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Driven: Mazda CX-30. Image by Mazda UK.

Driven: Mazda CX-30
Did we really need a crossover to sit between the Mazdas CX-3 and CX-5, lovely though the CX-30 is?


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Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: all the usual Mazda attributes, like a sharp chassis, quality cabin and stylish looks

Not so good: we remain to be convinced by the Skyactiv-X engine, and did Mazda really need a third crossover-SUV of roughly this size...?

Key Facts

Model tested: Mazda CX-30 2.0 180 Skyactiv-X 2WD GT Sport
Price: CX-30 range from 22,940, 180 Skyactiv-X 2WD GT Sport from 29,140, car as tested 29,930; or, 180 Skyactiv-X 2WD GT Sport from 328.75pcm across 36-month/10,000-mile per annum contract with 10 per cent deposit, optional final payment of 14,805 (0% APR representative example)
Engine: 2.0-litre SPCCI four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door compact crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 133g/km (VED Band 131-150: 215 in year one, then 150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 47.9mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Power: 180hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 224Nm at 3,000rpm
Boot space: 422-1,398 litres

Our view:

We suppose it's all a matter of perception and confusing badging, but when Mazda announced the CX-30 crossover, we kind of wondered 'what's the point?'. Mainly because Mazda seemed to have two very good SUV-type vehicles in its ranks, namely the smaller CX-3 and the larger CX-5. And because it didn't seem like there was enough of a size and price gap between the two in which to shoehorn another model. And because, well - Mazda, why the blazes was this CX-30 not called the CX-4 to make it far more understandable in the product hierarchy?!

Problems have been further compounded by Mazda releasing the MX-30 in the interim, yet another compact-crossover-SUV with badging that confounds more than it clarifies (we thought MX Mazdas were sports cars?) and which is an all-electric model that does not share its bodywork in any way, shape or form with the CX-30.

Befuddling, isn't it? And it's even more so when you drill down into the financials and dimensions. What we think is the case is that the CX-3 was based on Mazda2 underpinnings, while the CX-30 sits on the Mazda3 platform and the CX-5 is on the Mazda6 chassis. All well and good, and it looks to be going to plan when you consider the CX-30 is 120mm longer and 30mm wider than a CX-30, while simultaneously coming in at 155mm shorter and 45mm narrower than a CX-5. Good, good... but then, the CX-30 is only 5mm taller than a CX-3 and fully 140mm lower than a CX-5, so it's going to feel more crossover-ish than SUV-like to sit in. Which would be OK, except that the CX-30 is far closer in weight to a CX-5 (1,542kg compared to 1,605kg, a difference of 63 kilos) than it is to the 1,155kg CX-3 (a whopping 387kg lighter). So maybe the CX-30 won't drive like a CX-3, it'll drive like a CX-5... but then, it's priced closer to the CX-3 (which sold from 19,395 at its run-out in 2020) than it is the CX-5 (from 27,230), the CX-30 range starting from 22,940... and, oh! Your head just starts to hurt trying to work it all out.

Which isn't to say that the CX-30 doesn't have plenty of lovely attributes with which to commend it. For instance, it is a modern Mazda, complete with gorgeous 'Kodo' styling on the outside and a top-notch interior. In this regard, it feels much like the Mazda3 hatch on which it is based, which is no bad thing. The cabin is full of high-quality touchpoints and the sort of effortless ergonomic excellence that is the remit of cars which aren't festooned with endless flashy touchscreens. Space is decent front and rear, while the boot is a sizeable 422 litres - although that isn't comparable to the CX-5's 506-litre cargo bay. You do sit relatively low in the CX-30's driver's seat, mind, which is great for conveying the feel of being in a car and not so great for conveying the reason why you've presumably bought a CX-30 instead of a Mazda3 in the first place: a sensation of being in something higher and more SUV-like.

This car-like sensation continues with the drive, where the CX-30 is a brilliant, cultured operator in the main. Mazda is really acing its refinement brief at the moment, as all of its cars bar the Mazda2 ride wonderfully well, with the barest minimum of either tyre or wind noise making their way into the passenger compartment. And the CX-30 is no exception to such rules. Furthermore, the six-speed manual is a terrific shift, with a superb, precise action and a pleasingly solid mechanical heft to its weighting. The steering is good, too, allowing faithful responses from the Mazda's front end, and so the CX-30 immediately places itself among the sharper-handling vehicles in this class.

It's not massively memorable, though, and we are still not convinced by the Skyactiv-X spark-controlled compression ignition (SPCCI) engine. Technically speaking, it's a marvel of modern engineering, blending diesel-like economy with petrol performance. And as we saw a best of 59.6mpg on nothing more than two-lane A-roads, on top of an overall return of 43.2mpg across 120 miles of mixed-roads driving, it seems to have the parsimony needed to justify its existence. We've no doubt this Mazda crossover would surpass 60mpg on a long motorway cruise, which is quite remarkable for a 2.0-litre normally aspirated petrol crossover.

Yet it's supposed to have 180hp and be capable of a pretty quick 8.5-second 0-62mph run. However, the CX-30 never feels anything like as muscular as those figures would suggest. And there's a weird hesitance from this engine on part-throttle openings at low revs, almost as if its management software is struggling to work out whether to stay in the SPCCI cycle or just switch to full petrol combustion. Weirdly, this jerkiness apparently doesn't coincide with the actual switch from SPCCI to normal operation and vice versa, because if you have the energy display showing on the infotainment screen then you can see that as the green SPCCI logo with its pistons glows on and off again, the changeover is seamless. In which case, about the best way we can describe the Skyactiv-X's pause is a pre-3,000rpm 'flat spot', something you wouldn't think was still possible in engines which no longer run on carbs. Oh, and the 2.0-litre remains strangely gruff at the upper end of the rev counter, while feeling like it doesn't want to rev out. You're best off not venturing past 4,000rpm, truth be told, which isn't very Mazda-esque.

That said, the CX-30 is very pleasant. It's just that it doesn't really bring anything to the table that the CX-3, Mazda3 and CX-5 haven't already done so far. And if you want a genuinely different crossover-type proposition from this company, then - for all its flaws - we'd recommend you look at the electric MX-30 instead. Could Mazda have avoided this by simply calling the CX-30 the CX-4? Does the CX-30 allow the next CX-5 to push further upmarket and perhaps even offer a seven-seat option? Maybe. But it's also maybe the case that the CX-30 is Mazda giving us needless saturation of the sub-premium compact crossover marketplace. And Mazda is not normally a company given over to the superfluous, which is perhaps why we find this CX-30 a touch underwhelming overall.


Hyundai Tucson: looks more SUV-ish than the CX-30 but doesn't drive as nicely, especially as the weighty mild-hybrid diesel model.

Peugeot 3008: cracking looks and an eye-catching cabin denote the 3008, which isn't any great shakes to drive but which is refined. Watch out for the expensive Hybrid4 model, though.

SEAT Ateca: better to drive than the Mazda and more clearly demarcated in its parent manufacturer's line-up, the facelifted Ateca is one of the class leaders in this segment.

Matt Robinson - 9 Jul 2020    - Mazda road tests
- Mazda news
- CX-30 images

2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.

2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport. Image by Mazda UK.


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