If you’re not familiar with the Mazda CX-30 by now, this is the Japanese brand’s latest SUV.
Based heavily on the Mazda 3 hatchback, the CX-30 sits above the CX-3 baby SUV and CX-5 mid-sized SUV. (The CX-4 badge is seemingly off limits as it’s already used for a China-exclusive model.)
There are actually three Touring models, and we’re testing the most affordable: the G20 that is priced from $34,990 (or about $38,900 based on NSW driveaway pricing).
Pay another $1500 and you can switch from a 2.0-litre petrol engine to a 2.5-litre with more power. Add an extra $2000 and you can have all-wheel drive rather than front-wheel drive.
The standard Touring already carries a significant premium over the equivalent Mazda 3 G20 Touring, though – costing $4400 more than the hatchback.
There is no extra standard equipment on the CX-30 and the SUV is slightly smaller.
For buyers single-mindedly intent on a compact SUV, though, how the CX-30 stacks up against direct rivals is more important.
The Touring’s full leather upholstery stands out against key competitors that typically feature leather-accented seats. There’s also 10-way electric adjustment for the driver’s seat.
A head-up display and one-touch operation for all windows aren’t universal in this segment, either.
The CX-30 Touring’s side mirrors also provide auto-dimming on the driver side and auto-dipping (when reversing) on the passenger side – adding to the heated and auto-fold functions found on the model-down Evolve.
Keyless entry/start and an overhead sunglasses holder complete the Touring’s main equipment advantages over the Evolve.
Other equipment highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail-lights, dual-zone climate, paddle-shift levers on the steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers.
Daytime running lights use halogen bulbs rather than LEDs, at odds with the Touring's premium positioning.
Active safety technology is fairly comprehensive, with no notable omissions compared with key rivals. Features include adaptive radar cruise control with stop-go functionality, auto high-beam, speed-limit notification, forward collision warning, fatigue alert, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, lane-keep assistance and lane departure warning, low tyre pressure warning, and rear parking sensors.
The autonomous emergency braking system includes pedestrian and cyclist detection, and works in reverse as well as forwards.
A $1500 Vision Technology pack adds a surround-view camera, front parking sensors, front cross traffic alert, camera-based driver monitoring, and an auto accelerate/brake function specific to rush-hour traffic.
Some similarly priced rivals offer front sensors as standard, such as the Kia Seltos Sport+ and Toyota C-HR Koba (as does the cheaper CX-3 sTouring). The Toyota also has a Panoramic View Monitor as standard.
Or there’s even Ford’s new Puma, which is $36,990 driveaway in range-topping ST-Line V guise and brings an extensive equipment list including a B&O Play audio, digital driver display and wireless charging. Although slightly smaller than the CX-30, it offers comparable interior space and a more practical boot.
The CX-30’s classy-looking interior is a strong drawcard, however. Essentially a Mazda 3 interior with a more elevated seating position, the cabin impresses with its high level of quality – reflecting Mazda’s ambition to move its products a bit further upmarket.
Plenty of soft-touch materials, a glossy surfaced centre console and those genuine leather seats all contribute to a top-tier presentation for the segment.
Being picky, the smart-looking climate dials could rotate with a smoother action, though tactility elsewhere – such as the nicely damped dash and steering wheel buttons – is excellent.
The steering wheel’s leather is beautifully smooth, too – making it far more pleasant to hold than the plastic rim of the base Pure model.
Inverted vents either side of the instrument binnacle help create a cockpit feel to the driver’s seat, and there’s a stylish asymmetry to the 8.8-inch infotainment display.
The display is not only bigger than in Mazda’s CX-3 and CX-5 SUVs but brings an interface with crisper graphics and improved functionality. Pairing a smartphone is also much quicker than we experienced with Mazda’s MZD Connect and older systems.
It’s no longer a touchscreen, though the previous system locked anyway as soon as the car was on the move. Owners who prefer to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto may just miss the touch operation they’re accustomed to with iOS and Android.
Front occupants instead control the interface via a console dial – larger than rotary controllers used before or still elsewhere in the Mazda range. As with BMW iDrive that inspired it, it’s a hugely intuitive way of operating the infotainment system.
This includes the ability to zoom in and out of maps by simply turning the dial.
Door pockets, the console cubby and glovebox have a useful size about them, though smaller-item storage is less helpful.
Cubby aside, the centre console can take a couple of coffee cups but little else. Smartphones have to be turned on their side to fit in the tray that also lacks wireless charging.
Unlike the base CX-30, the Touring features rear air vents and an armrest (with cupholders).
There’s good foot space and decent headroom up back, and there’s more legroom than you’ll find in a CX-3. Scalloped seatbacks help, though more generous knee space can be found in both smaller and rival SUVs – such as the VW T-Cross (in the case of the former group) or Honda HR-V and Kia Seltos (in the latter group).
The CX-30’s 317-litre boot isn’t a significant jump over a CX-3 (264L) or 3 hatch (295L) and is small for a compact SUV. With the exception of the Subaru XV (310L), all key rivals offer greater luggage capacity – well beyond 400 litres in the instances of the Nissan Qashqai (430L), Kia Seltos (433L), Honda HR-V (437L), and Skoda Karoq (479L).
A temporary spare wheel sits under the floor. Rear seatbacks can be folded down (60:40 split), though the floor is stepped rather than fully flat.
On the move, the CX-30 Touring’s leather seats don’t just look nice. Excellent cushion comfort is complemented by good side support for the driver’s thighs and torso. And electric adjustment makes it easy to fine-tune the driving position.
That driving position is more crossover than SUV – so it’s like driving a high-riding 3 hatchback rather than feeling like a downsized CX-9.
There’s a notable difference to the 3, though. Where the hatch’s dramatically sloping roofline and thick rear pillar create blind spots, the flatter-roofed, higher-glassed CX-30 offers good all-round vision.
Inverse to expectations, the bigger-wheeled, thinner-tyred Touring rides more comfortably than the CX-30 Pure that sits on 16-inch wheels and chubbier rubber.
Where the base model regular fidgets on typical urban roads, the Touring provides smoother progress, if still not perfectly compliant.
There’s some good driver tech, too, to help make motoring more relaxing.
The head-up display, with good-quality presentation, provides current speed and – via the camera-based Road Sign Assist system – the prevailing speed limit.
This is also displayed in the central TFT instrument dial. The speedo bars in this dial also change according to the speed limit, highlighting it in red and showing a rising red line if you exceed that speed.
As with other similar systems, RSA will show 40km/h zones even out of school hours but, overall, we think the technology is helpful.
The digital info in the middle of the graphic speedo dial can be changed via an Info button on the steering wheel, alternating between radar cruise, blind spot and trip details.
The CX-30’s compact size makes it a natural fit for the city and its tight turning circle is identical to that of the Mazda 3 hatch.
There are also similarly enjoyable handling traits, including accurate and well weighted steering.
While the crossover’s extra weight – 104kg over a 3 Touring – means it’s just not quite as light on its feet as the hatch, dynamics are at the pointy end of the compact SUV class.
The outputs from the G20’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder – 114kW and 200Nm – are competitive, and there’s much to appreciate about the engine’s smoothness and its response around town. The six-speed auto is also always on its toes when it comes to picking the right gear.
If you can stretch an extra $1500, the G25 variant is worth it for the extra poke it brings. The difference is obvious on the road. On paper, Mazda says the Touring G25 is 1.5 seconds quicker than the Touring G20 in the 0-100km/h sprint (8.7 v 10.2 seconds).
There’s barely any fuel consumption penalty, either. Where the G20’s official, lab-derived figure is 6.5 litres per 100km, the G25’s is 6.6L/100km.
During our time with the car, mainly driving in the city and suburbs, we had indicated average consumption in the mid 8.0s.
Mazda’s new, more fuel efficient Skyactiv-X engine is available only on the flagship Astina.
Mazda backs the CX-30 with a five-year warranty, which is now the industry average. Servicing costs are also average, varying between $315 and $360 per visit for a standard, however additional scheduled items like cabin filters, air filters and brake fluid replacements have their own separate schedules and incur additional costs, around $326 on top for the first five year depending on your distance travelled. Mazda’s mileage intervals are among the shortest at 10,000km, however, so your yearly maintenance costs could be higher. Most rivals have 15,000km intervals.
And it’s very much worth considering how much you need an SUV, or that higher seating position.
Although the CX-30 offers a visibility advantage and a bit of extra boot space, a Mazda 3 hatchback is better value overall (including slightly lower fuel bills).
A 3 G20 Touring will save you several thousand dollars, or you could spend a bit less on a $34,090 3 GT G25 and gain Mazda’s more powerful 2.5L engine plus some extra features such as electric front seats with heating and a heated steering wheel.
Mazda isn’t alone in charging a questionable premium for an SUV over its equivalent hatch.
Most buyers want an SUV, of course, even if more of a crossover like this CX-30. And if this body style is a must for a budget just under $40,000 (including on-road charges), the CX-30 stands out for its interior presentation, dependable drivetrains and enjoyable handling.
And, for its balance of price and features, the Touring G20/G25 is arguably the pick of the CX-30 range.
If practicality is a priority, we would just point you in the direction of the Honda H-RV, Kia Seltos or Skoda Karoq.