When DriveLife attended the launch of Mazda’s SkyActiv-X engine, we came away impressed. At last, there was a non-turbo Mazda engine that was quiet, smooth, economical and relatively powerful.

In June 2020, Ken Saito from DriveLife was the first to test this engine in the Mazda3, and found it a good drive, and even managed to get near Mazda’s suggested fuel economy figures.

Generally, car reviews are over a week which can lead to opinions being formed. But as a car reviewer, you aren’t really living with the car and finding those things you couldn’t live without as well as some things that might drive you a little crazy.

This time, Mazda offered us an extended 2-month loan of a CX-30 finished in their best colour – Soul Red – and fitted with the SkyActiv-X engine, which is standard on the CX-30 Takami. We intended to shift the car around the team, so all of us would experience it for longer than normal.

Would we still love the car after spending a decent amount of time with it, or would it be a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”?

Following is each of our views on the 2021 Mazda CX-30 Takami SkyActiv-X.

What’s In THE 2021 Mazda CX-30 RANGE?

Mazda currently offers the CX-30 in four trim levels. Our test vehicle, the Takami, sits at the top of the available range in New Zealand.

Drivelife’s Rob Cubley has already tested the cheaper CX-30 GSX, you can read about it here. Alistair reviewed the Limited version, and that full review is here.

The CX-30 has three engine offerings; a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine making 114kW of power and 200Nm of torque, plus a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine making 139kW of power and 252Nm of torque. Both are driven by a 6-speed torque-convertor automatic transmission via front and all-wheel-drive configurations. The Limited comes as an AWD, using the latter of these engine offerings.

Only the top-spec Takami model comes with the SkyActiv-X engine. It’s a combined compression ignition/spark ignition engine, but more on that later. It’s 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol motor that puts out 132kW of power and 224Nm of torque, and runs that through a 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s permanent all-wheel-drive (AWD).

The CX-30 Takami is well-equipped for its $55K price tag. It features 18” alloys, SatNav, Apple Carplay and Android Auto capability, Bose 12-speaker audio, heated front seats, dual-zone climate with air-conditioning, 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, privacy glass, reverse camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, radar cruise control, heads-up display, automatic LED headlights, heated mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, electric parking brake, i-stop, Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, Cylinder Deactivation, ABS, Blind Spot Monitoring, Driver Attention Alert, DSC, EBD, Emergency Brake Assist, Hill Launch Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Tyre pressure monitoring, additional Smart Brake Support features and a sunroof.

The CX-30 is offered in 8 different colours – Deep Crystal Blue, black, silver, two greys, Pearl White, Titanium Flash Mica, and the well-revered option of Soul Red Crystal Metallic, which our test car was finished in.

You can read more about the Mazda CX-30 range on the Mazda New Zealand website.

THE DRIVE: ALISTAIR’S POINT OF VIEW

Ah, the CX-30. For me, it was like saying hello to an old friend. 

In other words, I’ve had plenty of experience with this platform. One of my first ever reviews was of a CX-30, and not so long ago I’d reviewed the Mazda3.

Upon hearing that DriveLife would have the CX-30 as a long-termer, I was actually quite keen to get back into it.

Sure, the CX-30 doesn’t exactly “wow” my inner car enthusiast, but that’s a tall order for a mid-range crossover. Mainly, I applauded the CX-30 for its luxurious interior, excellent ride quality, and a functional yet non-invasive approach to its tech. All of that, for a fairly reasonable price tag. 

But above all, the CX-30 is relaxing to drive.

It’s an intangible factor, but a hugely important one. To understand this, we need to appreciate the role of a luxury car. For me, a luxury vehicle shouldn’t be benchmarked by the number of LED colour options for the interior ambient lighting. Instead, a luxury vehicle should be comfortable, high quality, and built like a tank.

It should perform the basic duties with the utmost precision and have the features that meaningfully make your experience more comfortable. A luxury car should make you forget about the world for the mundane miles.   

I’m not going to call the CX-30 a luxury car, because it isn’t. But boy, it does get close. I commute 52km per day and the CX-30 just ate those motorway miles up. I valued the ride quality, the excellent seats, the great stereo, the quiet and immersive interior and more. But importantly, there were no fundamental issues with daily-ing the CX-30. 

Sure, the steering assistance seldom activates, and it is dark and a bit pokey for rear seat passengers. But overall, there was nothing that would unsettle me. It was a relaxing experience.

Even better was knowing the price point. Sure, motoring journalists have this part easy – we don’t have to pay. But knowing you’d pay a lot more for something similar under a European marque, I can imagine there’d be less cognitive dissonance associated with throwing down the money for the Mazda. 

For me, my opinion of the CX-30 is largely unchanged. While I’m not jumping in it for the Sunday drive, I am looking forward to the Monday commute. The CX-30 is a great crossover.  

FRED’S POINT OF VIEW

I’ve said this before and it’s worth saying again; In Mazda’s current range, all of their cars are either good, very good, or excellent. It’s hard to put a finger on just one thing, and for me that comes down to their whole design concept of JINBA ITTAI, or driving dynamics when it’s related to cars. In terms we can understand, JINBA ITTAI means that every component is not only designed to be as perfect as possible, it is designed to work well as a part of a whole car, not just on its own.

This really comes through when driving any Mazda, and certainly the CX-30. It is a complete driving experience, and the dynamics of the car and its design shine through. I think for me, that’s the key takeaway for the CX-30: dynamically, the car is brilliant. 

The fit and finish inside borders on amazing, and blows the minds of some passengers. The look of the car does it for me too – in Soul Red with that Mazda front end, it’s distinctive and sexy.  The back end reminds me of a Jaguar F Type, and I’m happy with that.

It’s not perfect of course, and I agree with some of the other guys’ comments. But as a package deal, it’s excellent, and I love driving the CX-30 – even more so now, with the SkyActiv-X engine. 

Designing a petrol engine that is both spark ignition and compression ignition is an impressive feat of engineering. The fact that you simply can’t tell the difference between the two modes is even more impressive. If I’m being honest, I’m a bit disappointed that it doesn’t save more petrol than I feel it should, but the emissions are lower and the engine is a lot smoother than other Mazda models, so there’s two wins right there.

If people who are looking to buy an SUV ask me about brands, I tell them to make sure they go and drive a Mazda SUV. There is something in the drive that makes it more involving, more special than other SUVs on the market.

It’s weird, as often – generally after I haven’t driven a Mazda for a while – I wonder what is so great about them. Then I get behind the wheel and it all comes flooding back in a rush – the sheer driveability, refinement and oneness of the car.

The CX-30 Takami SkyActiv-X is no different on this front.

JOHN’S POINT OF VIEW

The Mazda CX-30 is a hard vehicle to get excited about. But on the flip side of this vehicle is hard to be disappointed with. In fact, I found it hard to find anything that I didn’t like about the CX-30. A week behind the wheel and I found myself right at home. It’s got all the latest tech, smooth efficient power and is easy to drive.

The new interior is very well appointed, clean and modern with minimal buttons across the dash and a slim widescreen media screen which I felt was nicely integrated. Comfortable seats in the front and back, if perhaps a bit tight in the rear for leg room when there is a tall driver.

This CX-30 falls in that Goldilocks zone, not too fast or too slow, not too expensive, not too cheap, it’s just right to do everything as a compact daily driver.

ROB’S POINT OF VIEW

I had the CX-30 as my daily driver, and that included a weekend trip to Taranaki. The CX-30 Takami is a great car for both commuting and longer trips. All of the comfort features are there – heated seats, electric tailgate, smart cruise control, great stereo. We took five people out to a restaurant one night and no-one complained about rear head or leg-room. The boot is surprisingly capacious too, taking our medium-sized suitcase lengthways, leaving lots of room for other stuff. The interior materials are great, with a real premium feel to them, the controls are logically placed and have a quality feel, and the seats are comfortable even after several hours.

Ride comfort is excellent, road noise is well-insulated, and handling is very good indeed. We drove the majority of our 800km trip with cruise control on, and the CX-30 just ate up the bends with no drama, giving a feeling of sure-footed confidence. At night the adaptive LED high-beams are impressive, lighting around other traffic like some kind of witchcraft.

There were a couple of little niggles. The keyless unlock only happened about half of the time – I had to fumble in my pocket for the buttons the other times, but the car is really keen to lock itself – doing so even when walking around the car at a petrol station.

The stop/start is a little keen, and the engine goes off at about 5kph when slowing to a halt, often just short of where I wanted to stop, so then I’d lift off the brake and the engine would come back in with a jerk, then go off again as I pressed the brake again. I eventually got used to the timing of this, to stop it from happening.

The recent Wellington weather highlighted a fun issue with the electric tailgate. I put the bags in the boot in driving rain, pressed the close button, ran around and got in the car, the wind flipped up the rear load cover which jammed against the boot and stopped it closing, lots of beeping. I got out and ran around, adjusted the shelf and pressed the button again, the boot started opening, pressed again, shelf flipped up, beep beep, pressed again, boot opened, pressed again, reached in and held the shelf until the boot was almost shut and pulled my hand out fast like Indiana Jones and his hat. I was soaked and freezing by this point, and the heated seat was most welcome.

Overall I was really impressed with the CX-30, it does everything so well, has a quality feel and is likely just the right size for most small families. But for some reason I don’t love it. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is, it’s hard to fault, but it’s not one of those cars where I’ll struggle to hand over the keys. I don’t want to sound negative, because it’s such a thoroughly competent car and 99% of people will love it, but it doesn’t have that X-factor that would make me hand over my own money. 

What’s The Competition For the 2021 Mazda CX-30 Takami SkyActiv-X?

The market is well served for the 40-60k SUV buyer. Here are some of the options:

Brand/ModelEnginePower/Torque
kW/Nm
Fuel, L/100kmSeatsBoot Space, LitresPrice High to Low
Volkswagen Tiguan TSI R-Line AWD2.0 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged162/3508.35615$68,990
Mazda CX-30 Takami2.0-litre 4-cylinder132/2246.0 5422$54,990 
Citroen C5 Aircross Shine1.6-litre 4-cylinder133/2507.95580$53,990
Peugeot 3008 GT-Line1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo121/2407.35591$52,990
Hyundai Tucson GDi Elite1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder130/2657.75488$52,990
Seat Ateca FR2-litre turbo 4-cylinder140/3206.95485$51,900
Jeep Compass Limited2.4 litre 4 cylinder129/2299.75$46,990
Kia Seltos Limited AWD2.0-litre 4-cylinder130/2657.65433$46,990
Toyota RAV4 Limited2.0-litre 4-cylinder127/2036.05580$46,490
Skoda Karoq Style1.5 litre 4-cylinder110/2505.65479$44,990
Toyota C-HR Limited Hybrid1.8 litre 4-cylinder72/1424.35318$39,390

2021 Mazda CX-30 Takami – Specifications

Vehicle TypeSmall Crossover – SUV
Starting Price$41,490
Price as Tested$54,990
Engine2.0-litre 4-Cylinder Skyactiv-X Petrol 
Power/Torque
kW/Nm
[email protected],000rpm
[email protected],000rpm
TransmissionSix-speed automatic
Spare WheelSpacesaver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,591
Length x Width x Height, mm4395 x 1795 x 1540
Cargo Capacity, litres
Seats up/seats down
422/NA
Fuel tank capacity, litres48
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
600 /1,200
Turning circle, metres10.6
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 years Warranty
5 years/100,000km Scheduled Servicing
5 years Unlimited KM Roadside Assist
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
8
Interior
9
Performance
7
Safety
8
Styling
8
Value
7
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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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