Mazda’s existing SUV range looked sufficient to cover all bases on first impression, but in fact the company saw a gap between the inner-city-focused CX-3 and the family-ready CX-5.
“The step from small to medium SUV can seem intimidating, and excessive,” claims Mazda Australia’s marketing director Alastair Doak. A vehicle from the former segment might be perceived as too small, the latter a bit too unwieldy.
The resulting goldilocks car is called the CX-30, since the CX-4 badge is already affixed to a different, China-only model. Confusing? That’s where Mazda’s marketing dollars will have to step in to educate its buyers.
The 2020 Mazda CX-30 shares mechanicals with the Mazda 3 hatch, but is about 100mm taller, has 25mm more ground clearance, a bigger boot, and its own steering and suspension tunes. Its length, width and height neatly slot between the CX-3 and CX-5 that sit on older-generation platforms.
In contextual terms it is about the same length as a Toyota C-HR, Mitsubishi ASX, Kia Seltos, Subaru XV, and Nissan Qashqai, but lower. Mazda developed the car with the aim of creating “the world’s most beautiful crossover”, and generally sleeker equals sexier.
With its feline headlights, minimalist body sides that cleverly emphasise the interplay of light and shadow, sloped D-pillar that disguises the more rear-head-room-friendly roof, muscular stance, bulged rear fenders, and de rigueur (maybe over the top?) black plastic wheel arch frames, it has a claim.
In this writer’s opinion, the cheap-looking yellow halogen daytime running lights fitted to the majority of variants, and the slightly too small 16-inch wheels on the entry grades, detract from an otherwise head-turning package.
The cabin design is lifted wholesale from the aforementioned 3, but the driver benefits from a higher seat. The steering wheel is beautiful to hold – although the base G20 Pure’s plastic rim isn’t so premium – and the air vents bracketing the instruments are angled into the driver like a sports car’s might be.
Every version gets an 8.8-inch centre screen with crisp resolution, and a new operating system that’s a fair margin better than what you get in the CX-3 or CX-5, controlled not through touch but a rotary dial flanked by buttons. This is a good solution, except when you’re using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
But the best bit is the standard head-up display (HUD) that projects your speed, the speed limit, and navigation directions onto the windscreen, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road for longer. Unless you’re wearing polarised sunglasses.
Mazda makes no secret of its aspirations, as evident in the quality of materials used. The buttons and dials on the wheel and controlling ventilation feel expensive, and there are soft plastic and leathery panels covering every touchpoint finished in navy blue on base grades or brown on the rest. Bold.
There’s also a decent choice of storage spots including a good-sized centre console, and a cubby below the fascia liberated largely by the addition of an electric parking brake, plus big door bins. In this area, like all others, it’s miles better than the Mazda 2-based CX-3, which is feeling past its prime.
The back seats are more capacious, and it’s easier to see out, than in the Mazda 3 hatch because the side windows are bigger. Mazda claims 29mm more rear head room, 80mm more shoulder room, and 33mm more leg room than the CX-3 as well. I’m 194cm and had room… Just.
The boot space is 317L, which is 53L more than the CX-3’s and 22L greater than a Mazda 3’s, but 125L less than what you get in the CX-5. It’s also the second-lowest volume of any main rival, ahead of the Subaru XV only. The Qashqai, Seltos, and Honda HR-V all offer around 430L by contrast.
There’s a temporary spare wheel under the floor on all grades.
Buyers can choose between four specification levels called Pure, Evolve, Touring and Astina. All come with front-wheel drive (FWD), but the latter pair can also be had with all-wheel drive (AWD).
There are two naturally aspirated engines, a ‘G20’ 2.0-litre petrol and a ‘G25’ 2.5-litre. Every version uses a six-speed automatic transmission, given manual take-up in the segment is a measly one per cent.
The starting point is the G20 Pure priced at $29,990 before on-road costs. That’s $450 more than a base C-HR, $750 more than a base XV, and $500 more than a base Qashqai at list price. It’s also $5000 more than a base CX-3 auto and $3000 less than a base CX-5, both with autos fitted.
Standard features beyond the 8.8-inch screen and HUD already mentioned include 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, auto-folding side mirrors, digital radio, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, black cloth trim, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, and four one-touch windows.
That isn’t too bad at all, although most competitors are subject to discounted campaign pricing given they’ve been around longer, so take the ‘list’ prices with a grain of salt.
Every grade also gets safety features including seven airbags, blind-spot monitoring, driver-attention alert, front and rear autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and radar-guided active cruise control with stop-and-go. It also achieved one of the highest ANCAP crash scores to date, achieving 99 per cent in adult occupant protection testing.
About the only feature it lacks is a Toyota-style lane-tracing system, which not only steers the car between road lines, but keeps the car in the centre of said lane as well. The CX-30 sort of bounces between road markings and beeps at you if you drift off. Admittedly that's a worst-case scenario!
Next up, the G20 Evolve starts at $31,490 and adds 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control instead of manual A/C, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, and a roof-mounted sunglasses box.
The G20 Touring kicks off at $34,990 and adds extras such as a proximity key fob, auto-tilting side mirrors for parallel parking, front sensors, and black leather seat trim with 10-way power adjustment for the driver. Said hide trim is very, very soft. You can also get this grade in G25 guise with FWD for $36,490, and G25 with AWD for $38,490.
The top-of-the-range Astina starts at $38,990 for the G20, climbing to $41,490 for the G25 FWD, and topping out at $43,490 for the G25 AWD. That’s $1500 more than a Kia Seltos GT-Line, pricier than an entry Audi Q2 35 TFSI with less equipment but a sexier badge, and only $1500 below a base Lexus UX.
However, it tops off the already long features list of the Touring with adaptive LED headlights, 12-speaker Bose audio system that is absolutely brilliant, the option of Miami Vice-style white leather, and a Vision Technology pack with 360-degree camera, a driver-state monitor, and front cross-traffic alert. The G25 versions also get a glass sunroof with a proper sun-blocking interior cover.
Mazda expects 23 per cent of buyers to opt for the Pure, 22 per cent for the Evolve, 34 per cent for the Touring, and 21 per cent for the Astina. It also thinks three-quarters will opt for the smaller G20 engine, and expects only eight per cent of people to bother with the heavier and pricier AWD system.
The CX-30's driving characteristics come as little surprise to anyone familiar with the 3 hatch. The CX-30 offers a more commanding driving position and has less invasive blind spots, and also handles steep driveway entries and exits better on account of its greater ground clearance.
Mazda has made strides in isolating occupants from tyre roar over coarse asphalt and wind noise. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH)-reducing features include rigid damper mounts, thick carpets and headlining, and quality door sealing. Compared to the CX-3, this CX-30 is a cosseting place to spend time.
The balance between ride comfort and agile handling is pretty good – hard to parse from a 3, despite this car being about 40kg heavier and a smidge taller.
It is fairly sporty in the way it tackles corners. The steering is quite numb but direct, the body stays flat against lateral forces, the nose tucks in readily, and the updated G-Vectoring software cuts engine torque when needed to transfer the centre of gravity, and applies individual wheel braking to negate understeer.
Ride comfort is at its best at higher speeds. The base grades with 215/65 tyres absorb urban corrugations and potholes beautifully, but buyers of the sexier-looking premium models on 18-inch wheels and 215/55 rubber with slimmer sidewalls will pay a slight price when it comes to ride comfort.
While an on-demand AWD system is coming, we only drove the mass-market FWD. I cannot think of many scenarios where a typical CX-30 buyer would need the former, though. Maybe proverbial snow bunnies?
The entry grades use a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4000rpm, which is just fine considering what you get in base versions of the C-HR (85kW/180Nm), XV (115kW/196Nm) and Seltos (110kW/180Nm).
Mated as standard with a six-speed auto, it'll hit 100km/h from standstill in 10.2 seconds. It lacks a small turbo's low-end response, but is instantly responsive and smooth around town as a trade-off, its fuel use is a reasonable and achievable 6.5L/100km, and it'll happily run on cheap 91RON petrol.
If you want more poke, you can have a 2.5-litre engine with 139kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm, which is right up there at the top of the segment alongside the Seltos and Hyundai Kona's shared 1.6-litre turbo with 130kW/265Nm, though that engine delivers torque earlier in the rev band.
It's mated to the same six-speed auto, and can dash to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds (FWD) and 9.1 seconds (AWD). Aside from being loud on cold starts, it's a great engine, and one that thrives the harder you drive it.
With idle-stop and active cylinder deactivation it is also pretty efficient, using a claimed 6.8L/100km with AWD. On one highway run I was averaging 5.6L/100km, which is low for a large-displacement engine.
For those after another engine option, there's neither a diesel nor a hybrid. However, Mazda's nifty SkyActiv-X petrol engine that manages diesel-style fuel/air compression ignition with spark guidance, theoretically enabling superior efficiency and more mid-range urge, will arrive in the second half of 2020.
From an ownership perspective, Mazda Australia offers a five-year warranty with no distance limit, five years' roadside assistance, and a captive finance company with tailored rates and a guaranteed future value or balloon payment at the end of the term, at which point they’ll want to walk you into a CX-5.
Mazda also has advertised maximum service prices, at intervals of 12 months or 10,000km, the latter of which is 5000km below par. The first five visits in with either G20 or G25 engines cost $309, $354, $309, $354, and $309, plus $69 for brake fluid every two years and $92 for a new air filter every 40,000km.
These prices are, oddly, slightly cheaper than what a Mazda 3 owner will pay.
Mazda is also rolling out a few clever servicing options that few other brands can match. These include no-extra-cost 60-minute servicing, and the option of receiving live video of the technician pointing out any issues so you know you’re not being gouged.
So, there's our first look at the new Mazda CX-30, which slots between the CX-3 city SUV and the ostensibly family-focused CX-5. Given market demand, there's always room for more crossovers in any brand’s portfolio, and it's hard to see this trend reversing.
While the Kia Seltos and Honda HR-V remain the most practical and spacious offerings, the Mazda CX-30 is arguably the most stylish, safe, and refined in its class, and is as nimble and agile to drive as most regular hatchbacks. Surprises? There are few. But given its roots, that bodes well.