Mazda CX-30 VS Jeep Cherokee
- Beautiful design
- Great safety gear
- Better practicality than CX-3
- Back seat still tight
- Boot still a bit small
- Engines could be better
- Standard safety now on point
- True off-road ability
- Much improved visually
- Cramped rear quarters
- Styling still a bit 'Murican
- Thirsty V6
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|
The presence of a strong medium-sized SUV is of vital importance to any mainstream automotive brand at the moment. And if you do have one, to get bums on seats it needs to be absolutely on point across the spectrum.
Jeep is, according to its masters, in the midst of a renewal, with all new vehicles expected across its line by the end of 2020. The next cab off the rank is the Cherokee – codenamed KL – which launched in Australia in 2015 to a less than enthusiastic reception.
|Fuel Type||Regular 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:
The latest Cherokee hasn’t resonated with buyers of mid-sized SUVs yet, but this facelift may bring some more potential buyers out of the woodwork – especially those looking for something with a bit of off-road ability.
Jeep is working hard to turn its reputation for poor service around as well, and its warranty and service plans are longer than those of the biggest Japanese players.
Would you prefer your SUV to have more of an off-road focus? Tell us in the comments below.
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.
Thank the Lord, the ugliness is no more. There’s a difference between unusual and terrible, and the previous Cherokee - in my eyes at least - had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down. Hard.
Jeep was all too aware that the challengingly styled Cherokee had a perception problem; in fact, Fiat Chrysler Australia chief Steve Zanlunghi told us that the number one reason people chose not to buy it was because of the way it looked.
So gone is the divisive split and inverted headlight design, replaced with something that is much more closely related to the Grand Cherokee. Narrow LED headlights and a classic seven-slot grille are complemented by a new lower bumper bar and LED daytime lamps, while there’s also a new composite bonnet.
New LED tail-lights and a composite tailgate join a new bumper skin on the rear, while roof rails are now standard, along with a push-open fuel door and capless filler. It now looks much more resolved, although the excess of chrome trim on the nose does age the car prematurely.
While the interior basics are still the same, Jeep claims it’s worked hard on the ‘touch and feel’ stuff; better quality plastics, bigger oddments trays and nicer trims.
Vinyl replaces cloth on the door cards, and the electronic park brake surround has been rejigged to increase the size of the phone tray, but other than that, the interior remains largely as it was.
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.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t extend to more room inside the cabin. The second row of seats can be a cramped place to sit, especially if the occupants are even slightly taller than average.
Throw in a small rear door aperture and – if you have one fitted – a crazily low sunroof headliner, and the back can soon becomes cramped for teens and grown-ups. The seat backs can be reclined to help out here, though.
Bottles can also be added to the four doors, and there’s a decently sized centre console bin behind two front cupholders.
Front seat occupants fare well enough, with decently bolstered and supportive seats. However, the driver’s position is more than a little compromised, thanks to a huge, bulbous protrusion on the transmission tunnel that gets in the way of your left leg, and there’s nowhere to rest your left foot. Surely a plastic footrest for RHD markets wouldn’t be a big expense.
The wheel is comfortable enough, but could extend towards the driver another 15 or 20mm, and I inadvertently opened the powered tailgate a couple of times when trying to start the car; both buttons are round and located in places where such buttons should be.
Boot capacity has been increased by 84 litres to 784 litres by way of a two-level boot floor, though bear in mind this is measured via the SAE standard, and not the VDA standard used by virtually everyone else.
A full-size steel wheel serves as a spare for all variants.
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.
Jeep claims it’s in a space called ‘access premium’ – think premium economy – that offers extra kit on its cars at a more affordable price. It sees itself rivalling the likes of the Honda HR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe, rather than the CX-5.
The updated Cherokee will maintain the status quo when it comes to the model mix, with the entry level Sport keeping its $35,950 (plus ORCs) price tag.
As well, you’ll also score LED headlights and tail-lights, a 7.0-inch 'Uconnect' multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather-wrapped wheel and gear knob, roof rails and a comprehensive suite of driver aids over and above the outgoing model.
It only has cloth trim, regular lights and wipers and single-zone air, though, so you’ll need to look at the Longitude ($41,950 plus ORCs) for more of the good stuff.
It adds AWD to the 2.4-litre four-cylinder powertrain, as well as auto lights and wipers, a multi-mode traction management set-up, powered front seats, parking sensors, a powered tailgate with foot activation (only if the wind is blowing the right way and Jupiter is in crescent moon ascending, if our brief and fruitless testing is anything to go by) and push-button start with keyless entry.
Add $5000 to get into the Limited, and you’ll get a proper low-range 4x4 drivetrain hooked up to a 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine, leather upholstery with heated and vented front seats, 18-inch rims, a larger 8.4-inch multimedia system with sat nav and a colour screen between the dash dials, along with adaptive cruise control and auto parking.
Topping the tree is the $48,450 Trailhawk, Jeep’s self-rated offroad-ready version of the Cherokee that complements the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee Trailhawks.
It’s the more rugged version of the Limited, and its triple-diff 4x4 drivetrain also includes a low-range transfer case, the ability to lock all three diffs, hill ascent and descent control, taller suspension, unique bumpers and underbody skid plates, offroad-spec rims and leather/cloth seats.
The Trailhawk makes up about 10 per cent of the model sales at present – given there’s only been 324 sold all year so far (as opposed to 16,000 for the CX-5), it’s still not a big number.
On balance, the Cherokee starts further up the ladder price-wise than its rivals, but there’s value to be found in the additional off-road performance – and the new additions have come at zero cost over the old car.
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.
The 2.4-litre 'Tigershark' engine makes 130kW and just 229Nm of torque, while the heavier 3.2-litre 'Pentastar' V6 offers up 200kW/315Nm.
All variants use the Chrysler-designed ZF-sourced nine-speeder, which has seen its transmission maps updated for this facelift.
There are effectively three drivetrain types; front- and all-wheel drive for the four-cylinder Sport and Longitude, and 4x4 for the Limited and Trailhawk, both of which use the V6.
The 4x4 system is 8.0kg lighter than previously, too.
Hill descent and ascent is standard on the V6-powered cars, while 'Select Terrain' offers up Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud settings. Trailhawk adds extra elements including a rock crawling mode, as well as a mechanical locking rear diff, and electronic locks for the centre and front diffs.
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.
Claimed fuel consumption figure for the smallest engine is 8.5 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, 9.8L/100km on the V6 Limited and 10.2L/100km for the Trailhawk.
A 90km highway stint in the latter saw a dash figure of 12.1L/100km, while a similar distance in the Limited yielded 11.8L/100km.
All variants use a 60-litre fuel tank, and will accept regular unleaded fuel. The lightest Cherokee weighs 1590kg and the heaviest is 1889kg.
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.
Over a 200km-odd drive route in the Limited and Trailhawk V6s, the Cherokee reinforces its position as a more rugged and ready SUV. It lacks the absolute precision and poise of more road-oriented rigs, but – and particularly in the case of the Trailhawk – shows its chops when the going gets a bit steep and slippery.
The V6 I sampled is adequate rather than enthusiastic, and it doesn’t make soul-stirring noises, but it’s linear and reasonably responsive underfoot. I found the throttle to be a bit sticky underfoot, which made smooth pull-aways a pain at times, but its relationship with the nine-speed auto is a good one.
The Cherokee’s electrically assisted steering verges on being too light and vague, but body roll suppression is really impressive, especially across the front axle, while ride quality is excellent.
A quick – or slow, in this case – lap of a genuinely rugged off-road course shows that the Trailhawk is more than a rebadging exercise. With bespoke bumpers, underbody protection and proper off-road tyres, the smaller form factor of the Cherokee Trailhawk would make for a very handy full time off-roader for a couple, if ultra-long range touring wasn’t a consideration.
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.
Active forward collision warning and AEB, advanced lane departure wanring and rear cross traffic alert are now standard across the four-model line-up. Adaptive cruise is optional on the Longitude and standard on the Limited and Trailhawk.
LED headlights are also standard across the line, as well as six airbags, rear view camera with guidelines and parking sensors (from the Longitude up).
Jeep is currently in a wait-and-see situation with its ANCAP rating, which currently sits at a maximum five-star rating under last year’s rankings, but it expects to be issued a similar score from the safety body.
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.