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.