Our little automotive microcosm is an interesting place. As up until quite recently, the word technology was inexplicably linked to the word luxury.
Want a surround-view camera? You’ll be needing some double-stitched Merino leather then. Adaptive cruise control? Only if your car has soft-close doors. Fancy a snazzy sound system? Here’s some quad-layer pearl-infused paint with a double-barrel name sourced from a Nordic fjord to go with it.
But as much of this technology has become somewhat commoditised, many features that were once the exclusive domain of an S-Class-level purchase are now available on regular cars.
Regular… Like our 2020 Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina long-termer.
And so the theme for this third update is the infotainment, convenience, safety and assistance technology onboard.
Now, before you fire up the ‘ol Disqus login and remind me that it was only a couple of weeks ago when I made a point about the CX-30 moving to the lower levels of the pseudo-premium Lexoshpere, and that this is in direct contrast to the above statement that luxe and tech have become disconnected…
I’d first like to say thanks for reading and paying so much attention to feel it necessary to draw attention to this, but mainly note that although our $43,490 (before options and on-road costs) Astina AWD sits at the top of the CX-30 range, much of the filtered-down technology can be had on the $29,990 (before on-roads) G20 Pure.
Take safety, for example.
There’s a lane-keep assist system that will automatically move the wheel to keep you in your lane, a camera that reads and displays the current speed limit, rear parking sensors, and a rear cross-traffic alert function that scans for objects behind when you are reversing, which works in concert with an automatic braking system for both rear and rear crossing objects.
Blind-spot monitoring and a forward-object collision warning function are also present.
Naturally, the CX-30 also includes an autonomous pre-collision braking system (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection. You even get a tyre pressure monitoring system across all models in the range. Not even BMW does that.
All of this technology is on our Astina, but it's on the entry-level Pure, too.
On lower grades you can also add an optional Vision Pack ($1500), which adds front parking sensors, a 360-degree top-down camera, front cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control with traffic queueing ability, meaning the car will follow at a set distance then slow and stop in traffic.
Bottom line, there’s a stack of assistance and safety tech here, with enough acronym letters to take out a Wheel of Fortune prize showcase.
In practice, too, it mostly works well.
The cruise control can be a little abrupt in terms of braking as you approach other cars, and then slow to react once a gap opens up. But it is easy to use, and you get a nice clear display on the instrument cluster showing what is going on.
Perhaps the only other gripe with all of these systems working away are the constant gongs and alerts to let you know that something requires your attention. Just ‘what’ requires this attention is anyone’s guess, as the generic ‘da-dum’ Law and Order noise chimes in all the time, with no indication of why. I have been assuming it’s the rear cross-traffic alert, and it’s better to have warnings than suffer an accident, it just could be clearer.
Speaking of the instrument cluster, the display is clear and can be configured in a number of ways to suit the information you need. It’s a very modern implementation, and works well with the head-up display in clearly communicating information to you while driving.
For the most part, the buttons on the steering wheel are intuitive to use, especially in regard to the adaptive cruise-control distance adjustment, but there are still buttons that look like they should do something but actually do something else – in particular, attempting to use the up-down buttons to alter the display, will change the radio frequency. You need to hit the info button to cycle through the screens. Perhaps it's due to moving between cars all the time, but almost without fail, every time I’m in the CX-30 I use this and remind myself I didn’t really want to listen to Smooth FM and in fact was after the fuel consumption screen.
In terms of broader convenience tech, the Astina includes two memory functions for the seat positions. A good inclusion, but these never seemed to work properly for me. I would set the memory, tootle around happily for a while, then after the car had been with another team member, I’d try and reset back to my saved spot for nothing to actually happen.
I’m not ready to throw the car under the bus, though, as I assume there has to be an ‘organic’ issue somewhere here, but it certainly feels more complicated than it should be.
What does work well, though, are the heated seats and heated steering wheel, which has now become part of my standard seatbelt > ignition > heated wheel start-up process. I'm also a big fan of the pulsing LED indicators and the satisfying electronic 'tick' that goes with them.
In the middle of the dash, the widescreen media screen looks up-market and modern. Clarity is good and the interface is sharp, although probably more impressive is the depth of customisation available. There are menus for everything, allowing you to adjust a huge range of the car’s functions to suit your tastes. Sure, you’ll use this once and forget about it, but in terms of personalising the technology, it’s a great inclusion.
The surround view camera is clear and easy to use too.
On the screen itself, the integrated navigation looks great, but the full-screen implementation of Apple CarPlay is even slicker, and looks very much like it was designed to suit the wide-screen format of the CX-30.
Colours are rich and the speed from starting the car to a fully active (wired) connection is quick. There are none of the dropouts you get from switching the car off and transferring an active call to your handset that you get in some other cars. And yes, I have seen the photo so don't judge my 438 missed calls notification – if I don't answer, just text me. It's a modern world.
In terms of the sound system, the 12-speaker Bose stereo in the Astina is actually pretty great. Top-end sound is nice and bright, and there is distortion-free bass until about 70 per cent volume.
Out of the box, it really is a comprehensive and largely impressive media system. The only drawback is the interface itself.
While you can save favourite radio stations, and quickly access them using the ‘star’ button on the console, navigating around the interface with the jog-wheel can be cumbersome. Dial that up (pun intended) to 11 when using Apple CarPlay, as the rotary dial needs to be used for everything.
These advanced systems, particularly when using device projection, work so much better with a touch interface. The wheel is great when you are on the move, and yes, you can trigger the voice-to-text functions, but a touchscreen is just so much more intuitive and quick to interact with.
It’s a key and growing area of importance for new car buyers, and in terms of filling out a spreadsheet full of inclusions, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina does a great job. Gripes are largely picky ones, and I have to say that if there were a touch-interface on the screen, it would be pretty hard to fault.
In terms of living with the CX-30, so far it has scored an A for tech and a B+ for trying to break that category glass-ceiling and move into a properly premi-ish position for buyers. In the next update, we put the little crossover hatch to the family test and Mike Stevens loads up the kids to see what the Mazda is like on the home front.