What is it?
This new Mazda CX-30 could just be the best-looking compact SUV/crossover on sale today - depending on who you talk to, of course.
That it’s a looker doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that it’s based on the striking new 3 hatchback, and that Mazda has really had form on style since the introduction of its Kodo design philosophy. Its looks are important, too, because Mazda reckons the CX-30 is set to take on the likes of the ever-expanding, style-led, upmarket set of compact crossovers: the Audi Q2s and Lexus UXs of this world. On this evidence, the CX-30 is off to a flying start - particularly in Soul Red.
It arrives in the UK with a starting price of £22,895, a choice of two petrol engines and either a front-driven or all-wheel-drive set-up. The 118bhp SkyActiv-G represents the range entry-point, while the more powerful 178bhp SkyActiv-X sits above it. Both feature Mazda’s 24-volt mild-hybrid architecture.
But while the 120bhp version is the cheaper of the two, it’s the slightly pricier (roughly £1500 model-to-model) Skyactiv-X that’s expected to take the lion’s share of UK sales - some 70%, to be precise.
What's it like?
Having driven both engines back to back, it’s easy to see why the SkyActiv-X is angling to be the favourite here in Britain. The 118bhp engine is by all means a sweet little unit - being both responsive and refined - but it also feels a bit gutless.
There’s very little torque low down, and any episodes of meaningful acceleration are always preceded by a need to frantically row your way down through the ratios on the standard-fit manual 'box. The fact that it’s a tactile, slick operator does help you forgive the engine’s lack of punch, but the need to constantly downshift does grate when you want to perform a swift overtaking manoeuvre on the motorway.
By comparison, the SkyActiv-X immediately feels far more muscular. There’s more readily available torque through the mid-range, and the rate at which it picks up pace is much more reassuring at open-road speeds; but as with its less-powerful counterpart it’s still not too keen on being revved all the way out. It’s also worth a mention that - next to some of the more conventional turbocharged engines you might find in its rivals - it still doesn’t feel quite as keen to get to work.
Still, in typical Mazda fashion the CX-30 marks itself out as one of the sweeter-to-drive cars in its class - despite Mazda itself claiming that it’s not really supposed to have too much of a sporting edge. Nevertheless, the weight of its steering is very well judged and impressively precise, while its front end changes direction with a dash more spriteliness than is normal in this sector. Body control is fairly tightly controlled too, while ride comfort is good enough to escape serious criticism. It certainly errs more towards the firm side of things, and isn’t immune to thumps and bumps, but it generally feels nicely settled and composed, and isn’t overly susceptible to agitation.