Above average of average size
For a model that is positioned between the CX-3 and the CX-5 the name CX-4 would be more logical. However, that name is already in use for a Mazda that's being sold in China. Also, the new SUV is based on the new Mazda3 and the name CX-30 clarifies this once more.
The CX-30 is instantly recognisable as an SUV from Mazda by the design languages called "Kodo". With every new model this style evolves a bit more. With the CX-30 the front is as modern and powerful as with every other Mazda, but the designers accomplished this by using more abstract lines. Do notice the roofline, which resembles that of a coupé. These pure lines have a lot more power than when the same thing would be accomplished by forced shapes, accents or colours. More practical: with a length of 440 cm and the wheelbase of 266 cm the CX-30 fits nicely between the other SUVs that Mazda has on offer.
The beautiful design doesn't go at the expense of the cabin space. The room in the front is average for a car of this size, the space in the rear is adequate. The inside of the test car is of high quality. Panels separate several functional areas and have the same minimalistic design as the outside of the vehicle.
Once at the steering wheel the driver feels right at home, but it's hard to pinpoint why. The reason is in the many details. The A and C pillars have been positioned so that they don't affect the driver's view. The line from the heart of the steering wheel to the heart of the speedometer is perfectly straight. The ratios of the backrest and the seating have been chosen so that the driver is naturally balanced and doesn't rest all the weight in one place. These may all be details, but together they make the CX-30 a more pleasant car than just the average SUV. All of this is hardly noticeable when taking a short test drive at a dealership, but it does make a difference in the long run.
As usual with a car in this price segment the CX-30 offers an integrated audio, communication satnav system (including support for Apple CarPlay / Android Auto). With the previous models this could be controlled via touch screen, by a central controller and by speech recognition. Regretably, the display is no longer a touch screen and that's a real shame. The optional Bose audio system sounds reasonably well. The subwoofers have been mounted on either side of the dashboard and this explains why the sound is more balanced and less bombastic than usual with this brand. The sound isn't as clear as with true "premium" audio systems, but on the whole the sound isn't bad.
The CX-30 can be fitted with all active and passive safety features currently on the market. About half of those come as standard, the others are optional. This means Mazda roughly offers as much value for money as its main rivals.
The Mazda CX-3 and CX-5 partly owe their success to their unusual engines. While other brands chose to downsize to save on fuel, Mazda sticks to relatively big engines and refines them to improve efficiency.
How the CX-30 engines differ from other brands becomes clear when driving the "SkyActiv-G": a 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine that develops 122 PS / 213 Nm. It is so quiet and refined, that after pressing the starter button one cannot tell whether the engine is actually running or not. Also, noises from the wind or tyres are minimal. Whether the car is going 100 km/h in fourth gear or 80 km/h in sixth, the engine hardly has to work and that's why the CX-30 is a relaxing car to drive.
When an engine has this much refinement and works so effortlessly, performance must be great! When putting the pedal to the metal, it turns out this isn't the case at all. Only when flooring the accelerator and keeping the rev counter well above 4,000 RPM is the real horsepower unleashed. Only then performance is comparable to competing SUVs with smaller engines. The difference is in the refinement: the small engines from other makes always have to work hard, while the CX-30 is much more relaxed to drive when going along with traffic. The test drive cost 5.9 litres per 100 km (48 mpg) and that's comparable or even more frugal than similar cars with smaller engines.
When the SkyActiv-G engine is connected to an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive the character changes. The automatic gearbox somehow manages to mask the low perormace of the engine, so that the difference between the extreme comfort at low speeds and the lack of power at higher speed is less obvious. With the automatic gearbox the same route was driven as with the manual CX-30; this time fuel consumption was 6.4 litres per 100 km (44 mpg).
The CX-30 is the first Mazda to be available with the so-called "SkyActiv-X" engine (180 PS). It combines diesel technology (strong, frugal) with that of a petrol engine (lively, quick) to offer the best of both worlds. Many carmakers have tried to accomplish this, but Mazda is the first to succeed. The solution was found by installing a sensor in the combustion chamber, so that a computer can control the ignition. The problem with this technology is that engine speed, air pressure and weather all require a different air/gas mixture and a different ignition.
In real life, one can hardly notice the special technology at all. And that's exactly how it was meant to be! Mazda states that hybrid cars require too much from drivers (or limit usability with trailers) and that making existing technology more efficient will get greater results. On a large scale and in the short term this is true. And just like Mazda promises, the SkyActiv-X engine offers a lot of grunt at low revs while feeling more punchy than the base engine. According to Mazda, SkyActiv-X is up to 10% to 15% more efficient than a conventional petrol engine. When driving extra carefully this could increase to 20% more efficiency. Because of the more lively disposition of the SkyActiv-X the car was driven in a more sporty fashion, resulting in a higher fuel economy (6.4 litres per 100 km (44 mpg)).
The CX-30 is also available with a diesel engine. This is a modern powertrain, but without all the innovation of the petrol engines. With this engine the CX-30 feels more like a traditional SUV. The 116 PS / 270 Nm diesel engine performs well, is only audible at high revs and is fairly economical (4.6 litres per 100 km (61 mpg)) for a car in this segment. Because of the higher weight of the engine, the CX-30 has a little bit more feeling in the steering, but the difference is minimal.
Even when it comes to handling, Mazda goes its own way. Traditionally "fun to drive" refers to a lively, agile car that gives a certain amount of satisfaction when driving fast. Other brands make things so easy, that the driver feels superior driving the car. The problem with this is: in both cases the car only shows its true colours when driving quickly.
Mazda therefore focusses on refinement, because that's always noticeable. Everything about the CX-30 feels right because all of the mechanics seem to be working in perfect harmony. On poor surfaces the CX-30 is comfortable, without being too soft. In the city the CX-30 is easy to handle because of the compact size and good visibility. At high speeds the CX-30 sits well planted on the road and feels capable. The only downside of this is that the CX-30 doesn't excel in any one point. The obvious upside of this is that the CX-30 is good at everything.
Mazda introduces the CX-30: a mid-size SUV that is positioned between the current compact and the large SUV. Just because of its size the CX-30 is a valuable addition to the lineup. Yet, the CX-30 is much more than a mid-size car. In every respect the CX-30 scores above average. Thanks to clear, simple lines the CX-30 looks powerful yet elegant. The cabin space is fair and Mazda offers good value for money.
When it comes to powertrains Mazda goes its own way. While the competition offers small engines that have to work hard, Mazda goes for traditional large engines. Thanks to countless improvements these large engines are as frugal as the downsized engines from the competition, while offering more quietness and refinement. Equipment levels are okay. Thanks to a well balanced combination of seating, roadholding and visibility the CX-30 is a remarkably pleasant car to drive. In short: this average size SUV offers above average qualities.
- Excellent handling
- Attention to detail
- Modern, unique technology
- No touchscreen
- Slow electronic parking brake
- Poor performance of SkyActiv-G 122 engine