MAZDA have managed to make things a little complicated when it comes to identifying their SUV’s. But bear with me . . . 

Their smallest SUV – the CX-3 – appears to have disappeared from the scene at the moment. No doubt it will re-emerge before long with a major update. Probably. 

The larger CX-5 has recently had an overhaul and remains Mazda’s largest SUV. 

However, the subject of this this review – the CX-30 – may sport a higher number but it’s basically a crossover/SUV version of the Mazda3 hatchback; so, it’s smaller than the CX-5 but significantly bigger than the absent CX-3. 

And then there’s the all-electric MX-30 which is nothing like an MX-5 as it’s a mid-sized SUV. And to top it all off there will soon be Mazda’s new flagship SUV, the CX-60 Plug-in Hybrid.  

All clear now? Good. 

The Mazda CX-30, as just mentioned, is based on the Mazda3 hatchback and so is off to a good start. The Mazda3 is a terrific car to drive as well as being well screwed together and a delight to live with, day-to-day. 

The CX-30 may not be as pretty – but, unlike many of its rivals, it’s not bland either. In Soul Red it looks absolutely terrific and is worth every penny of the extra £810. 

Available in 5 different trim specs, the CX-30 starts with the SE-L for £24,645 and rises to just over £30k for the GT Sport Tech.  

Entry-level gets you an e-SKYACTIV G 2.0-litre, 122PS petrol engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. So not bad at all – and it should return you around 48 mpg in average use. 

Step up to the SE-L Lux (£26,145) or Sport Lux (£27,245) and you have the option of a 6-speed auto gearbox as well as the more powerful E- SKYACTIV X 186PS petrol engine.  

If all-wheel-drive is essential then you have the choice of the GT Sport (£29,155) or the range-topping GT Sport Tech models. Both are available with AWD, 6-speed Auto gearbox and the more powerful SKYACTIV X engine. Diesel isn’t an option across the range. 

My test car was a GT Sport 2WD manual, fitted with the 186PS e-Skyactiv X engine. This gives a top speed of 127 mph and a 0-62 mph figure of 8.3 seconds. So, no slouch. Fuel consumption is given as around the 53 mpg in mixed driving, while I achieved 49 mpg over a week of driving mostly A and B roads around Fife. 

While I didn’t manage any long motorway journeys in the Mazda CX-30, I did plenty of miles on fast dual-carriageway which showed this mid-sized SUV to be a promising long-distance cruiser. Noise levels were well suppressed and that sweet-changing 6-speed gearbox, mated to a torquey 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine made for a very pleasurable drive indeed. 

With no turbos to spoil the smoothness of progress, the CX-30 drives with a confidence and lack of histrionics that can be lacking in some rivals. It all feels very civilised, very grown-up and much more premium than the price-tag might suggest. Just like the Mazda3, it’s based on. 

This is the ethos of Mazda’s engine design though. They have taken the development of the 4-cylinder, larger displacement units to new levels of efficiency and refinement without having to rely on smaller-capacity and forced-induction to get good levels of efficiency. There is mild-hybrid technology going on to help reduce emissions and consumption but it’s so subtle, you don’t notice the magic going on in the background. 

Mazdas have always had a reputation of being a “driver’s car” and the CX-30, while no racer, has a lot of characteristics that will appeal to the keen driver. It instils confidence by being well balanced – not just in power delivery but in handling too. It feels more capable of being enjoyed than most rivals. 

Ride quality if very good and errs slightly on the stiff side – which is fine by me. It’s pliant enough for most roads (even on 18in rims) but the worst pot-holes can produce a thump through the chassis. 

Steering-feel is good, the brakes work well and it all makes you wonder if AWD is really any better from a day-to-day driving point of view. Probably not. I would say the auto gearbox is probably an unnecessary luxury too – the 6-speed manual is one of the best in the business. 

Taking the Mazda-CX-30 on an extended test-drive will, most likely, convince the keener driver that this is the SUV for them. However, if driving characteristics are something that simply drives you into a deep sleep, then you’ll need more convincing. I give you the Mazda CX-30’s interior . . . 

Yes, with a quick look around you could convince yourself that you’re sat in a Mazda3 – only the slightly raised ride height might give the game away. It’s all good though because the Mazda3 is a very nice place to be sat anyway. 

Functional but classy is how I see the CX-30’s interior. It’s uncluttered and bling-free but still has an air of quality and refinement that rivals any German brand. The fit and finish is superb with soft-feel textures a-plenty.  

The main dials are simple and conventional with the speedo being digital – not that you’d notice until you realize it has many configurations to play with. 

The infotainment screen appears to rise out of the top of the dash and while wide, looks a little shallow. No matter, the graphics are crisp and the control method is brilliantly easy to use – a click wheel in the centre console surrounded by shortcut buttons which means no need to poke a shaky finger at the screen while on the move. It’s easy to get used to and will, eventually, mean you never need take your eyes off the road. 

Yes, the climate controls are physical buttons too and are easy to reach, just above the gearstick, bang in the middle of the dash. Simples. 

The comfortable front seats and excellent adjustments on both seat and wheel mean you’ll find the optimum driving position easily. The visibility is good too, slightly better than the Mazda3 thanks to higher seating and more glass area. 

The CX-30’s rear passengers benefit most from the deeper rear windows which means kids, especially, won’t feel quite so closed-in as they may do in the Mazda3 

However, legroom isn’t quite as generous, although there is plenty of room to tuck your feet under the front seats and headroom is good. 

If you’re after a sweet-riding small-to-midsized SUV that you’ll actually enjoy driving, then the Mazda CX-30 needs to be on your list. Standard kit is generous with plenty of active safety features being standard across the range. 

Mazda reliability is also very good, making the CX-30 a class-act all round – but it’s the driving experience that may very well win you over. 


Mazda CX-30 GT Sport 186 PS 2WD 

OTR Price: £31,415  

Engine: 2.0 petrol  

Power: 186 PS 

Transmission: 6-speed manual 

0-62mph: 8.3 secs   

Top Speed: 127 mph   

Combined Economy: 49.6 mpg   

C02: 128 g/km  

By Steve Berry

Freelance motoring writer and member of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers with a love of cars, motorbikes and running. I lied about the love of motorbikes. They scare me to death - although I would like to own a Ducati 996 in red which I would just look at but never ride. No, not ever.

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