After attending the virtual launch of Mazda’s new small SUV, the CX-30, I was keen to see it in the metal, and get behind the wheel. Size-wise it sits between the CX-3 and CX5, and Mazda classify it as a small SUV. Logically it would be called the CX-4 but that name has already been given to another car in overseas markets, so it became the CX-30. Mazda did not hang about, as soon as we moved to Lockdown level 2 they had one booked in for us.


The Range

There are currently three trim levels, with a high-spec Takami model to come in future.

Entry-level is the $41,490 GSX tested here, which is far from basic spec. There’s a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Skyactiv engine making 114kW/200Nm, powering the front wheels via a 6-speed auto transmission. Standard features include 16” alloys, satnav, radar cruise control, heads-up display, LED headlights, air conditioning, electric parking brake, i-stop, G-Vectoring Control – Plus, paddle shifters, keyless entry and start, ABS, Blind Spot Monitoring, Driver Attention Alert, DSC, EBD, Brake Assist, Hill Launch Assist, rear parking sensors, reverse camera, Traffic Sign Recognition, Tyre pressure monitor, 8-speaker audio system, Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

Next is the GTX at $44,990 featuring all-wheel drive, and a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine making 139kW and 252Nm. Over the GSX spec you get 18” alloys, heated mirrors, dual-zone climate, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front parking sensors, additional Smart Brake Support features.

Finally there’s the Limited spec at $50,990 which adds privacy glass, power leather seats, Bose 12-speaker audio, sunroof.

There are 8 colours available – Deep Crystal Blue, black, silver, two greys, pearl white, Titanium Flash Mica, and for me the only real choice, Soul Red Crystal Metallic.


First Impressions

Recent Mazdas have all been great looking vehicles, and with the CX-30 they have kept the family resemblance but refined the look. There’s quite a large grey plastic section along the bottom sill, which was a design decision made by Mazda to give the shiny bits a sleeker, more coupe-like look. I think it works well. Our review car looked resplendent in the sun in Soul Red Crystal (a $300 option but so worth it).


The Inside

Mazda have been putting a lot of development into their interiors; not only on the ergonomics, but also the materials and finish. This may be an entry level model, but it doesn’t feel basic at all. The dash has clean lines, nice soft-touch materials, neat stitching and a great finish. There are brushed-metal trims around the vents and controls, piano-black finish in the centre console, and all of the plastics feel solid and convincing. It’s definitely much more premium than previous generations, and feels like a step up the ladder from most other current Japanese and Korean cars.

The seats in this model are cloth, and look great with supportive side bolsters. To sit in, they’re the sort of seats that you don’t notice – and that’s a real compliment.

The CX-30 has 3 circular instrument displays – rev counter, a large central speedo and analogue fuel and temperature gauges. The central display is digital but is so well-matched that I didn’t notice for a few minutes. This is great because it’s readable, instantly accessible, but flexible enough to add subtle markers to show the current speed limit, cruise control speed etc. Really nice design.

There’s also a standard heads-up display projected onto the windscreen – a neater solution than Mazda’s previous system which projected onto a little pop-up screen. It shows speed, the current speed limit determined by maps and traffic sign recognition, and blind-spot warnings. There are also blind-spot warning lights in the side mirrors.

The steering wheel is leather-trimmed and will be familiar to anyone who has driven a recent Mazda. It’s a good design, shaped at 9 and 3 for comfortable hand resting, and the arrangement of buttons is clear, intuitive and easy to use.

The 8.8” widescreen central display mounted high on the dash is a touch-screen but can also be controlled with the wheel behind the gear shifter. The interface is an evolution of the existing Mazda system and is simple to use and control. The screen is clear in all lights and has good resolution. The reversing camera is nice and clear too.

Satnav is included as standard, as are Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

The GSX has manual air conditioning, with simple knobs for hot/cold and fan speed. This works well, once you get re-accustomed to having to adjust it every now and again. We do get a little spoiled with the automatic climate control in a lot of cars.

Moving back, the rear seats are also comfortable and have great leg room for a car this size.

All passengers get electric windows with auto-up and down. The rears are 60/40 split folding and don’t fold totally flat but when folded there’s a good amount of space for larger items. Boot space with seats up is a respectable 430 litres.


The Drive

Mazda says that they design their cars to be focused around the driver, rather than moving towards a future of AI and completely self-driving cars. This means they should be fun and engaging to drive. That’s not to say they’re all analogue and manual, there’s a balance between autonomous systems and driver engagement. With the CX-30 I think they’ve done a great job. 

There’s smart cruise control across the range, which works well, comes to a complete stop if needed in traffic, and can be re-started with a touch of the accelerator or flick of the steering wheel mounted control. Safety features such as autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot warning are included as standard. There’s enough to be convenient, reduce stress and help with safety, but not so much that the car is driving for you.

The reversing camera is very clear and has good resolution – surprisingly something a few other new cars don’t do so well. It has dynamic guide lines, and is displayed on the 8” central screen so it’s easy to use. Talking of that screen, I found it a bit bright at night, especially on map view, but I suspect if I’d spent more time digging through the menus I could have resolved that issue.

In traffic, the CX-30 is quiet and smooth, with good visibility, and the high driving position helps, especially as every second car is now an SUV. The smart cruise makes commuting an easy experience, and the 8-speaker audio system sounds very good, though occasionally I felt it was lacking in bass. The higher spec CX-30 has a Bose system with subwoofer which would solve that minor gripe.

At motorway speeds the refined ride and great damping continue to impress. Maxda says a lot of work went into engineering the CX-30 to increase comfort, preserve handling and reduce NVH, and it shows. Every time I drove it I just kept thinking to myself “Mazda have done really well with this car”.

Just for a full test experience I had to take the CX-30 on a twisty back road. Flicking the switch by the gear shifter puts the car into Sport mode, and it does make the performance noticeably more perky. The gear shifter can be flicked sideways to engage manual shift mode. After a few corners I was pleasantly surprised. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Plus system does a fantastic job of pulling the CX-30 around corners with no drama and minimal body roll. The engine sounds a bit weedy at high revs, but of course it’s not meant to be a sports car, in normal use you’d hardly hear the engine at all. So yeah, you can have a bit of fun in the CX-30 if you want to.

I drove the CX-30 for a week, using it for the school run and daily commute, shopping trips, a couple of longer jaunts, and achieved 8.8l/100km fuel usage. The quoted combined figure is 6.5 so my usage was a little high, but overall I think it was pretty good for a 2.0-litre SUV.


The Competition

There’s lots of choice in the around-40k SUV market.

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorqueFuel, L/100kmSeatsBoot Space, LitresTowing Capacity, KgPrice Highest to Lowest
Citroen C5 Aircross Feel1.6-litre 4-cylinder121/2407.955801200$43,990
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross XLS1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo112/2547.35374750$41,690
Peugeot 3008 Active1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo121/2407.05520130$41,990
Skoda Kodiaq1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo110/2506.772702000$41,990
Mazda CX-30 GSX2.0-litre 4-cylinder114/2006.554301200$41,490
Nissan X-Trail2.5-litre4-cylinder petrol126kW/226NM8.355651500$40,450
Hyundai Tucson2.0-litre 4-cylinder114/1927.954881600$39,990
Toyota RAV42.0-litre 4-cylinder127/2036.055421500$39,490
Seat Ateca Style1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo110/2505.454852000$38,900
Holden Trax LTZ Turbo1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo103/2006.753561200$37,990
Kia Seltos EX2.0-litre 4-cylinder110/1806.854331100$37,990

The pros and cons

ProsCons
Quality interior
Quiet
Ride quality
Smart cruise standard
HUD standard
Handles well
Stereo lacking bass
Engine sounds a bit weedy


2020 Mazda CX-30 GSX

Vehicle TypeSmall SUV
Starting Price$41,490 plus on-road costs
Tested Price$41,790 plus on-road costs
Engine2.0 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16-valve DOHC S-VT petrol engine (Skyactiv-G) with i-stop
Power kW / Torque Nm114/200
Transmission6-speed Skyactiv-Drive (automatic)
0 – 100 kph, secondsNot quoted
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1442
Length x Width x Height, mm4395 x 1795 x 1540
Cargo Capacity, litres430 seats upseats folded not quoted
Fuel Tank, litres51
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined –  6.5L / 100kmReal World Test – Combined –  8.8L / 100kmLow Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing600kg unbraked1200kg braked
Turning circle10.6mSmall: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
WarrantyFactory Warranty and Mazda On Call Roadside Assistance for a five year, unlimited kilometre period Genuine Mazda Servicing for five years/100,000 km (whichever occurs first)
ANCAP Rating5 stars
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
8
Performance
6
Safety
8
Styling
7
Value
8
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I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!

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