Car reviews - Mazda - CX-30 - G25 Astina
Upmarket styling, great build quality, cabin room on par with Mazda3 and more than CX-3, smooth engine, great fuel economy
Room for improvement
Plastic body trim a bit OTT, some gearbox hesitancy, Mazda3 sedan may be just as good
Mazda creates a niche in its SUV range to find a balance between size and cabin space
18 Aug 2020
By NEIL DOWLING
King of the niche marketeers, Audi, knows that any vehicle sale is another owner being welcomed into the brand’s privileged clubhouse.
That’s why there’s 15 models and 76 sub-models from a brand that has a mere 1.6 per cent of the Australian vehicle market and sells a leisurely 12,000 units a year.
Mazda is learning the ropes from Audi, and indeed from BMW which has 19 models and Mercedes-Benz with 25.
The new Mazda that splits the traditional gaps in its range is the CX-30 SUV, based on the Mazda3 and sized between the CX-3 and CX-5.
In price, the CX-30 Astina front-drive is $41,490 plus on-road costs, compared with the feature-equivalent CX-3 Akari at $36,450 (plus costs) and the CX-5 Akera at $48,330 (plus costs).
In creating a niche, Mazda has also neatly stepped up in one of the most important selling aids - perceived quality.
From inside and out, the CX-30 looks more upmarket than the other Mazda SUVs. It also stumps some rivals.
There’s no doubt that as a niche, the CX-30 represents a solid marketing move. In addition, it is likely to be the catalyst not only for a raft of affordable models from competitors, while threatening the lower-priced offerings of the luxury SUV brands.
The CX-30 tag is a bit of a misnomer - in size it sits in between the CX-3 and the CX-5 - but the CX-4 badge was already taken by a model made by Mazda FAW in China and exclusively for the Chinese market.
The CX-4 is based on the Mazda CX-5 platform with a 2700mm wheelbase and is best described as the coupe version.
The CX-30 has a smaller 2655mm wheelbase and shares dimensions with Mazda’s MX-30 battery electric model now in production in Japan and with potential for sale in Australia.
So the CX-30 is the sweet-spot SUV in the Mazda range and will find favour with couples, parents and retirees alike, because it doesn’t suffer from the small dimensions of the CX-3 and is a zippier car to drive than the CX-5.
It also looks great, though the plastic ware over the wheelarches and along the sills are trying too hard to pretend the SUV has any ability away from the bitumen.
How it looks - and particularly the appeal of the cabin - can be dependent on which model is chosen.
The G25 Astina tested here has all the luxury features of the CX-5 but drags the price up to $41,490 plus on-road costs for the front-wheel drive and an extra $2000 for all-wheel drive. You will also have to add $495 for the Soul Red or two metallic grey paint colours.
CX-30 prices start at $29,990 for the 2.0-litre front-drive automatic.
The Astina gets only the 2.5-litre engine shared with the CX-5 (though strangely loses just 1kW to the CX-5 and comes in at 139kW) and Mazda6.
It comes only with a six-speed automatic and there’s no diesel offering - you have to go to the CX-5 or CX-8 for that.
The CX-30 is likely to have a third engine option along with its donor, the Mazda3, when the SkyActiv-X high-compression 2.0-litre petrol-hybrid joins later this year.
For buyers seeking really low fuel consumption of 5.4-6.2 litres per 100km, this could be a good bet though the new engine has a premium of about $3000, making this small SUV bouncing around in Audi, BMW and Merc pricing territory.
For the sake of simplicity, the G25 2.5-litre non-turbo petrol engine is pretty much perfect. It’s very quiet, pulls like a train, and is well matched to the conventional torque-convertor six-speed automatic – which is more domesticated than the elastic feel of a CVT or the abruptness and lag of a dual-clutch box.
There is some hesitancy in the gearshift on occasions but it’s nothing like the dual-clutch units. It also doesn’t roll back on hills.
The 2.5-litre delivers 139kW at 6000rpm and torque of 252Nm at 4000rpm. Mazda claims 6.6 l/100km and on test, came close in urban and freeway routes with an average of 7.2 l/100km, giving the 51-litre fuel tank a plausible 708km range.
This is not a performance engine and yet is smooth and quiet, with more response than the 2.0-litre in the less-specced CX-30 variants. On balance, it’s more fun to drive.
It also has a secret – a cylinder deactivation device that shuts down the two outer cylinders’ fuel and spark.
It’s a great idea that is near impossible to detect when in operation thanks to a counterbalance in the transmission to smooth out any imbalance. But it doesn’t appear to do anything to make a difference to fuel economy.
Ride comfort is good, though there’s some low-speed rumble with the suspension often finding small bumps hard to soak up.
It has no problem, however, with general road bumps at higher speeds and certainly the handling is predictable.
Mazda’s G-vectoring steering control gives some appreciated weight to the steering wheel to further enhance the driving experience.
This control feature – basically changing the steering geometry and electric assistance to place a bit more weight on the front wheels – is about as noticeable as the cylinder deactivation though Mazda assures us that it reduces effort and improves the car’s balance through a corner.
It’s a lot of little things in the drivetrain and chassis that puts the CX-30 a bit above its class. A lot of this can be attributed to the noise dampening of the cabin that adds to the premium feel evident by the price.
Is it better than the CX-3 – definitely. It is quieter and smoother and the 2.5-litre sparkles where the 2.0-litre merely transports.
Against the CX-5, the smaller cabin space isn’t as noticeable as the big jump from the decidedly compact CX-3. But the chassis control shows similarities to the bigger SUV.
The CX-30 Astina gets Mazda’s full complement of features and safety gear so there’s little wanting and the inventory goes some way to justifying the price.
Standard safety opens with seven airbags, with highlights being the autonomous emergency braking system with pedestrian and cycle detection front and back, surround-view monitor, drive attention monitor, lane departure and lane keeping, traffic sign recognition, front and rear park sensors, blind-spot monitor, front and rear cross-traffic alert, active LED headlights and high-beam control, among others.
The feature list is as impressive, with electric tailgate, electric sunroof, Bose 12-speaker audio with digital radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 8.8-inch centre screen, satellite navigation, 18-inch alloys and leather upholstery (optioned in white) with heated, electric front seats and even an electrically heated steering wheel.
The central monitor operates from a twist dial that is dead simple to use. Instruments are clear and well laid out and the simplicity and clarity of the screens and the switchgear – especially on the steering wheel – help make this car so easy to operate.
Cabin space is an improvement on the CX-3. Put a baby seat into the rear of the CX-3 and the feet of a child aged four or five years will easily scrape the back of the front seat unless it is moved forward and, ideally, without an occupant.
The CX-30 is better and the CX-5 better again. Our test child showed disapproval when in the CX-3 but was quite happy in the two bigger Mazdas.
Boot space, again, sits in between its siblings with 317 litres of space with the rear seat in position, which isn’t great especially considering it comes only with a space-saver spare wheel.
By comparison, the CX-3 has 264 litres and the CX-5 offers 442 litres. As an example, a Volkswagen Golf has 380 litres.
All will cope with a folded pram but it’s the extra family gear that may be difficult to find room for in the two small Mazdas.
Safety for babies and children is with two Isofix anchors and three top tethers, so there’s flexibility there for securing tiny tots.
For adults, the CX-30 suits four occupants but a third, centre-seat rear passenger is likely to complain.
The SUV is a relatively minor 45mm narrower than the CX-5 but that makes quite a difference to the space available between occupants’ shoulders.
Warranty and service
Mazda has a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty that includes five years of roadside assistance.
The capped-price program is available for five years and has intervals of 12 months or a rather low 10,000km. Many rivals have 12,000km or 15,000km intervals.
Prices for the first five years are, respectively, $309, $354, $309, $354 and $309 with additions of brake fluid every two years ($69 each) and $92 for an air filter replacement at 40,000km.
More than a niche, the CX-30 pushes Mazda upmarket and creates a medium-small SUV that easily holds its own against the BMW X1 and X2, Audi Q2, Lexus UX and Mercedes GLA.
In this company, the Mazda offers more equipment and safety with lower running costs.
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Model release date: 1 February 2020
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