Mazda’s first SUV to use double rather than single digits in its name slots in above its first small SUV, the CX-3, and below another highly popular model, the mid-sized CX-5.
There’s certainly room for it beyond sales potential. For families on a tighter budget, the Mazda 2-based CX-3 is too cramped to be an effective option, while the better variants of the CX-5 are close to $40,000 and higher.
The CX-30 is based on the Mazda 3 small car. Yet while it’s slightly smaller dimensionally – height aside, of course – the SUV carries a premium of between $2900 and $4400 over the hatch/sedan depending on variant.
It’s a $3400 difference in the case of the 2020 Mazda CX-30 G20 Pure – the entry-level model that will be the most popular variant, at least initially, according to Mazda.
The $29,990 starting price doesn’t look out of place when compared with some direct rivals such as the Toyota C-HR and Renault Kadjar, though looks high when considering the likes of the Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos that kick off below $25,000.
In the CX-30’s favour is a comprehensive list of safety technology. Despite base-model status, the G20 Pure features adaptive cruise control with stop-go functionality, speed-limit reminder display, auto high-beam system, head-up display, forward-collision warning, fatigue alert, blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, lane-keep assistance, low tyre pressure warning, and rear parking sensors.
Autonomous emergency braking includes pedestrian and cyclist detection, and works in reverse.
For an extra $1500, a Vision Technology pack adds a surround-view camera, front parking sensors, front cross-traffic alert, camera-based driver monitoring, and an auto accelerate/brake function specific to rush-hour traffic.
The G20 Pure is not quite as convincing for comfort/convenience features. Although keyless entry and LED headlights are standard, the G20 Pure wears 16-inch alloy wheels whereas most rivals go a size bigger.
The Mazda lacks fog lights or LED daytime running lights that you’ll find on a similarly priced Kona or C-HR. And you’ll find smarter seats and a branded (Infinity) audio on the former, while the latter adds front parking sensors.
A urethane steering wheel is also unexpected for a car that is nudging towards $35,000 with on-road costs added. And the plasticky wheel stands out because the rest of the CX-30’s presentation is so outstanding for a mainstream vehicle.
Closely resembling the Mazda 3’s interior, the cabin achieves a genuine upmarket perception through a combination of stylish design and feel-good materials (in both the physical and psychological sense). One-touch windows on all doors aren’t common in the segment, either.
Pure and Evolve models feature a black/dark blue trim colour combination (not to everyone’s taste in the Drive office) and Astina models mix brown and black.
Technology chips in, too – mainly via the new Mazda Connect infotainment system that retains the previous MZD’s intuitive rotary dial controller and shortcut buttons, but improves the display’s size (now 8.8 inches), graphics, layout and resolution.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard to partially replicate your smartphone – including alternatives such as Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze to the integrated navigation – though Mazda has dispensed with touchscreen functionality.
A smartphone can be placed on a tray ahead of the gear lever, though it doesn’t offer inductive charging.
The centre console features two cupholders and a usefully sized cubby with a sliding lid that doubles as a wide centre armrest. Inside are USB ports and a 12-volt socket. The door armrests are cleverly designed to allow larger bottles to fit in the door pockets.
However, the G20 is the only variant in the CX-30 range to lack a centre armrest, cupholders and face-level ventilation in the rear seat.
Leg room isn’t generous, though the extra rear-seat space over the CX-3 makes the CX-30 a more realistic compact SUV for small families. There are two ISOFIX points on the outboard seats, though for parents with a bub it’s important to note that a capsule will severely limit leg room for the front seat.
Boot space also improves over the CX-3 and is more practical than its 317L capacity suggests. The rear seats feature 60-40 split folding, though leave a slight step so the extended cargo floor isn’t fully flat.
On the road, the CX-30 provides a key advantage over the Mazda 3 hatchback – better all-round vision, particularly in regard to over-the-shoulder blind spots.
Unexpectedly, it doesn’t ride as comfortably. Although the G20 Pure’s chubby, 65-profile tyres help to deliver a layer of cushioning, the CX-30’s suspension rarely stops fidgeting on your average urban road. Both a Mazda 3 G25 Astina and CX-30 G20 Touring on bigger, 18-inch wheels, driven on the same roads, were noticeably more settled with better damping.
The SUV shares a similarly high level of refinement, though, with no intrusive noises from tyres, wind or engine, while it’s also ingrained with the same kind of enthusiasm for scenic drives thanks to its confident roadholding and accurate steering.
The lightness of the CX-30’s steering is beneficial for urban motoring, as is its tight turning circle.
CX-30 models are powered by either a 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine depending on variant. The G20 badge denotes the former.
By segment standards, the engine’s outputs of 114kW and 200Nm are decent for a base model. While you’ll get stronger performance from G25-badged models with their 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre, many owners should find the 2.0-litre suits their needs.
While lacking the mid-range torque of a turbo engine, it responds well on lighter throttle applications for around-town duties and is capable of sufficiently prompt overtakes if you flatten the accelerator pedal – without making an unpleasant din. The six-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and decisive, with a Sport mode available to lift engine revs for slighter keener responses.
Official fuel use is 6.5 litres per 100km, which is about middle of the pack for the segment. We registered an average 7.5L/100km (via the trip computer) for the official portion of our test drive of mixed driving situations, with further daily running pushing the figure further into the 8.0s. The CX-30 runs on the cheapest grade of fuel.
Mazda’s maintenance costs are also about average – a four-year total of $1350 higher than a Toyota C-HR for the same period ($800), for example, though lower than a Honda HR-V ($1559). Its 10,000km interval mileage limits (as with Honda) are shorter than the industry’s typical 15,000km.
Putting aside a sense that the CX-30 struggles to justify its extra cost over the equivalent Mazda 3, it does enough to warrant scrutiny by those buyers focused on an affordable compact SUV.
A Honda HR-V or Skoda Karoq are better picks if interior space/practicality is a priority, though the CX-30 certainly meets more of the expectations of a compact SUV than the CX-3 that is essentially a high-riding city car.
If you’re set on a CX-30 and can afford an extra $1500, we would just recommend opting for the next variant up – the G20 Evolve that brings a much nicer steering wheel (and gear lever), ventilation and an armrest for the rear seat, and better ride comfort despite bigger, 18-inch wheels.