3, but it's the best of all worlds with stylish looks and impressive quality.

60-second summary

What is it?
The Mazda CX-30 is a third, and mid-sized, member of Mazda’s SUV family.

Key features
Coupe-like looks, quality and equipment, alternative route to engine efficiency

Our view
The Mazda CX-30 sits between the existing CX-3 and CX-5 models to very effectively fill what may seem a small niche. It’s a well-built, stylish-looking crossover – in fact, it’s the most family hatch-like SUV around. Only a cramped rear prevents it being one of the best on the market.

Similar cars
Audi Q2 | BMW X2 | Citroën C4 Cactus | Ford Puma | Jeep Compass | Kia Sportage | Mercedes-Benz GLA | Nissan Qashqai | Peugeot 3008 | SEAT Ateca | Toyota C-HR | Volkswagen T-Roc | Volvo XC40

Full review

Introduction

Walking into the press presentation for the new Mazda CX-30 compact SUV, the car was parked on display between its sisters, the CX-3 and CX-5. And to be honest, without looking at their posteriors it was difficult to tell them apart.

A helpful graphic during the presentation saw the profile of the CX-5 put up on the screen, the CX-30’s laid on top of it (ever so slightly smaller), and the CX-3’s put on top of that (a little smaller still).

It reminded this reviewer of those badly off-register snaps one used to occasionally get from the photo processors in the days before digital – or the effect you get when watching a 3D movie at the cinema and taking those silly glasses off.

Yet according to Mazda’s suits, the CX-30 is set to become the brand’s UK best-seller – taking over from the CX-5. Why? When it is so closely related to its siblings? Basically because this is a goldilocks car – “I tried that CX-5 and it was just a little too big, the CX-3, a little too small – but this CX-30, it’s just right…”

Yes, this car is a gap-filler, but an effective one. Why not CX-4? Because Mazda makes one of those for the Chinese market. So we get CX-30, because it’s based on the Mazda 3, standing 10cm taller but actually 7cm shorter that the hatchback so that its young family buyers find it easier to manoeuvre around town.

The CX-30 certainly has its work cut out, taking on such established big hitters as the Nissan Qashqai and Toyota C-HR and strong newcomers, the likes of the Volkswagen T-Roc and Ford’s brand-new Puma. And Mazda also believes it can steal some previous buyers of upmarket models such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X2.

The styling of the CX-30 has been inspired by a ‘sleek and bold’ concept and this is certainly a purposeful-looking vehicle. Its long bonnet gives the roofline a low stance and the car as a whole coupe-esque visuals, which will appeal to those who want to follow the SUV trend but don’t like anything too boxy. This is much closer to hatchback than SUV.

The plastic cladding applied to areas such as the wheelarches is perhaps the least attractive aspect of the car, but overall this is a distinctive-looking new challenger in an overcrowded market.    

Buying and owning a Mazda CX-30

There’s not too much to understand when studying Mazda CX-30 buying options, with just two petrol engines available, both with mild hybrids attached to help stretch the efficiency. It’s available in other markets with a diesel, but not in a UK that has fallen so much out of love with oil-burners.

As the brand’s second ‘new generation model’, the CX-30 follows the Mazda 3 hatch launched last year in making use of the latest SkyActiv-X petrol unit. This bucks the trend of modern downsizing by being of 2.0-litre capacity and offering a 180hp power output. And it does this while returning emissions as low as 105g/km and fuel economy nudging 48mpg – impressive.

The only other option is the slightly older tech SkyActiv-G, also of 2.0-litre capacity and putting out 122hp. Making do without Mazda’s latest clever Spark Controlled Compression Ignition tech, the smaller unit is less efficient, with best figures of 116g/km and 45.6mpg.

Really choosing the SkyActiv-X is a no-brainer, despite it being more expensive – the cheapest CX-30 is £22,895, the equivalent X £24,375 . It’s no surprise the more than two-thirds of sales are expected to be with the more powerful engine.

You can have the 122hp engine with a six-speed manual or auto shifting, but only in two-wheel-drive form. The 180 also comes with manual or auto choices but also the option of a full all-wheel-drive transmission.

Trim levels are familiar to Mazda-philes. There are four, dubbed SE-L, Sport, Sport Lux and GT Sport, the latter also offering a ‘Tech’ sub-grade. Tech basically adds three recently developed active safety features, Driver Monitoring, Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA) and Cruising & Traffic Support (CTS). The latter is useful, on auto gearbox models accelerating braking and steering the car when in a traffic jam.

Not that you need the top trim for an excellent safety package – adaptive cruise control with autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot detection with a rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keeping are included in a package that earned the CX-30 a five-star Euro NCAP rating and the highest score for adult occupants ever recorded in the crash-test programme.

There are plenty of toys on entry-level cars too – auto headlights and wipers for example, parking sensors, leather on the steering wheel, even a head-up display. Mazda doesn’t like options lists and so you get quite a bit of equipment to start with or pay more to move up a trim level.   

Inside the Mazda CX-30

It you read our review of the Mazda 3 back in June 2019 then we need not detain you too long here, as the CX-30 interior is effectively lifted wholesale from that car and produces the same plusses and minuses – excellent fit, finish and quality of controls, and poor rear cabin space.

Expanding into SUV territory does not benefit interior dimensions much – remember this car is somewhat shorter than its hatch inspiration – and for adults travelling in the back is somewhat cramped. Headroom is okay but legroom on the tight side.

You do get a bigger boot though, 430 litres (expanding to almost 1,400 litres with the rear seats folded). This compares to around 350 in the hatch and the smaller CX-3.

Up front is as effective as we have come to expect from Mazda. The essential dials ahead of the driver are big and traditional, easy to read.

The brand has never let form overtake function and we’ve often commented for example on its infotainment screens appearing as if they’ve been stuck on top of the centre console – this one emerges from the dash, but this doesn’t matter as it works extremely well, is easy to read. It’s easy to use too – Mazda refuses to use touchscreens, arguing that traditional rotary dials are less frustrating and distracting. They may have a point…      

Driving the Mazda CX-30

So far we’ve driven the CX-30 with the 180hp SkyActiv-X engine which is expected to attract most buyers. It’s an impressive unit in many ways, and very different to the downsized turbocharged engines becoming the norm in rivals, but the absence of that extra boost does make itself felt when accelerating from low down the rev range.

Use all the revs and the car does accelerate briskly – 8.5 seconds is plenty fast enough in this market. And once cruising at motorway speeds it settles down to a smooth, hushed note.

This car certainly impresses with its chassis. Ride comfort is very good, and hustle it at speed through a series of corners and it remains pleasingly upright with no discernible body roll until speeds you really shouldn’t be driving such a car at. Only very poor road surfaces unsettle it.

Overall this soon becomes a car that is easy to live with – fun to drive when you want to have fun, easy to traverse across a traffic-choked town. It should appeal widely.

Summary

The Mazda CX-30 may be not that much smaller than a CX-5, or larger than a CX-3, but it is generally the best of all worlds. It boasts stylish looks, a distinctive visual presence that could well make it appeal to those Audi and BMW buyers. And when they step inside they will be impressed by the surroundings, built to a quality that Mazda does so well.

They will be less impressed by the rear-seat space, and will need to accept Mazda’s refusal to follow the herd when it comes to engines, but do that and what remains is a compact SUV that ticks more boxes than many of its rivals.   

Good points

  • Stylish visuals
  • Quality interior
  • Equipment levels

Bad points

  • Rear seat space
  • Lack of low down torque

Key specifications

Make and model: Mazda CX-30
Price (on-road): £24,375
Engine: 2.0-litre SkyActiv-X petrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Power: 180 hp
Torque: 224 Nm
0-62 mph: 8.5 seconds
Top speed: 127 mph
Fuel economy (combined): 47.9 mpg (WLTP)
CO2 emissions: 105 g/km (WLTP)
Insurance group: 23E
Euro NCAP rating: Five stars (2019)

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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