I don’t think it is any secret that Mazda has set an aspirational goal to move a little more upmarket. They’ve always been ‘nice’ cars, but since the current-generation CX-9 arrived in 2016, the winged M has non-too-subtly tried to move into a region I’ll refer to as the ‘Lexosphere’.
It’s that level between the 'Rangerovosphere' and declining ‘Hondosphere’ in terms of scientific-sounding made-up automotive layers. Some experts (read: me) occasionally refer to this as the ‘Premi-ish Zone’, a boundary which is both accessible, and yet pretty jolly nice. Batting outside of one’s average if you will.
Our long-term 2020 Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina AWD is very much a resident of this region, or at least it tries to be. In this update, I’ll look at what makes the CX-30 a solid premi-ish player and where it probably needs to work a bit harder.
As a recap from our introductory instalment, our CX-30 is the range-topping (until the Skyactiv-X X20 Astina hits showrooms) $43,490 AWD G25 Astina, finished in Machine Grey (a $495 option) over the Pure White leather interior. It’s a full-house package with such niceties as a 360-degree surround camera, adaptive cruise control, 18-inch wheels and DAB radio all part of the standard equipment list.
Under the bonnet is Mazda’s 2.5-litre naturally aspirated Skyactiv-G petrol engine, with 139kW and 252Nm available, and the car is driven via a six-speed automatic transmission and an active constant all-wheel-drive system.
Now I know that numbers rarely sound luxurious, so we’ll first turn our attention to the CX-30’s premium positioning in terms of style.
As a starting point, the Machine Grey paint fits in well with the traditional Melbourne-palette of ever other grey. The ‘30’s tall-hatch profile and shadow-chrome 18-inch wheels are stylish enough, but the slimline head and tail lamps, chrome flourishes and textured grille really give the Astina a modern and premium appeal. It is a smart-looking machine.
Does it fit in amongst Lexus and Benzes parked along the Hawksburn shopping strip? Well, yes. Mazda has done a great job of being a brand who’s product is universally suited, regardless of the demographic. Pick any suburb in any city and the CX-30 won't look out of place.
Better yet, pop your keys down on a coffee table and, assuming we’re able to meet friends again, the new square Mazda fob won't stand out in any measurable way.
It improves when you step inside, where the soft white leather is among the softest I have ever experienced.
The cabin of the CX-30 really is excellent, well the front is at least. The materials feel high quality and everything feels very solidly built. Aside from being lovely and comfortable, the seats are supportive and while the driving position isn’t much different to the Mazda3 hatchback, the new dash and instrument binnacle design envelops you as a driver, making it a very nice place to spend time.
The resolution on the 8.8-inch media screen is sharp, and the interface more cleanly designed than what you find even in the updated CX-5. The maps look good, the depth of personalisation is plentiful and the speed to connect to Apple CarPlay is also impressive, giving a very upmarket feel and sense of usability,
Sure, a touch-interface would make it easier to use when parked, or for passengers to stab at, but the MZD Connect ‘jog wheel’ is functional and the comparisons to the early BMW iDrive implementation can’t be a bad thing.
The driver tech works well, the knurled dials are nice, mix all of that in with heated seats and a heated steering wheel, and the CX-30 from the driver’s seat could almost be described as lavish.
I say almost, as passengers in the back seat don’t quite get treated to luxuriant amounts of space, but the leather is still soft and compact rear seats are the name of the game across the German ‘sportbackhatch’ brigade, so it’s hardly a sticking point in terms of overall feel.
The power boot is also a nice addition, it could just be a little faster to open.
So far so good; clean and classy outside, smart and sophisticated inside. Mazda’s rise to that ‘Lexosphere’ layer is looking pretty good… there’s just one key issue.
Fire up the 2.5-litre four-cylinder, and things are simple enough. It’s not loud, you can travel at regular urban speeds and everything is smooth and easy. The ride here too is sporty and firm yet still compliant.
Get a little more active on the throttle though, and things start to head back to earth. The four-cylinder has no performance assistance from a turbocharger, so as your revs build there’s a linear sense of acceleration and a rising noise from the engine.
Buzzy? Hollow? Raspy? None of these are great words, and none of them accurately convey the not-particularly-pleasant sound of the CX-30 under load first thing in the morning. Perhaps it’s a combination of the three.
Overall performance is fine, but you do need to keep the revs (and noise) up as the peak 139kW power output doesn’t come in until 6000rpm and torque of 252Nm until 4000rpm. The gearbox works well enough though, as does the suspension in terms of body control and ride comfort, it just feels that the Mazda needs to do a few more ‘My Fair Lady’ classes to be considered properly sophisticated.
The brands residing in the ‘Rangerovosphere’ and beyond have managed to solve this refinement quandary, a combination of sound deadening and turbocharging doing a lot to improve the sensation on the move. A final piece of the puzzle if you will.
I don’t want to be too harsh though, as really the 2020 Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina AWD is a lovely little car. I had a number of people who are used to German and English nameplates remark just how comfortable and ultimately pleasant the Mazda is.
The potential game-changer, and a ticket to a permanent orbit in that aspirational ‘Lexosphere’, is the Skyactv-X M-Hybrid engine that recently launched in the Mazda 3 range. Will this be the polish the CX-30 needs? We’ll find out soon!