I’ll keep this one brief because the CX-30 is a car that will undoubtedly be talked about for days on end in the near future. It’s a crucial part of Mazda’s ever-growing SUV lineup filling in the narrow gap between the compact CX-3 and the larger CX-5. 

I had a first drive in one earlier in the year after its local launch in Japan. That car had the old fashioned SkyActiv-G engine which, while doing a good job of being an engine, had some flaws. The new SkyActiv-X engine is now offered in both the Mazda3 and CX-30 (both of which are on sale in New Zealand now too), so Mazda Japan kindly lent me one for a few days. 

Here’s five things I liked about the CX-30 SkyActiv-X and five things I didn’t like. 

Five Things I Like About The 2020 Mazda CX-30 SkyActiv-X

Handsome looks 

I know styling is a subjective thing but the CX-30 is easily one of the best looking, if not the best looking, car in this segment. The optional Soul Red Metallic paint on my test car helps it cause a lot too. I don’t even mind the plastic cladding all that much either though I’d be curious to see one completely painted. Yes, I know it looks like every other Mazda out there and its getting harder to differentiate them but why change a recipe that works? It looks like a jacked up Mazda3 hatch and that’s a good thing. 

Hatchback-like handling 

Carrying on from the hatchback-like looks is the CX-30’s hatchback-like handling. Because it’s essentially a raised Mazda3 rather than a proper SUV like the CX-5, it’s closer to the ground which means better handling. It always surprises me how car-like modern crossovers feel to drive and the CX-30 certainly feels one of the best of the bunch. The steering is light and direct, with almost a playful feel to it. The clever torque-vectoring coupled with AWD in this car made it glue to the road when things got twisty. You could actually smile behind the wheel of this. 

Smart interior 

I really like Mazda’s interiors. Their gradual move upmarket (and subsequent price increase) hasn’t gone unnoticed. The design just feels a class above other mainstream cars. It looks and feels suitably posh inside with minimal design and plenty of modern high tech features, which pretty much all come as standard.  

Surprisingly practical 

The week I had the CX-30 a friend needed some furniture for his new flat, so an IKEA trip was required. I quickly offered the services of the CX-30 for transportation because hey it’s a crossover it should be more practical than a regular car. Turns out, you can fit a surprising amount of flatpack furniture in the back of the CX-30 with the rear seats folded down. It was the exact length of a () table from IKEA. With the rear seats up you can have two adults comfortably in the back without any major complaints. Good job Mazda. 

SkyActiv-X engine is very good

Mazda claims 5.9L/100km from the 2.0-litre petrol engine. During my test of it I managed a best of 6.4L/100km. That’s not too bad for a crossover like this, especially one that had to haul some furniture in the back around Tokyo. Not only is it economical, with almost diesel levels of economy, it’s also smoother and quieter than Mazda’s current ‘regular’ petrol engines. It’s not particularly fast nor will it get your soul singing but for a ‘normal’ car it’s more than you need. 

Five Things I Dislike About The 2020 Mazda CX-30 SkyActiv-X 

SkyActiv-X is quite expensive 

In New Zealand you can only get the CX-30 with a SkyActiv-X engine in the top spec Takami trim, which starts from $54,990. That’s $10,000 more than the base GTX trim with a 2.5-litre petrol engine and $4,000 more than the Limited trim with the same 2.5-litre engine and the only thing you get extra from the Limited is a 360-degree camera. You’re going to really want the X to fork out the extra $4,000.  

Diesel will still get you better economy 

Unfortunately if you do want the best economy you’re going to still want the diesel. But you can’t buy the diesel in New Zealand. No loss though because Mazda claims the diesel CX-30 will return an average of 5L/100km, which isn’t that much more than the SkyActiv-X. Don’t forget this is only the first generation of the SkyActiv-X technology, if Mazda keeps refining it who knows much better it’ll get. 

No touchscreen 

As great as the interior and improved tech is, the move to change the MZD Connect to be controlled via the rotary dial is baffling. Sometimes using the touchscreen is easier and quicker. To be fair to Mazda not making it touchscreen has allowed them to put it in a better position because where the screen is now is a fair reach from the driver’s seat but it would’ve been nice to have both options. 

I’d prefer a Mazda3

I really like the new Mazda3. I drove one with the same SkyActiv-X engine and if it were me I’d still go for that. I don’t need a crossover but if you do, the CX-30 is one of the best. 

Having to explain why it’s called the CX-30 and not a CX-4

Naturally you’d think the car that fits in between the CX-3 and the CX-5 should be called the CX-4 but it’s not because the CX-4 name is already taken by a China-only model. Other than that, there’s not much wrong with the CX-30. 


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