When the Mazda CX-30 was revealed to the world in early 2019, our appetite for such artistic design was perhaps only whetted by the stuff of out there concept cars penned without a real possibility of making it to production. The CX-30 was bold and masterful and it was indeed a production version of a small SUV that would see full production and world export.
It slots right in between the smaller CX-3 and larger CX-5. You’re questioning the name aren’t you? Mazda already builds a CX-4 specifically for the Chinese market so that name was already taken – sorry.
The Mazda CX-30 took some time to make it to South Africa, but in the flesh and a few years on, its design is still quite inspired. It is the second model - after the Mazda 3 - to have evolved from the company’s KODO design language, an interplay of aesthetic minimalism. It all sounds quite fluffy, but make no mistake, in the flesh you can’t argue that the representation has been birthed well. It is a good looking addition to the product range. The design team has created a car with a coupe disposition from the B-pillar rearwards yet at the same time still retaining the resourcefulness that comes from a raised SUV stance. Black cladding pieces adorn the car all round and the LED light pieces that sit below the headlamps finish off this exceptional design. It’s more conservative at the rear but those pointed taillamps are intricately detailed and you’ll notice them most when you open the boot lid and realise their sharp angles.
As beautiful as it is to look at, it plays in a space that is teeming with really good competitors. This small SUV segment is flourishing and within the premium space, even more so. And this is where Mazda is hoping to capture some market share positioning itself as the ‘premium alternative’ – our reactions from yesteryear may have seen us rolling our eyes but Mazda has proved with its latest cars that it really is a step up in premium build and feel. The CX-30 is no different but when you start to throw names such as Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes Benz into the equation, you realise the air up there is different.
Yet – Mazda has priced the CX-30 well enough with this particular top spec Individual model retailing at R540 000. So what does that buy you?
Quality. A huge smattering of cabin appointments that are soft and luxuriating to the touch. Mazda has been generous with the use of leather covering the steering, seats, gear shifter lever and a large section of an inlay that runs from the doors and all the way across the dashboard. On this individual model, this piece is finished in a rich brown hue that contrasts well with the black and chrome pieces that finish the rest of the cabin.
The minimalist approach to design isn’t forgotten on the inside. The entire command centre is driver-centric, with a new 8-inch infotainment screen that sits above the centre stack quite high in the cabin. The Mazda MZD Connect system is operated solely from the control switches at the base of the gear lever. Mazda doesn’t do the touchscreen business for safety reasons and they seem to be sticking to it for now. The screen is crisp but the full 8-inches seems wasted as soon as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay is connected, slightly squeezing the full width of the screen, which isn’t ideal especially when considering that the screen is set quite far from the driver compared to what has become the norm. Complementing this is a proper HUD that reflects into the driver’s line of sight. It is an improved and excellent HUD display as far as clarity and driver communication goes.
Whilst the whole CX-30 range is well specified across the 3 grades, the Individual derivative on review here is available with the full complement of features, which is a reversing camera, leather seats, an elegantly frameless auto-dimming mirror and a thumping Bose 12-speaker sound system.
There are, of course, some concerns. These include the cramped rear passenger space, which seems to have been compromised to allow for the tapered roofline design. And whilst the legroom is adequate, it’s the head and shoulder room that is mostly compromised. All round visibility is also slightly compromised, mostly for blind spots, so it’s most welcome that blind-spot monitoring and cross traffic alert come as standard fare here.
The Mazda CX-30 scored highly in the Euro NCAP, achieving a 5-star rating across the four main categories. These are Adult Occupant safety and Child Occupant safety where the CX-30 scored 99 and 86% respectively – and then Vulnerable Road Users safety (pedestrians etc) as well as Safety Assistance where the Mazda scored slightly poorly considering the company whose feathers it aims to ruffle. It was evident in getting behind the wheel of the Mazda, that the car isn’t kitted in the way of driving assistance features such as Adaptve Cruise Control, Emergency/Autonomous braking and Lane Keeping assistance to name a few. Whilst this may not be to everyone’s liking, these technologies are on offer, even if as options in a lot of the competition.
Beyond this, driving the Mazda CX-30 is as expected – a quality experience for the most part. The entire range comes with one engine – the 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated SKYACTIV-G engine that delivers 121 kW at 6 000 r/min and 213 Nm of torque at 4 000 r/min, solely through the front wheels and with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It is a rather competent engine for this application, but there's definitely room for an even punchier engine to headline the range. But nope – this is it folks. There are sadly no plans for Mazda to introduce that 2.5-litre turbo that does work in other markets, nor any plans for an all-wheel drive version.
Without that concentrated shove from a turbo engine, the CX-30 delivers a linear power delivery that, once going, is sufficient. It’s not a sporty experience as far as the acceleration goes but it does have a harder and sportier handling character. The Mazda 3 that sits on the same platform as the CX-30 is a beautifully balanced car and the CX-30 does emit a graceful drive overall, but with sportier undertones, which is quite pleasant. It feels light and the steering is quick enough and sufficiently responsive to inspire confidence. The CX-30 is equipped with Mazda’s latest dynamics control system (called G-Vectoring Plus), a torque vectoring system that will keep things in check in harsh dynamic manoeuvres.
CX-30 is happiest doing the daily grind such as pottering about to and from the daily diary appointments, and then cruising along on the freeway too. Mazda has worked hard to iron out noise intrusions into the cabin, and in any of these applications, you’ll know they’ve done a stellar job of insulating the cabin, which enhances the driving experience. If Mazda is looking to capture a more premium market, this is a great way to do it.
The Mazda CX-30 Individual starts to encroach into the territory of a number of pricier, premium competitors. At this price level, it really makes a strong case as the alternative to these. Where the argument ascends is when you consider the 3yr/Unlimited kilometre Service Plan as opposed to the more comprehensive Maintenance Plans on offer on some other premium cars in this category.
Mazda has built a good reputation for building reliable and appealing products in this market and therefore the CX-30’s running costs and book values should remain reasonably good throughout and beyond this car’s life cycle. If the loveable CX-5 is anything to go by, the CX-30 should be able to hold its own.
The CX-30 certainly could be better – a stronger drivetrain combination would help and the addition of safety assistance systems would also help its cause. Saying this doesn’t relegate the Mazda into lowly territory, no – we’ve still scored the Mazda as a good 7/10 car which is saying a lot.
The CX-30 strikes a fantastic balance of a small SUV that not only strides well but cuts a fine profile no matter which way you look at it, both from outside and from within. It is beautifully designed, well engineered and painstakingly finished.