First Drive: The Mazda CX-30’s updated engine improves drivability and lowers running costs

·5-min read

What is it?

Mazda CX-30
(Mazda)

It’s 2021 and crossovers are still king. Buyers want SUVs more than ever before, and the market for smaller, city-focused models that have that higher driving position and feeling of security continues to boom.

The Mazda CX-30 has been quite the hit for the firm, offering a smaller alternative to the mid-sized CX-5 and based on the excellent 3 hatchback. It brings the firm’s usual stylish looks with some rugged-looking exterior cladding and a few fresh updates for 2021.

What’s new?

Mazda CX-30
(Mazda)

The key update is a revised version of the unique and catchily titled ‘Skyactiv-X Spark Controlled Compression Ignition’ petrol engine. It’s more powerful but also more efficient, with the main upgrades being an adjusted compression ratio, modified pistons and updated mild hybrid software.

There have also been updates to the Skyactiv G engines (now called e-Skyactiv G), with nine options with front-wheel-drive, while there are 12 e-Skyactiv X variants with the option of an automatic transmission throughout the line-up and all-wheel-drive on higher trims.

What’s under the bonnet?

Mazda CX-30
(Mazda)

Our test car had the new 2.0-litre e-Skyactiv X engine with 183bhp and 240Nm of torque, which are small increases on before. Efficiency is also better, with the CO2 emissions dropping a little to 128g/km and fuel economy increasing to 50mpg (or 138g/km and 46mpg respectively for the automatic).

The engine aims to combine characteristics of a diesel and a petrol, and while it technically works to provide efficient driving, it has always felt rather sluggish to respond. The updated engine is much better, and while it’s still far from being fun, it’s better at daily driving duties thanks to the small increase in torque throughout the rev range.

What’s it like to drive?

Mazda CX-30
(Mazda)

Mazda has built a reputation for making cars that are fun to drive, and while the CX-30 lacks the sparkle of the 3 it’s based on, it’s still one of the better crossovers from a driver’s perspective.

It’s also not the most comfortable car when it comes to rough roads, becoming unsettled by broken tarmac and crashing into potholes rather than soaking them up. This is a trade-off, though, for being a keen driver’s car – it’s this firmer suspension that contributes to it being more fun to drive than many rivals, so if this isn’t important to you it might be worth looking elsewhere.

How does it look?

Mazda CX-30
(Mazda)

If there’s one area where Mazda excels it’s the styling department, and the CX-30 is no different. It looks fantastic from both front and rear, with the narrow headlights giving a wide stance and working with the large front grille to make it look bigger than it is.

As you go towards the rear, the plastic cladding on the wheel arches and lower edges takes some of the shine off things, designed to give the CX-30 a more rugged appearance. However, round the back things improvise again, with a high waistline emphasising its height, while the smooth lines and narrow rear lights have an elegant appearance.

What’s it like inside?

Mazda CX-30
(Mazda)

Again, Mazda’s interiors are excellent, and in the CX-30 you get the typical premium feel and minimalist design. It’s actually quite the breath of fresh air, as even low-cost cars these days come with vast expanses of screens, but Mazda resists this urge with a clean dashboard with physical buttons and instrument cluster.

That being said, the screen is a touch on the small side and does look slightly dated – if Mazda could keep the same design ethos but integrate a larger, more modern screen it would help. Despite this, the materials are quality throughout and there’s a genuine premium appeal despite this not being one of the more expensive options on the market.

What’s the spec like?

Mazda CX-30
(Mazda)

Prices for the CX-30 start at £22,945 for the SE-L trim and equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth trim, air conditioning, LED headlights and radar cruise control.

Our test car was a mid-spec Sport Lux trim, which is priced from £25,545 and felt generously equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights and privacy glass, though cloth upholstery as standard for this trim feels a little stingy.

The top-spec model is the GT Sport Tech and it starts at £28,245. It gets black leather upholstery with heated front seats, 360-degree cameras and extensive driver assistance technology.

Verdict

Mazda CX-30
(Mazda)

The Mazda CX-30 is one of those cars that’s difficult to give an enthusiastic, decisive verdict on because it’s just ‘good’. The new engines are interesting if you’re into engineering, but while they’re usefully efficient they’re not particularly exciting.

The interior is lovely but with the small screen it feels a touch dated, and while it’s one of the better models to drive in the segment, the 3 on which it’s based is better (though you could say the same about any crossover, really).

In conclusion, then, no-one who buys a CX-30 will be disappointed, but in most areas there are others who do it better. Except for styling, because it looks fantastic.

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