Mazda CX-30 VS Ford Escape
- Beautiful design
- Great safety gear
- Better practicality than CX-3
- Back seat still tight
- Boot still a bit small
- Engines could be better
- Sharp steering
- Sporty accessories
- Peppy engine
- Dated controls
- Tight cabin
- Harsh ride
Think the Mazda CX-3 is a bit too small for your requirements, and the CX-5’s just a bit too big? If you answered ‘yes’, the new Mazda CX-30 2020 could be what you need in your life.
It’s sized almost the same as a Nissan Qashqai, Mitsubishi ASX and Kia Seltos, though Mazda’s aspirations with this particular SUV seemingly stretch beyond the mainstream players into premium territory. The company is pitching higher-spec models of the new CX-30 as alternatives to luxury compact models - and that’s easy to understand, given it costs almost as much as a CX-5, but you’re not going to be getting as much metal for your money.
So, is the CX-30 premium enough to command its high-ish price? And what’s it like in all the other important ways that an SUV needs to be? I’ll walk you through all that and more in this review.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Aussies are now favouring SUVs much more than sedans and hatchbacks, and no segment is more bountiful than for mainstream mid-sizers.
With cars such as the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 finding success by combining practicality, tech and a high-seating position, for small families looking to haul the kids and some gear over long distances, Ford’s Escape should also be in contention.
However, sales of the Escape have slowly decreased this year (possibly due to a new-generation model around the corner), but is the soon-to-be-superseded model lacking any crucial ingredients that will keep it off your consideration list?
We’ve got the Ford Escape ST-Line to find out if it has what it takes to hang with the best in the mid-size SUV segment.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Mazda CX-30 is not doubt going to be the right size SUV for a lot of customers out there who think the CX-3 is too small and the CX-5 too large.
More than that, though, it’s an impressive standalone compact SUV that, even if not the most practical choice, has safety and perceived plushness on its side.
For this writer, the pick of the range would be the mid-spec G20 Touring, which has a lot of the luxuries you’d want, a price tag that isn’t too egregious at just below $35k before on-roads, and I’d probably option the Vision Technology package as well.
Check out our 2019 review:
Ford’s Escape ST-Line still proves to be a competitive SUV player so late in its lifecycle due its strong foundations.
While the only area it really excels at is its handling performance, thanks to the variant-specific changes, not everyone wants, or even appreciates, a sharper handling family hauler.
Other big letdowns are the in-car controls and in-cabin tightness, which look like they will be smoothed out in a new-generation model due to launch mid-year. But for now the current Escape is still a solid all-rounder.
There is no denying that the CX-30 has some beautiful angles, gorgeous lines, and interesting finishes used.
But it’s not so much the ‘new generation Kodo design’ that makes this CX-30 an important addition to the range. Nope, this time it’s all about size.
Mazda Australia says the CX-30 was designed to be city friendly in its size, but still comfortable enough for four adults. I’ll talk about that second claim in the next section of the review, but the exterior size is what I want to address here.
The new Mazda CX-30’s dimensions are: 4395mm long (on a 2655mm wheelbase), 1795mm wide and 1540mm tall. That mightn’t mean much to you, but consider this: it’s as close as it can be to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Mitsubishi ASX and Kia Seltos, and that’s clearly becoming a bit of a sweet spot in the small SUV segment when it comes to size.
It isn’t as square-backed as those rivals, with a sleek roofline and adorns the CX-30 with a considerably more sporty look. But as the chief designer for the CX-30, Ryo Yanagisawa, said at the launch, the new model still has elements that help ground it as the sort of ‘active lifestyle’ model that people want, such as the prominent black body cladding around the lower edges of the car.
The look could be enough for you to be sold on the CX-30, and I completely understand that. It is beautiful, and looks stunning with the brand’s signature Soul Red Crystal paint.
But there are some elements that might stand out to you. For me, the 16-inch wheels on the lower grade models look a little too small to fill those black-clad guards. And the fact Mazda has chosen to fit halogen daytime running lights but LED headlights on all but the Astina models is baffling. It’s the same on the Mazda3.
But there are some other bits that are just charming, like the way the blinkers pulse rather than strobe or simply flick on and off. Yanagisawa-san said that was design to issue an emotive response. It works.
Inside there are some really interesting design elements - it may look nearly identical to the new-generation Mazda3, but there are some differences, including the coloured trim bits on the doors and dash. See the interior images to make up your mind on those.
Aiming to put the ‘sports’ in ‘sports utility vehicle’ (SUV), the Ford Escape ST-Line at least tries to differentiate itself from the usual high-riding fare.
From the outside, the ST-Line scores a sports bodykit and lower suspension, giving this Escape variant a more road-hugging appearance.
Its road presence is also helped by blacked-out (18-inch) wheels, grille, fog light surrounds, roof rails and rear valance. But don’t expect the cosmetic changes to morph the mild-mannered mid-size SUV into a snarling supercar.
Next to its Ambiente and Trend siblings, there's no doubt the Escape ST-Line stands out, but we’ll leave you to decide if it's the right amount of sporty, or needlessly gawdy.
The sporty touches also apply to the interior, which gains leather and cloth upholstery, front sports seats, and red contrast stitching throughout.
We’re big fans of the interior changes, which elevate all the touch points such as the steering wheel, seats and shifter to feel extra special.
Functionally however, the Escape is starting to show its age, especially the multimedia system, but more on that next...
If you’re considering a small SUV, there’s a chance you fall into one of two camps.
The first is the practical buyer who wants a cleverly packaged SUV, one that some how manages to fit more space into its dimensions than seems physically possible.
The second is the one the CX-30 fits into. It’s for the sort of buyer who wants the typical higher driving position and prioritises the front seat space over how big the boot or back seat is. I’m not saying that if you’re that kind of buyer, you should just get a hatchback. But seriously. Maybe you should. And a cushion so you can sit a little higher.
The CX-30 isn’t as cramped as a CX-3 when it comes to space utilisation, but it does prioritise the up-front experience, that’s for sure.
The dash layout is very familiar to the Mazda 3, with a sleek looking (non-touch) screen floating on the dashboard, a nice digital instrument cluster and head-up display, and quality dash-top, centre tunnel padding and door elbow pad materials. What gets my goat is that the base model has a plastic steering wheel, which betrays the primo push, and I’m really, really not a fan of the blue Maztex fake-leather finish in terms of its colour.
While the media screen is nicer than other models in the Mazda range, it’s not a touch-capacitive unit, and that means your phone mirroring tech - which is designed to mirror your phone’s screen onto a touchscreen, which is why it’s called what it is - is rendered a bit useless, as you have to (rather frustratingly) use the rotary dial controller instead. Imagine using a mouse to play with your smartphone, and that’s about the level of ‘oh that’s just annoying’ you’ll probably experience.
The storage up front is good, with a wide and large covered centre console bin with a nice soft elbow pad on it, plus a pair of cup holders between the seats and bottle holders in the doors (front and rear).
The back seat story isn’t as passenger-friendly. The base model misses out on cup holders and rear seat directional air vents, while the higher grade versions get a fold-down armrest with two cup holsters. There is only one seat-back map pocket across the range, and no model comes with rear seat USB or 12-volt power points.
The space for occupants in the back is also only okay. With the driver’s seat set for my own position (I’m 182cm), my knees were hard against the seat in front. So, knee room is tight, but toe-room seemed fine, and headroom was fine in all but the G25 Astina as it has a sunroof that eats into head space a bit. Three across the back won’t be comfortable, but it is doable for smaller occupants, though there is a large transmission tunnel intrusion in the floor.
Kids in booster seats are likely to be better catered for than youngsters in capsules, though there are dual ISOFIX and three top-tethers.
When it comes to boot capacity, the luggage space could certainly be better. Mazda claims 317 litres of boot room (VDA), which is small for the class. We didn’t have the CarsGuide pram or suitcases on hand to see how it handled that sort of load, but we’ll cover that off in a future test.
Measuring 4524mm long, 1838mm wide, 1749mm tall and with a 2690mm wheelbase, the Ford Escape ST-Line offers enough space for either four adults or small families, but is slightly smaller in size than some of its key rivals.
Up front, there is plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room for passengers, but we couldn’t shake the feeling of the cabin closing in around us.
The door pockets are also thin and made up with scratchy hard plastic, though the storage bin between the diver and front passenger is generous and accommodating of larger items such as a big bag of chips.
The rear seats, while usable, suffer from the same failings as the front seats and feel a bit too snug.
Adults can comfortably sit in the two outboard pews, but the middle seat should be relegated to children or people you just don’t like very much.
Headroom is good, but legroom is somewhat lacking, and we had to reposition the front seats to be comfortable in the second row.
The boot offers 406 litres of volume with the all seats upright, expanding to 1603 with the rear seats folded flat. Both admirable figures that mean the Escape can comfortably fit a stroller, groceries, and more.
Price and features
How much does a Mazda CX-30 cost? Let’s run through the model range, from base model through to top of the range.
The Mazda CX-30 line-up is delineated by two different engines - and it’s easier to look at it that way, so we’ll take a look at the entry-level G20 variants, all fitted with 2.0-litre front-wheel drive auto model first off (engine specs below).
The G20 Pure opens the range at $29,990 before on-road costs. The Pure model is fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels and a space-saver spare, push-button start, a rear spoiler, tyre pressure monitoring, LED headlights, halogen daytime running lights (DRLs), a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, cloth interior trim, a plastic steering wheel, a colour head-up display, an 8.8-inch multimedia system with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity (but no touchscreen), eight speaker stereo, and a 7.0-inch driver information display. Safety spec across the range is generous, but we’ll get to that in the safety section below.
The G20 Evolve adds $1500 to the price, listing at $31,490 (MSRP/RRP). The Evolve adds elements including 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control and a leather-bound steering wheel with paddle shifters.
Next up is the G20 Touring, which costs $34,990 and comes with a different grille to help differentiate it from the Evolve, along with additional spec items like advanced keyless entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric front seat adjustment, front parking sensors and a sunglass storage box. This model marks the point where black leather interior trim is standard.
The top-of-the-range G20 model is the Astina, which is $38,990 +ORCs. That seems a big jump over the Touring, and it adds 12-speaker Bose stereo and the choice of black or white leather, depending on the exterior colour chosen. There’s also LED adaptive headlights with LED daytime running lights, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. But the Astina also scores the Vision Technology Pack (which costs $1300 on the Touring and $1500 on the lower grade models) and it adds a surround-view monitor with 360 degree camera, front cross-traffic alert, driver monitor and ‘Cruising & Traffic Support’ (CTS) - a semi-autonomous mode for speeds up to 60km/h.
Above and beyond the G20 variants there’s the G25 models, which pack a bigger 2.5-litre engine with more power and torque. These models still have a six-speed auto, but there’s the choice for 2WD or all-wheel drive.
The CX-30 G25 is only available in two trim levels, but with 2WD or AWD. The standard specification list mimics the G20 models, except for the G25 Astina, which adds a tilt and slide sunroof (not a panoramic glass roof).
The G25 Touring is the more affordable, priced from $36,490 for the front-wheel drive model. If you think you need all- wheel drive, you’ll have to add a further two grand to the price ($38,490)
The G25 Astina range-topping version tips at $41,490 for the two-wheel drive, and $43,490 for the AWD - meaning the flagship is close to BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volvo territory. I guess that’s what premium aspirations will get you.
There’s no denying the CX-30 is equipped decently, especially at the higher levels, but it is perilously close to falling into the ‘expensive’ category if you’re considering what else is out there in mainstream small SUV land.
Colours available for the CX-30 include the following free options: Snowflake White Pearl Mica, Sonic Silver Metallic, Titanium Flash Mica (bronze or brown, depending on who you ask), Deep Crystal Blue Mica and Jet Black Mica. There’s also a few optional colours: Soul Red Crystal, Machine Grey Metallic and the newly added Polymetal Grey Metallic, which is a blue/grey finish.
Priced at $39,990, before on-road costs, the ST-Line is available in exclusively with in petrol form, and sits below the petrol and diesel Titanium grade priced at $45,840 and $48,340 respectively.
Inside, sports seats replace the standard items. They're trimmed in a combination of leather (accent) and suede, with contrast red-stitching featured on the armrests, shifter boot and steering wheel.
While we love Ford’s Sync system, which is intuitive to use on the go thanks to its big, bright screen, implementation in the Escape leaves a little to be desired.
The screen is recessed to avoid unwanted glare, but the CD player (yes, you can get one in 2020!) nestled above is needlessly chunky and cumbersome.
The buttons found below the screen are also unnecessary when all functions can be handled by the touchscreen.
Further down the centre stack are the climate controls, which, while useable, feel spongey and are not well laid out.
The switchgear in the Escape ST-Line is average when the competition delivers polished and refined controls.
At least the steering wheel-mounted controls are quick and easy to use for the driver, including highly visible and clearly laid out cruise control functions.
Other standard equipment includes, push-button start, a gesture-operated powered tailgate, keyless entry, and automatic parallel parking. The auto parking function is easy to use, requiring only the push of a button and a dab of throttle.
Those after more advanced features however, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, tyre pressure monitoring and lane-keep assist will have to shell out another $800.
Engine & trans
There’s no doubt the CX-30 is going to appeal to people on its looks, cabin and equipment levels, but the engine story leaves a little to be desired.
That’s because the company is launching this all-new model with similar drivetrains that it has had as part of its stable for the best part of a decade.
The base model G20 is powered by a very familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘SkyActiv’ engine producing 114kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 200Nm of torque (at 4000rpm). These models are front-wheel drive with a six-speed automatic transmission as standard.
And above that is the expected 2.5-litre four-cylinder ‘SkyActiv’ powerplant, which outputs 139kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 252Nm of torque (at 4000rpm). It comes with a standard-fit six-speed auto, too, and the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. There will be a slight wait time for the AWD models - Mazda reckons they’ll be here in March 2020.
For this writer, if you’re pitching the all-new CX-30 as a premium offering, there’s an argument it should have debuted some new level of powertrain tech - but there’s no hybrid, no downsized turbo, no electric, no plug-in hybrid… you don’t even get to do the petrol vs diesel equation, as there’s no turbo diesel versions of the CX-30 offered in Australia.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, the Escape ST-Line punches out 178kW/345Nm, making it one of the most potent mainstream mid-size SUVs on the market.
Drive is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Though all this might sound mighty on paper, keep in mind the engine is working to haul a 1700kg-plus SUV, which does tend to dull straight-line performance a little.
Overall, the Escape ST-Line’s engine is a punchy little unit that will happily rev out to its 6500rpm redline, even if it doesn’t produce the most sonorous noise at the top end.
The automatic transmission is also a good, if not great, one, that quickly up-shifts and manages slow-speed around-town duties just fine.
You will be able to catch it out when applying more throttle, though, with the six-speeder unsure when to change down and slow to do so when it makes up its mind.
And if you aren’t happy leaving the Escape ST-Line in automatic mode, there are always the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to play with.
Fuel economy for the CX-30 is going to be considered a strong suit. Even if there is no hybrid element to the drivetrain, the company’s engine tech does have efficiency on its side.
The claimed fuel use for the G20 FWD models is 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres. That’s good for the class.
The G25 FWD models claim just a little more, at 6.6L/100km, and part of that comes down to the fact the G25 engine has cylinder deactivation, so it can run on two cylinders under light load.
The G25 AWD fuel use claim is higher, but only just, at 6.8L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity for the CX-30 2WD is 51 litres, while there’s a further small penalty for the AWD system in terms of its fuel tank size: 48L.
Our two weeks with the Escape ST-Line returned a fuel consumption average of 11.7 litres per 100km, while official figures peg the mid-size SUV at 8.2L/100km.
To be fair, we drove the Escape ST-Line exclusively in inner-city conditions, often during peak hour through Melbourne’s CBD.
The Mazda CX-30 continues the brand’s progress in the world of refinement, and this could be the quietest Mazda I’ve ever driven.
Well, at least in terms of road noise and wind noise, that is - the engines can still be noisy at idle and as revs rise, and that’s more noticeably the case in the G20 versions.
The engines - as detailed above - are largely very familiar, and that means there are similar positives and negatives.
The G20’s engine is a little breathless at times, and the six-speed auto is mostly good at keeping momentum moving, though when not in Sport mode the transmission will tend to upshift to try and save fuel.
The G25 feels more urgent and punchy, and it gets along with more ease than the lesser-engined variants. The six-speed auto, again, shifts well, but wants to stick to higher gears unless you’re hassling the throttle.
Both are arguably more user-friendly than rivals that employ downsized turbo engines, or those with continuously variable transmission (CVT) autos, but both also feel buzzy and less refined in some instances.
The brake performance is okay, but the pedal feel could be better - it’s a bit spongey, and that can sap your confidence a bit when you’re hitting the brakes hard.
The steering is mostly very good, with a nice weighting and feel to it that some other SUVs in this segment simply don’t even come close to. There is some rack rattle and kickback over mid-corner bumps though.
The ride, too, is good most of the time. At higher speeds on the open road it tends to behave more maturely, especially in the base Pure model with the 16-inch wheels clad in 215/65 Bridgestone eco-rubber. These tyres aren’t as grippy as the lower-profile Dunlop SP Sport Maxx on the other models (215/55), but the smaller-wheel package and larger sidewall to the tyre certain helps the ride comfort on jittery surfaces at pace.
As we’ve noted in other Mazda models, the suspension is seemingly less impressive at lower speeds, with sharp edges upsetting the Macpherson front struts and torsion beam rear suspension more notably - once again, it’s worse on the bigger wheel package. Though based on our drive time in the CX-30, it is more resolved than, say, the CX-3, and it feels more than a generation more advanced than that car in terms of overall maturity.
Thanks to its lowered suspension, thicker anti-roll bars and sharper steering rack, the ST-Line doesn’t flounder and sag like other SUVs when introduced to a corner.
Don’t get us wrong though, the changes don’t turn the Escape into a hot-hatch-scaring corner carver, but the ST-Line certainly feels more planted and put together than the vast majority of mid-size SUVs.
In fact, we’d put it up there as one of the best steering mainstream SUVs on the market, alongside the direct and communicative Mazda CX-5.
The by-product though is that the Escape ST-Line is a bit firmer over bumps and uneven road surfaces.
Whilst its not enough to take away from its overall polished and likeable dynamics, buyers who have young families that may prioritise comfort over sportiness will be better off looking at other Escape variants.
The Mazda CX-30 scored a five-star ANCAP crash test rating based on 2019 criteria, and in the process it scored the highest-ever adult pedestrian protection score (99 per cent) for the regime.
It has plenty of safety inclusions as standard, too - not just six airbags (dual front, front side, curtain) and a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, but a standard auto emergency braking (AEB) system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, radar active cruise control, auto high-beam headlights, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and driver drowsiness warning.
There’s also an optional additional safety pack, known as Vision Technology ($1500 on Pure and Evolve, $1300 on Touring, standard on Astina) which comprises a 360-degree surround view camera, front parking sensors, a system called Cruising and Traffic support (with a degree of semi-autonomous driving at lower speeds), a driver monitoring camera and front cross traffic alert.
All CX-30 models have a pair of ISOFIX child seat anchor points and three top tether points for baby seats.
Ford has kitted out the Escape ST-Line with all the safety equipment you would want in a new car in this class.
As previously mentioned, buyers can also option in adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist and a tyre pressure monitor for an additional $800.
With a long list of standard safety, the Ford Escape was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was assessed in early 2017, which also applies to the ST-Line that was introduced in mid-2018.
Mazda backs its entire range of models with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which is the mainstream standard these days.
The Japanese company does, however, require maintenance more regularly than some rivals, with service intervals set at 12 months/10,000km - not as generous as most others (typically 12 months/15,000km).
The servicing costs are decent, however, with G20 models under the Mazda capped price servicing plan covered for five years/50,000km at an average cost of $327 per visit. The G25 versions are set at an average price of $332.60 per service visit, and that’s for both 2WD and AWD models.
Worried about Mazda CX-30 problems? Concerns over reliability, faults, common complaints and issues? Check out our Mazda CX-30 problems page.
Like all new Ford Australia models, the Escape ST-Line comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, along with five-year anti-corrosion assurance.
Service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, with the first service due in two months/3000km.
The first full service will cost $360, while the second is $495 due to a brake fluid replacement that needs to be done every two years.
Service number three is back at $360, but the fourth service jumps to $750.
The Escape’s service schedule repeats this pattern until the 150,000km/10-year service, which requires a drive belt and radiator coolant replacement, increasing the cost to $895.