Bigger than a CX-3, smaller than a CX-5 - does the Mazda CX-30 hit the sweet spot?
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Mazda CX-30 GTX
- Distinctive style
- Great chassis
- Some clever tech
- Smaller than a Mazda3
- Firm ride in town
- Manual seats/tailgate seem a bit stingy
“Crossover” is a term that has never really caught on in New Zealand. We seem to prefer “SUV” to cover anything with a whiff of off-road style or ability, whether it’s a mildly lifted city car or a thumping box-like wagon with solid axles.
But if you consider that a crossover is a true and obvious blend of different vehicle types, then it’s something that describes the new Mazda CX-30 perfectly.
The CX-3 and CX-5 are both relatively SUV-like in their image and attitude. But the CX-30 is a clear blend of off-roady style with passenger-car proportions. It’s a crossover.
That’s not just because it’s partly based on the latest Mazda3 hatch. Although it definitely is, sharing a basic platform, powertrains, electronic architecture and most of its cabin styling.
But there was also plenty of potential for Mazda to take CX-30 in whatever direction it wanted: the company went to the trouble of making the wheelbase shorter, necessitating a new rear floor structure, and not a single body panel is shared.
We’ve talked a lot about the CX-30 to date; mostly just talk, because Mazda NZ launched it smack in the middle of Covid-19 lockdown. But now we’ve had a chance to hit the road in the mid-range GTX model.
It’s not so bad being the middle kid. The GTX gets a larger engine than the entry GSX, and AWD.
That’s not to say the Limited is lacking. You do get some nice detail touches, like leather upholstery with power-adjustable/memory seats, auto-tilt side mirrors, upgraded Bose sound, adaptive LED headlights and a few extra active safety aids. But the GTX is still a pretty complete package.
Like so much modern Mazda stuff, the CX-30 is a quiet achiever. The naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine is large by class standards and the automatic is a six-speed. Sounds a little old-school, but Mazda has always argued for “rightsizing” in all things and the SkyActiv technology used in the powertrain (focused on low friction and light weight) shows exquisite attention to detail.
The 2.5-litre has plenty of power, but it’s delivered in a different way to rivals’ turbo engines: more linear, but less urgent.
It’s the chassis where the CX-30 really shines. It flows beautifully over a winding road, with excellent body control and smooth responses. It’s partly down to great hardware (a holistic approach to tyres/suspension, for example) and partly due to some clever electronic technology, like GVC Plus that subtly reduces engine torque and/or dabs the brakes when you turn into a corner. You’ll never notice it, but it’s always working.
The CX-30 chassis still favours sportiness over a smooth ride. There’s a bit of patter on urban roads, although it’s linear and controlled: a touch firm, but not fussy. And any suspension noise is beautifully suppressed; it sounds more textile than mechanical.
Inside, the CX-30 is a high-class act thanks to architecture (physical and electronic) from the Mazda3. It’s gone Euro-simple with minimal switchgear and a modest-but-crisp infotainment screen, in a rather elegant shape. Mazda has finally embraced phone projection as well, so the CX-30 has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality – although it’s now lost the touch-functionality of the previous-generation MazdaConnect setup.
Rear-seat space is a mixed bag compared with the Mazda3. The CX-30 is 70mm shorter in the wheelbase, so there’s definitely less legroom. But the increased ride height and glass area makes the CX-30 much easier to get in and out of, and it’s arguably a nicer place to be because you can see so much more.
The big head-scratcher for many might be price. CX-30 starts where the CX-3 stops, which makes sense. But then straight away you’re into CX-5 territory, especially with our GTX. So while the gap between Three and Five exists in size terms, price-wise it’s pretty narrow.
Weirdly, the CX-30 might make more value sense when we get an even more costly version. There’s a lavish Takami model on the way that will be powered by Mazda’s revolutionary SkyActiv-X engine, which is fuelled by petrol but boasts diesel-like compression-ignition technology. A crossover engine, if you like.
That will push the CX-30 away from the mainstream and further towards premium-compact SUVs like the Audi Q3, BMW X2 and Lexus UX. But based on its driving dynamics and quality, it deserves to be there.
MAZDA CX-30 GTX
Engine: 2.5-litre four, 139kW/252Nm
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic, AWD
Economy: 6.8L/100km (ADR Combined)
Pros: Distinctive style, great chassis, some clever tech
Cons: Smaller than a Mazda3, firm ride, manual seats/tailgate seem a bit stingy