SUVs are taking over the world and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Every segment, from superminis to supercars now has an SUV equivalent and car makers are now finding new segments we didn’t even know we wanted.
The Mazda CX-30 is a prime example of this. It’s a bit bigger than the firm’s CX-3 or Nissan Juke but a bit smaller than the CX-5 or a Qashqai, and features a sleeker design that puts it up against Toyota C-HR, Honda HR-V and Ford Puma in the compact-coupe-crossover sector.
It’s an interesting segment, aimed at people who are willing to pay a bit more for a smarter or sportier take on the crossover. And while Mazda has followed the crowd in getting in on this segment it has once again strayed from the path in other areas.
Mazda CX-30 GT Sport
Price: £28,875 (£29,865 as tested)Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrolPower: 178bhpTorque: 165lb ftTransmission: Six-speed manualTop speed: 127mph0-62mph: 8.5 secondsEconomy: 47.9mpgCO2 emissions: 105g/km
Mazda is famous for embracing alternative engine technology, returning to rotary engines again and again, for example. Even in the 21st century when everyone else is downsizing and turbocharging, it is not following the herd.
The CX30 is the first car to feature Mazda’s Skyactiv X technology which uses compression ignition along with a spark to create a more efficient petrol engine. Mazda says it allows the non-turbo 2.0-litre offer petrol-like performance with diesel-like economy. Having tested the engine a couple of times now I’m still not convinced. Without a turbo, response from the 178bhp unit feels sluggish and you have to rev it hard to access that power. Of course, working the engine hard has a negative impact on the economy, meaning you’re not getting the best of both worlds.
The engine is at least smooth and refined and paired with a smooth and surprisingly short-throw manual transmission that reminds you of the tiny sports car Mazda is so famous for.
The CX-30’s handling isn’t in the same league as the focused MX-5 but it still has hints of Mazda’s chassis wizardry. Unlike so many small SUVs the Mazda has quick, responsive steering and body control that means you can hustle along B roads with confidence. Yet it rides impressively, with composure and comfort you might expect in the class above.
So, engine aside, the CX-30 offers a strong driving experience but its real strength lies in its design. In the slightly odd bit-bigger-than-a-B-SUV-but-not-quite-a-C-SUV-coupe segment different brands have taken different approaches. Honda’s H-RV is relatively conservative while Toyota’s C-HR is a riot of angles, triangles and eye-catching styling. The CX-30 is the antithesis of the Toyota, with simple elegant lines and minimal styling details. It is still bold in its own way, with the deep grille and slimline headlights, but there’s a classy understated feel.
The slick, elegant feel continues inside where the CX-30 is unmatched in terms of appearance and feel. Compared to its Japanese rivals the Mazda has a far more premium look and feel. Clean lines flow between cabin elements and there are high-grade metal, plastic and leather finishes everywhere you look and touch. Some premium European brands could learn a thing or two from Mazda’s less-is-more philosophy. The cabin is also comfortable for front seat passengers, with supportive seats and plenty of legroom. But those in the back will feel the pinch due to restricted legroom and the swooping roofline.
The more premium feel of the CX-30 is reflected in a fairly premium price - our GT sport model cost £29,865 after options. But your money does get you everything from adaptive cruise control and dual-zone climate control to a head-up display, heated steering wheel and 12-speaker Bose sound system. It also gets you the best-looking, best-handling car in its class and interior quality and comfort that’s a step above the mainstream.