Mazda CX-30 2021 long-term review

1 Mazda MX 30 2021 long term review hero front

If any firm can make a Nissan Qashqai rival exciting, surely it’s Mazda? Let’s find out

Why we’re running it: To see if the CX-30’s sleek style and driver-focused dynamics make it stand out in the congested family SUV class

Month 1 – Specs

Life with a Mazda CX-30: Month 1

Welcoming the CX-30 to the fleet – 30 December 2020

By its own admission, Mazda has arrived somewhat late to the SUV party, the company that’s famed for the light and lithe MX-5 roadster perhaps being a little unnerved by the ever-increasing clamour for these larger, heftier and less efficient vehicles. But like many slow starters, it’s making up for lost time and has launched an array of rugged crossovers in the past few years, including the electric MX-30.

Yet arguably the most important addition is this: the CX-30, which represents Mazda’s first foray into the fiercely fought family crossover class. It’s here that the big sales numbers are racked up, and it’s also where the competition is at its stiffest, with talented contenders such as the Volkswagen T-Roc, the Seat Ateca and, of course, the Nissan Qashqai – the car that started it all and is a more-or-less permanent fixture in the top 10 sellers chart.

So, has the wait for the CX-30 been worth it, and does it deserve to take a significant slice of the crossover cake? That’s what we will be finding out over the coming months.

What are its chances? Well, Mazda claims to have injected the CX-30 with both a healthy dose of its trademark diverting driving dynamics and a generous dollop of desirable design. And based purely on looks, our mid-range Sport Lux model should be in with a shout of significant sales success.

Effectively a jacked-up derivative of the handsome 3 hatchback, the CX-30 features similarly attention-seeking style, with an arresting blend of curves and creases. Of course, there’s the obligatory black-plastic cladding for the wheel arches (filled with standard 18in alloys on our car) and a raised ride height, although at 1540mm tall the CX-30 is a little lower than most, which no doubt helps in delivering its sleek profile.

It’s on the outside that you will find the only optional extra we’ve specified: the £550 Deep Crystal Blue Mica metallic paint. It’s an interesting shade, looking almost black in dull conditions and only at its deep, shimmery best when exposed to direct sunlight.

Although the exterior is completely different from that of the donor car, the two are more or less identical inside. That’s no bad thing, though, because the 3’s roomy cabin comes close to matching more expensive premium models for slick design and classy finish. Some of the plastics lower down are of the look-but-don’t-touch variety, but everywhere else it’s soft-touch materials, knurled metal knobs and glossy TFT screens.

The dashboard is particularly easy on the eye, with the cowled surround for the dials looking quite a lot like the one you get in the Porsche 911. No really, it does.

And the instruments it contains look great too, with clear white-on-black graphics and delicate needles. Importantly, for me at least, the infotainment screen is ideally sited on top of the dashboard and is operated by a rotary controller set on the transmission tunnel, making it easier to use on the move than the usual touchscreen.

If there’s an oddity, it’s that the controls for the heating and ventilation are angled slightly away from the driver and towards the front seat passenger instead. Still, you’re not left wanting for kit, with a headup display, heated seats, adaptive LED headlights, keyless entry and, well, the list goes on. It’s easy to see why the options list is so short.

What about under the bonnet? We’ve already run Mazda’s novel Skyactiv-X engine (a petrol unit that uses spark plugs as well as diesel-style compression ignition) in the 3, so this time we’ve plumped for the 120bhp 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G unit, complete with cylinder deactivation and Mazda’s mild-hybrid system.

Essentially, this extends to a powerful starter-generator that harvests lost energy during braking and ploughs it into a compact 24V battery, from where it can be used to provide a small amount of electrical torque-fill at low engine speeds. Mated to this technology-packed four-pot is a good old-fashioned six-speed manual gearbox that transmits drive to the front wheels (it may look slightly rugged but, like most crossovers, this Mazda is made purely for taming Tarmac).

So what’s it like to drive? Well, in these movement-restricted times, I’ve managed to put only a few miles under the CX-30’s wheels in the weeks since it arrived, but initial impressions are good. Mazda has a hard-won reputation for delivering cars that are engaging to drive, and even in the first few metres behind the wheel you can tell there has been a determined attempt to infuse the CX-30 with at least a semblance of the MX-5’s spirit.

You obviously don’t sit as low (although your behind feels closer to the ground than in other crossovers), but the driving position is spot on, the gearshift has a deliciously mechanical feel and the steering is precise and well-weighted. It’s also quiet and composed at speed, the ride being noisily upset only by sharp ridges and gnarlier potholes.

With only a few hundred miles on the clock, the engine is still bedding in, but it’s impressively smooth and refined, plus that mild-hybrid system delivers just enough assistance to offset the low-speed lethargy that afflicted non-electrified versions of this unit.

You still need to work the 2.0-litre hard for the best results, but it revs so keenly and without any harshness that extending it is never a chore.

It’s a positive start for the CX-30, then, which on first acquaintance feels like it has been designed to appeal to people like us in a way that many rivals don’t. It hasn’t got my blood racing just yet, but there are signs that it could prove to be a very satisfying family chariot.

Second Opinion

I was really rather fond of the CX-30 when I first drove it last year. The interior was stylish, the control weights were good and the driving position was spot on. It steered really quite sweetly too, although its ride could be a bit fussy at times. I’m sure that James will get along with it just fine – provided its relatively gutless engine doesn’t drive him up the wall.

Simon Davis

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Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-G MHEV Sport Lux specification

Specs: Price New £25,540 Price as tested £26,090 Options Deep Crystal Blue Mica metallic paint £550

Test Data: Engine 4cyls inline, 1998cc, petrol Power 120bhp at 6000rpm Torque 157lb ft at 4000rpm Kerb weight 1334kg Top speed 116mph 0-62mph 10.6sec Fuel economy 45.6mpg Faults None Expenses None

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Source: Autocar

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