Car reviews - Mazda - CX-30
Slick, refined and polished, excellent safety tech and crash-test performance, generally nimble and agile, sense of quality
Room for improvement
Disappointing rear legroom, panicky adaptive cruise control, handling suffers on poor surfaces, mushy brake pedal
Mazda Australia adds another slick operator to the line-up with new CX-30 small SUV
6 Feb 2020
WITH around one in every 10 cars sold in Australia being a Mazda, nearly all of which are purchased by private buyers, it is hard to forget what a relative minnow this brand remains on a global scale.
This makes it all the more remarkable that Mazda is able to consistently punch above its weight with regards to driver appeal, design and the overall high quality of its products.
Enter the new CX-30, a small SUV slotting between the CX-3 and CX-5 and, let’s face it, providing customers another option if and when they decide the Mazda3 just isn’t tall enough.
As with many a modern Mazda, the CX-30 is a slick operator that looks great and drives well. It’s also loaded with technology and standard equipment. We just wish it had a bit more legroom in the back.
SMALL SUV buyers are increasingly spoilt for choice as manufacturers follow customer migration out of hatches, sedans and wagons into something a little higher-riding.
It seems at odds with common sense that customers should gravitate toward a heavier, less aerodynamic and therefore less efficient type of vehicle for daily transport. But the market has spoken and Mazda is latest to respond with the CX-30 range tested here on Australian soil for the first time.
For Mazda, this is an SUV steppingstone between the titchy CX-3 and mid-sized CX-5 that will likely tempt more than a few people out of traditional low-slung vehicle types as well.
Such is the breadth of Mazda’s variant offerings, the CX-30 overlaps quite deeply on price with its smaller and larger SUV siblings.
The CX-30’s $29,990 (plus on-road costs) starting sticker initially seems a little steep compared with obvious rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Seltos, but this dissolves once you factor in the standard automatic transmission and equipment list laden with active safety technology.
The price issue dissolves further when considering the CX-30 in the metal for the first time, its proportions, detailing and cleverly designed surfaces visually suggesting it occupies a substantially higher price bracket.
It continues once inside, too. Where one-time interior champion Audi is no longer the last word on touchpoint tactility, Mazda has kept on raising its game.
Satisfying switchgear and consistent control weights abound, with vast areas of squishy contrast-stitched trim and two-tone colour schemes adding to the sense of affordable luxury while staying the right side of classy.
The 8.8-inch multimedia screen, operated by rotary controller, is more straightforward than most similar systems past and present while also integrating smartphone mirroring systems Apple CarPlay and Android Auto more successfully than most, with shortcut buttons on the centre console serving to open a corresponding app from inside the mobile operating system.
Customers opting to use the native Mazda menu system are treated to crisp graphics and many layers of easily accessed functionality, including a decent sat-nav set-up and DAB+ digital audio reception. Audio quality is good, even without the top-spec Astina’s 12-speaker Bose premium sound system, as is in-call clarity when using the hands-free.
It also feels properly spacious up front, with a generous centre console housing two cupholders positioned cleverly enough to allow a tall drinks bottle to be stored without obstructing the climate-control panel and a sizeable bin beneath a broad central armrest that adjusts fore and aft to suit various seating positions.
The glovebox is massive, the door bins are generous and there is another small glovebox-type drawer by the driver’s right knee. A non-slip smartphone tray angles the screen away from view, a smart design that eliminates notification temptation. Front-end storage is literally topped off by a sunglasses holder in the ceiling.
News from the back row is not so good; 180cm-tall adults cannot sit in tandem due to a disappointing lack of legroom, although headroom is plentiful even in variants equipped with a sunroof.
The central seating position is cramped, though, in all directions bar perhaps width. When nobody is sitting there, another broad armrest folds down and provides two cupholders. Door bins are a good size back here, too, but there’s only the one map pocket.
On the move, we were quickly impressed by the CX-30’s refinement and the supple, well-damped ride even on the big 18-inch wheels of upper-spec variants. Mazda has clearly worked hard on addressing past criticisms about noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels in its vehicles to the point that we’d wager this latest model is close to class-leading.
For 80 per cent of the driving scenarios encountered on our drive from Melbourne, through the Yarra Valley and then along the Mornington Peninsula, the CX-30 was easy to drive, comfortable and quiet yet eager and nimble when required.
Our main early gripe was the mushy brake pedal, which seemed worse on variants with the 2.5-litre engine than the 2.0-litre. It was weird and disappointing considering Mazda is usually so good at balancing the weight and feel between pedals and steering.
Mazda makes much of its new front seat design for the CX-30 and it is without doubt the best SUV seat the brand makes, although that is not saying much. Backrest comfort is great, but we found the angle and length of the squab still felt a bit perch-like no matter how we adjusted it.
We were also exasperated by the CX-30’s panicky and inconsistent adaptive cruise control system, which made smooth progress almost impossible and seemed to be the worst of any Mazda we’ve driven. The issue affected all CX-30 variants we tested equally, so we hope a remedy is only a software update away.
Apart from that, the CX-30’s only real vices were a slight skittery nature and steering chatter on bumpy worn-out corner surfaces and the fact both engines got a bit vocal at higher revs – but as alluded to earlier, neither trait surfaced for at least 80 per cent of our journey.
We never really felt as though the CX-30 egged us on through twisty sections of road like some Mazdas do, rather dispatching them competently with decent levels of grip, traction and body control.
That said, the keen smile-inducing steering response typical of smaller Mazdas was present and correct, as was the pervading sense of lightness and agility. It was all very grown up though, and not quite as soul-stirring as we were expecting from the brand. Never mind; if that kind of thing matters to you, go for a Mazda3 instead.
We tried both the 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre and 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol engines, both of which are paired to Mazda’s responsive, slick, quick, intuitive and generally excellent six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive variants were unavailable on the launch, as these will arrive here in about a month from now.
It may come as a surprise – it certainly did to us – but less is more with this Mazda as we felt the smaller 2.0-litre unit was a happier match with the rest of the car and had a more enjoyable character. It needed greater revs to make progress but did so more willingly, accompanied by a more pleasant noise and less vibration than the 2.5.
Both engines returned indicated fuel efficiency of 7.4 litres per 100km during the launch drive, consistent with the similarity of official combined-cycle consumption figures rated at 6.5L/100km for the 2.0-litre and 6.6L/100km for the 2.5-litre. Adding all-wheel drive (only available with the 2.5L on the top two trim levels) ups the official figure by 0.2L/100km.
With a handful of notable exceptions, the CX-30 is another slick operator from Mazda. We wouldn’t be surprised if it makes a bigger dent in Mazda3 sales than the brand is anticipating but, in the interests of common sense, we also kind of hope it doesn’t.
Model release date: 1 February 2020
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