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First Drive: 2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-G

First Drive: 2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-G

Mazda’s newest snazzy crossover, the CX-30, is due on New Zealand shores in March so in preparation of the CX-30’s New Zealand launch, Mazda Japan kindly gave me the keys to on in Japan for a few days to get a taste of what it’s like. 

The variant I got was the 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G petrol with AWD and, wait for it, a 6-speed manual. It’s unlikely the CX-30 will be offered with a manual gearbox in New Zealand but it’s likely there’ll be a choice of Skyactiv-G and Skyactiv-X petrol engines. It’s just great to see a company like Mazda still offering crossovers with three pedals and a stick. Japan gets diesel options but time will tell of these will be offered down under too. 

What is it? 

The CX-30 sits perfectly in between the compact CX-3 and the mid-size CX-5. Expect pricing for the CX-30 to reflect this too. In Japan, the CX-30 range starts from the equivalent of NZ$34,000, which is bang in the middle of the local starting price of the CX-3 at $31,995 and the local starting price of the CX-5 at $40,995. I’d guess the local pricing for the CX-30 will start around the $36,000 mark, similar to that of the new Mazda3. The CX-30, rather confusingly, shares the same platform as the critically-acclaimed Mazda3 essentially making this a Mazda3 crossover. You’d think it’d be called the CX-3 then but that’s already taken. Think of it as like Mazda’s equivalent to the Mercedes A-Class/GLA.  

It literally just looks like a Mazda3 with better ground clearance and some plastic cladding, not that that’s a bad thing. It’s a rather handsome looking thing. I’d go as far as to say it’s the best looking crossover in Mazda’s lineup right now. It’s got an appropriately rugged urban look about it, which sums up the whole car nicely. 

What’s good? 

For starters, those good sleek looks have an advantage – the CX-30 looks and drives like a sporty hatch. Sitting lower than the stumpy looking CX-3 and high-riding CX-5, the CX-30 is deceptively sporty. The driving position is near identical to that of the Mazda3’s. You do sit a tad higher but it’s hardly night-and-day. 


Drive the CX-30 for a few moments and you’ll soon realise this feels more car-like than most crossovers. Again, the GLA comparison comes to mind. This is more in tune with that sort of ‘crossover’ and the Subaru XV than something like a Toyota C-HR or Honda HR-V. 

The AWD gives the CX-30 decent grip around corners and the low centre of gravity means you can chuck it around bends with more confidence than you would in some of its rivals for the true zoom zoom experience. The brilliant 6-speed manual gearbox in my test car just added to the ‘sporty’ feel and while it wasn’t fast, I can honestly say it brought a smile to my face more than once. Something most cars in this class fail to do. 

Mazda’s interiors just keep getting better and better. The CX-30’s interior looks and feels premium, for the most part. The touch of blue leather on the dash, centre arm rest, and door trim are nice additions to make the interior pop and just feel that bit more special. Speaking of the interior, one of my gripes with the CX-3 was the rather limited rear passenger space. The CX-30 addresses this by having more legroom and headroom without sacrificing luggage space. It’s quite clever packaging, really. 

Then there’s the updated infotainment system which is a good as ever. The new widescreen, erm, screen is crisp and clear. The widescreen ratio might make it difficult to see for slights more aged people but I found it easier to use than Mazda’s previous screens. However, it’s no longer touchscreen which is sad but the new rotary dial looks and feels rather posh. Of course, Apple CarPlay is available which is always a plus for me. 

As always, Mazdas are brimming with features and the CX-30 is no exception. My test car came with everything you’d need such as heated seats, heated steering wheel, heads-up display, sat-nav, parking sensors, reversing camera, radar cruise control, blind spot assist, lane keep assist, auto headlights and high beam, auto wipers, and an electric tailgate. The only thing missing were leather seats (which I don’t really mind) and a sunroof. My test car was optioned with a 360-degree camera. 

What’s not so good? 

The 2.0-litre engine, a tried and true engine, is uncharismatic. It does the job well but it’s a bit rough and the lack of turbo is noticeable. With 115kW and 200NM of torque, it’s hardly anything to shout about it. I’m sure the newer and more interesting Skyactiv-X engine would resolve this.

Weirdly, the door locks were a bit fiddly. The passenger doors wouldn’t automatically unlock when the ignition was off and the keyless entry was a bit inconsistent. Sometimes it’d unlock, other time I’d need to use the key fob to unlock. Perhaps that was just unique to my test car. Otherwise there wasn’t really anything else to complain about. The CX-30 was a reminder Mazda makes some of the best crossovers on the market right now. 

Should we pay attention to it? 

Absolutely. The CX-30 is now my favourite crossover in Mazda’s lineup, and that’s saying something. It’s got all the ruggedness most buyers would want or need, and decent enough ground clearance to go up to a ski field or on a grassy lane should you need to. Yet on pavement, where it’ll spend 99% of its time, it feels like a small hatchback. Sure, you don’t get the high driving position but if you wanted that you’d get the CX-5. 

The CX-30 is great for those who want a crossover for the occasionally trips to the countryside or for those who live in places where AWD and some ground clearance would be beneficial but don’t want to sacrifice the benefits of a hatchback. 

It’s one to have on your shortlist. We’ll have a comprehensive road test as soon as it lands on New Zealand roads. 

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