MAZDA AUSTRALIA invited Practical Motoring to test-drive its new CX-30 on launch in Victoria. Though it bears an all-new naming convention for a Mazda SUV, it sits dimensionally between the CX-3 and CX-5 as a non-declared CX-4. Here’s Byron Mathioudakis’ full first-drive review.

THE GOOD: Elegant styling and presentation, excellent safety credentials, comfortable cabin and ride quality.

THE BAD: Price feels a little steep up the top end, the boot is small.

IN A NUTSHELL: Mazda adds a fifth SUV range to its line-up, between the popular CX-3 and CX-5, for couples and smaller families seeking a stylish and sporty quality crossover. Think of the CX-30 as a jumped-up 3 wagon.

2020 Mazda CX-30 tree

2020 Mazda CX-30 review

THE CX-30 seems to raise more questions than answers. Does it replace the CX-3? For a small SUV, why do prices start from $30,000? And what’s with the ‘30’ in the name?

While the 2 supermini-based CX-3 has been a big hit in Australia, it struggles in some other markets for being too small. With the jump to the midsized CX-5 – which is expected to grow substantially (as per the latest Toyota RAV4) when the next generation arrives in 2022 – deemed too great, the space in between is where the CX-30 steps in. Meanwhile, the CX-3 will continue and be eventually updated, since the demand for baby SUVs is increasing.

Mazda is hedging its bets then. So, why not just call the new SUV CX-4? That name already adorns a China-only crossover. That’s the official line, anyway.

Whatever, the CX-30 has another role to fill – as a natural evolution of the Mazda 3 range, as small cars sales continue to slide globally. It’s based on Mazda’s one-time bestseller, down to employing the same platform, G20 2.0-litre and G25 2.5-litre four-cylinder powertrains and interior architecture – albeit with a less overall length (by 65mm) and wheelbase (by 70mm) than the hatch. Good news, though: thankfully, compared to the latter, the CX-30 does offer 22 litres more luggage capacity (317L versus 295L).    

2020 Mazda CX-30 badge

Finally, the Japanese brand wants to move upmarket. To that end, Mazda states the CX-30 was designed to be the most beautiful SUV in the world. After all, good looks do sell.

What does the Mazda CX-30 cost and what do you get?

Prices kick off from $29,990 plus on-road costs for the G20 Pure – so we’re talking mid-range Honda HR-V and Kia Seltos territory amongst small SUVs. Sadly, no manual is available, so that’s for the auto, placing the Thai-built CX-30 some $2890 under the CX-5 Maxx equivalent but $4000 over the corresponding 3 Pure. Clearly, beauty doesn’t come cheap.

Mazda counters by saying even the G20 Pure is richly equipped (though not more so than said 3), offering goodies like AEB, lane-departure and lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, auto high beams, rear cross-traffic alert, front/rear crossing braking, a head-up display, satellite navigation, digital radio, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing LED headlights, auto-folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, tyre-pressure indicators and 16-inch alloys as standard. These come on top of kit like seven airbags, a reverse camera, blind-spot alert, driver-attention monitor, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support, push-button start and manual air-conditioning.

2020 Mazda CX-30 interior

Stepping up to the G20 Evolve from $31,490 ushers in dual-zone climate control (with vents out back), leather-clad wheel with paddle shifts and 18-inch alloys. The Touring from $34,990 in G20 and $36,490 in entry-level G25 guise add leather, power front seats with driver’s memory, keyless entry, dipping mirrors and front sensors. These are set to be the bestsellers, while the G20 Astina from $38,990 and G25 Astina from $41,490 include adaptive headlights, a Bose audio upgrade, front cross-traffic alert, Cruising and Traffic Support (CTS) for safer heavy-traffic distance-keeping, a surround-view monitor, extra brightwork and – in the latter’s case – a sunroof.

All-wheel drive (i-Activ in Mazda-speak) is another $2000 on G25 Touring and G25 Astina, and that’s something the 3 doesn’t offer at all in Australia. Additionally, a Vision Technology pack bundles front cross-traffic alert, CTS, 360° surround-view camera and driver monitor, on everything bar Astina, for up to $1500 extra depending on grade.

What’s the Mazda CX-30’s interior like?

One of the latest 3’s biggest drawcards is its simple, elegant and high-quality cabin, and although they’re visually almost identical, the CX-30 builds on that on a number of different fronts.

Firstly, and obviously, it’s easier to get in and out of the new crossover, thanks to the taller roofline, larger doors and higher seating – perhaps the biggest reason behind SUVs’ growing domination nowadays. The CX-30 is more practical and functional than the sleek silhouette suggests. The six-light glass area means more light floods in than in the 3, while extra splashes of colour for a change inside a Mazda – navy blue or brown as contrasts to themes of black on most variants – further lift the ambience.

2020 Mazda CX-30 front interior

The sweeping dashboard, meanwhile, retains the 3’s gorgeous, white-on-black analogue-style instrumentation (though it’s all digital – and configurable to boot – the look is classical and classy), as well as powerful ventilation, plentiful storage, tactile switchgear, logical control layout and excellent driving position. The seats are among the industry’s best for comfort and support, aided by the high and wide front centre console and sliding armrest, reminiscent of the layout found in contemporary Audis.

Still, bugbears remain. The acutely angled windscreen pillars, thick central posts and the small back window do curtail driver vision out, and they’re not helped by smallish exterior mirrors. All in the name of style, probably. Some of the lower-lying plastics look and feel hard. And the Pure misses out on rear air vents.

2020 Mazda CX-30 rear air vents

Mazda has been systematically trying to exorcise noise, vibration and harshness pathways out of its interiors of late, with the tiresome tyre noise, road drone general booming sounds marring previous-generation models cut drastically, due to smarter design, increased deadening material and more effective seals applied throughout the CX-30. 

Collectively, all these elements balance form and function pretty impressively. Even in the base grade, the CX-30’s cabin should be considered a premium experience, especially for the price tag. The quality and attention to detail are commendable.

How much space is there in the Mazda CX-30?

A comparatively long wheelbase and wide body means the CX-30’s cabin isn’t that far off some medium SUVs. While not quite as tall for boundless headroom as in some boxier rivals like the HR-V and Seltos, there is ample space up front for occupants to stretch out, and sufficient room for most folk not to feel cramped out back.

2020 Mazda CX-30 seat space

However, the boot is disappointingly small at just 317 litres, due to Mazda Australia’s decision to fit a space-saver spare wheel on all models – some overseas CX-30s rely on a tyre-inflation kit instead to boost cargo capacity, to between 422L and 430L. Perhaps that should be an option locally.

What’s the Mazda CX-30’s infotainment system like?

Mazda’s console-sited multimedia controller is a development of what the company has used since the first CX-5 debuted in 2012, and is broadly similar in concept to BMW’s pioneering iDrive system, in that it encourages eyes-on-the-road operation by mirroring the movements on an elevated screen.

It can be fiddly scrolling through the many menus on offer at first, but the graphics are attractive, the menus easy to decipher and the functionality intuitive, backed by a mostly dependable voice-activated system.

2020 Mazda CX-30 infotainment apple carplay

The stand-alone screen is an 8.8-inch item, and is large enough for the camera view(s), GPS maps, vehicle functionality, multimedia, telephony and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto displays, but already seems a little dated and small compared to the very latest smartphone-style designs offered elsewhere, such as in the Seltos.

What’s the Mazda CX-30’s drivetrain like?

Most buyers are predicted to go for the G20, powered by 114kW/200Nm 1998cc 2.0-litre normally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine that has serviced many post-Ford Mazdas since 2011. The same goes for the six-speed torque-converter auto, driving the front wheels in all cases with this powertrain.

The good news is that the relatively low kerb weight of around 1340kg (or 40kg more in higher-spec variants) results in a fairly favourable power-to-weight ratio; combined with a responsive throttle and smart, driver-style adaptable gearing, the G20 is eager off the line and willing to rev all the way to the tacho’s red zone. Yes, there’s a raspy exhaust note that might not be to everybody’s taste, but it’s a sweet and punchy little unit that delivers a decent turn of speed as long as the driver is willing to explore the engine’s rev bandwidth.

2020 Mazda CX-30 bonnet engine

Better still, the just-right driving position, lovely pull-back-to-upshift manual mode or slick paddle-shift action from Evolve onwards allows the engine to bounce off the limiter for a bit before changing up, encouraging a level of interactivity sadly absent in all other small SUVs. Conversely, Mazda’s excellent stop/start system does its thing unobtrusively, to help save fuel (and cut emissions). The combined average is 6.5L/100km.

Meanwhile, the G25’s 139kW/252Nm 2488cc 2.5-litre alternative makes sense if the back seats are often occupied since there’s an appreciably deeper well of low-rev oomph available at a mere tickle of the throttle for more rapid progress without having to rely on all those revs to kick in. The difference is very noticeable back-to-back out on the open road, where overtaking is easier, quieter and over faster in the G25.

2020 Mazda CX-30 driving rear road

Note that the AWD versions won’t come on stream until April, but given their additional mass (expected to be in the region of 80kg), it’s probably a good idea that Mazda will only offer these with the larger engine.       

Both G20 and G25, by the way, are tuned to run on regular 91 RON unleaded, though paying for the premium juice adds a couple of more kilowatts into the mix, for a bit more sparkle.

What’s the Mazda CX-30 like to drive?

Mazda makes much of the CX-30’s driver-orientated focus, and that is obvious the moment the crossover enters its first corner, thanks to steering that reacts instantly. It’s not too sudden, but there’s an eagerness that might take some getting used to.

Once acclimatised, the handling is beautifully crisp and linear, meaning the CX-30 can be made to flow through very smoothly and with exceptional ease. This is especially so in the G20 models since the nose seems a little lighter and even keener to go precisely where the driver wants. The GVC-plus torque vectoring system is meant to apportion the exact amount of drive to the wheel for optimum balance, and at speed on tight, winding roads, the Mazda would just carve through.

2020 Mazda CX-30 driving front

In fact, the chassis is so dynamically adept, it is easy to conclude that the CX-30 could do with more power. That’s coming soon, with the arrival of the eagerly-awaited SkyActiv-X supercharged diesel-style compression ignition engine on higher-end variants, to provide that extra measure of muscle. However, as it stands, the G20 and G25 perform more than just satisfactorily, especially for a small SUV – unless the instant whoosh of a smaller-displacement turbo as per a Volkswagen Group TSI powertrain is an overriding desire.

We’re less certain about the torsion beam rear suspension’s ability to soak up bumps as effectively as a multi-link system when laden with cargo over craggy urban roads since almost all of our initial launch driving was over a variety of albeit challenging rural roads with lots of unexpected turns and odd cambers. As tested, the absorption was fine, while the lack of the aforementioned road and tyre noise intrusion coming as a pleasant surprise.

Finally, we’re keen to get our hands on the AWD grades to experience Mazda’s new ‘Off-Road Traction Assist’, whereby smoother progress over gravel and other soft-road environments is promised, thanks to a reapportioning of torque to whichever axle needs it.

How safe is the Mazda CX-30?

The Mazda CX-30 has a five-star ANCAP rating – and has the honour of achieving a record-high 99 percent adult occupant protection score in the Euro NCAP tests.

All models include seven airbags (dual-front for driver and passenger, driver’s knee, side and curtain for all outboard occupants), as well as an alphabet soup of safety-related acronyms listed here in Mazda-speak.

2020 Mazda CX-30 front

These are: AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking), Driver Attention Alert (DAA), Emergency Stop Signal (ESS), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), Hill Launch Assist (HLA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Smart Brake Support – Rear (SBS-R), Smart Brake Support – Rear Crossing (SBS-RC), Smart Brake Support (SBS), and Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR).

There’s also radar cruise control with stop/go functionality, rear parking sensors and a reverse camera on all grades.

What are the Mazda CX-30 alternatives?

Just under 10 percent more buys you the larger CX-5, though that is of a slightly older generation in terms of design.

The Small SUV segment is dominated by the long-lived Mitsubishi ASX, and also includes the aforementioned Honda HR-V and Kia Seltos, as well as the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Kona, Toyota C-HR, Subaru XV, Suzuki Vitara, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, MG ZS, Haval H2, Renault Kadjar, Suzuki S-Cross, Jeep Compass, Fiat 500X and Peugeot 2008. The latter will be replaced by an all-new design by the end of 2020, and will also be joined by the Volkswagen T-Roc.


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2020 Mazda CX-30 pricing and specifications

Price From $29,990 plus ORCs Warranty 5 years/unlimited km Engine 2.0L petrol and 2.5L petrol; Power 114kW; 139kW Torque 200Nm; 252Nm Transmission 6-speed manual auto Drive front or all-wheel drive Body 4395mm (l); 1795mm (w) Kerb weight 1339-1388kg (FWD only) Seats 5 Thirst 6.5-6.8L/100km Fuel tank 51L (FWD), 48L (AWD) Spare space saver


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