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Mazda CX-30 first drive | excellent driveability but lacks oomph

"While the Skyactiv-X feels a little lacking in oomph, it’s still significantly more powerful than the downsized turbo-petrol motors used in rival models and should provide similar running costs"

7 2020 Mazda CX-30 review

Review

So impressed by the new Mazda3, we named it the “manufacturer’s best” when we drove it for the first time at the beginning of the year. The only problem? It isn’t crossover, and for some reason UK drivers seem to rather like those.

Perhaps, then, that is why Mazda decided to build the CX-30; as a sort of halfway house between the 3 and CX-5.

In keeping with Mazda’s driver focus, the CX-30 is one of those lower-riding and more car-like crossovers, a bit like the BMW X2. It’s not as practical as a proper SUV but its sleeker body should provide greater handling and efficiency.

We were impressed by the CX-30’s on-road manners during our testing. It really does drive like a regular Mazda3; i.e. really well.

There are levels of detail in its design that other manufacturers simply don’t address. The dashboard and door panels, for example, are styled to line up with the road markings, tricking your subconscious into taking a better road position.

The weighting of the pedals, steering and gear lever is perfectly balanced, and the driving position is optimised to provide comfort, but also make the driver feel at one with the car. It sounds a bit like marketing fluff, but, on the road, it really is apparent.

What soured the experience for us, somewhat, is the engine line-up. There are just two petrols available.

The Skyactiv-G petrol is a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated unit with 122PS. Despite its large capacity, the powertrain feels lethargic and fails to deliver the low-down punch that these heavier crossovers require to really get moving.

You will also be able to order the CX-30 with Mazda’s new Skyactiv-X petrol engine. It’s packed with clever technology that is meant to give it the fuel economy of a diesel and the performance and refinement of a petrol. Our first experience of the powertrain left us underwhelmed, though. It still needs to be worked hard, which is fine in a car like the MX-5, but not the ticket in a family crossover.

It redeems itseld with low CO2 emissions of 105g/km, making it a more attractive fleet choice - enhanced by the promise of almost 50mpg.

The interior has a premium feel and the refinement levels are among the best out there. There is plenty of room for four adults inside, too.

The CX-30 is priced to compete with the likes of the Škoda Karoq. It starts at £22,895 for the Skyactiv-G SE-L. Equipment levels are high, with radar cruise control and LED headlamps coming as standard. GT Sport (from £27,095) comes with leather upholstery.

It may not be the obvious choice, but the CX-30 has a lot of positive attributes. While the Skyactiv-X feels a little lacking in oomph, it’s still significantly more powerful than the downsized turbo-petrol motors used in rival models yet should provide similar running costs.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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