Mazda CX-30 VS Mazda CX-9
- Beautiful design
- Great safety gear
- Better practicality than CX-3
- Back seat still tight
- Boot still a bit small
- Engines could be better
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Great advanced safety tech
- Impressive ride and handling
- Engine could have more grunt
- Brakes are good but could be more responsive
- Can be tricky to pilot in tight spaces
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 CX-9 is Mazda's big, SUV flagship and it has been updated with more cool tech, better safety features, better handling and real wood. Yup, you read that right: real wood. There's also been a price rise on this seven-seater.
You did know it was a seven-seater, right? And not all seven-seat SUVs are the same. There are off-road capable ones which can be as uncomfortable as a tank on city streets. Then there are those that feel like giant, cushy lounge rooms that handle like a ship really and are just big cars so you better not take them off road. There are others which say they're seven-seaters but in reality those extra two seats in the third row are just for kids – and even then you'd only put your least favourite ones back there. So, what's the Mazda CX-9 then?
That's what this review is all about and by the end of it you'll know if this new Mazda CX-9 the right seven-seater for you.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|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 previous CX-9 was excellent and now the new one fills in many of the gaps which were missing such as the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the safety tech standard across all grades and great ride and handling. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better large seven-seater all-rounder without stepping into the $100K prestige territory.
The Touring is the sweet spot in the CX-9 with its leather seats, 8.0-inch display and good price.
Is there anything Mazda has missed with its CX-9? Or is this SUV almost as good as it gets at this price? Tell us what you think 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.
Nothing has changed to the exterior of the CX-9 in this 2018 update – but that's a good thing, because this is a striking and beautifully styled SUV. More a tall, sleek wagon than upright boxy SUV, there's that in-your-face grille, the long nose the set-back cabin and the hatchback rear end. The only element which irks me are the taillights – they seem a bit small for that big bottom.
All CX-9s look almost identical on the outside, but you can tell the higher grades form their larger-sized wheels and LED fog lights.
There's not much in the way of a body kit, but there is that subtle roof top spoiler, that sculpted front bumper and the little shark fin antenna.
The cabin is a premium feeling place (have a look at the images) – this is Mazda flagship after all. Materials feel soft to touch even on the dash and door sills back and front, while there's a high-quality fit and finish throughout. With big interior dimensions this is also a roomy place, despite that sloping roofline.
The Azami LE is by far the most decadent grade with its nappa leather upholstery and real wood trim. Mazda was not able to tell me what type of wood has been used and could only go as far as confirming it was real wood, however, in the United States the top-grade CX-9, known as the Signature, uses a similar looking material and officially calls it rosewood.
Mazda also told me that the adhesives and materials used in the cabin were also chosen to minimise bad smells – not from the people in it but from the leather's plastics and glues. If only all car companies would care enough to do this – some new car smells make my eyes water.
At almost 5.1 metres long, nearly 2.0m wide and getting onto 1.8m tall you'll need a pretty big garage to house the CX-9.
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.
There are a stack of reasons to buy a seven-seater. You may have a big family and really need the third row, or you're just a small family that likes to pack a truck-load of gear for holidays while having a couple of extra seats just in case you're put on the spot after picking the kids up from karate and end up with more ninjas to drop home.
There are other seven-seaters where those third-row seats are just a bonus – the Santa Fe is a bit like that, but SUVs such as the CX-9, Kluger and Sorento offer much better room back there.
Even at 191cm tall I can sit in the third row comfortably, with just enough head and legroom. That said, I wouldn't want to be there for an epic road trip, but it's fine for kids and shorter adults.
Legroom in the second row is excellent – I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm of space between my knees and the seat back – headroom isn't as generous as the Kluger or Sorento but there's still plenty, even for me.
If you're lifting babies and children into car seats you may find that coupe styling to the roofline makes the process a little harder – it did for me with our little one.
Also, this SUV is fairly high up. I've had my toddler do a face plant falling out of one while trying to climb in. Oh, don't judge me.
Entry into the third row is made easier by a 60:40 folding second row on rails. It's also good to see that the smaller foldable section is on the curb side of the car.
The CX-9's boot space with the third row down is outstanding at 810 litres (VDA) – the Kluger can only manage 529 litres and even with those back seats in place the luggage capacity is 230 litres, check out my video above where I demonstrate the size with a live human being.
Storage in the cabin is also excellent with six cupholders (two in the first row, two in second and the others in the third) and all grades above the Sport come with storage in the fold-down centre armrest, which also contains a USB port.
All CX-9s come with a USB port up front in the giant split-opening centre console bin and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area.
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.
The Mazda CX-9's price has gone up but you're getting more features in return – and that goes for all grades in the range. Also, there's now a new grade and king of the Mazda CX-9 range – the Azami LE. Right, let's get into the details.
The most affordable CX-9 is the Sport at $44,990 (an $1100 increase) for the front-wheel drive version and another $4000 for all-wheel drive. Coming standard on the Sport for the first time is a head-up display and being introduced to the CX-9 range finally is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other standard features include a 7.0-inch screen with sat nav, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, digital radio, three-zone climate control, LED headlights, black cloth seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The Touring grade sits above the Sport and is arguably the best value with its list price of $51,390 ($1100 increase) for the front-wheel drive and again $4000 more for the AWD. In addition to the Sport's features, the Touring comes standard with black leather seats (power adjustable and heated in the front), an 8.0-inch touch screen, proximity key, front parking sensors and LED fog lights.
The GT grade is getting into pricier territory with the front-wheel drive listing for $59,390 (an increase of $1000) and $4000 more for AWD, but along with all of the Touring's features it has a power tailgate, sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels and heated second-row window seats.
The once-king-of-the-range Azami lists for $60,990 in FWD form (an increase of $4200), again $4000 for the AWD, but now there's a level above it – the Azami LE which is $66,490 and only available as an all-wheel drive.
What's the difference between them? Well let's start with what's the same. Both come with the GT's features plus adaptive LED headlights, heated steering wheel, a 360-degree view monitor, ventilated front seats, windscreen de-icer and a 7.0-inch centre digital instrument cluster.
What the Azami LE gets that the Azami doesn't is real wood trim panels on the centre console, nappa leather seats, box stitching on the steering wheel and different overhead console styling.
As a model comparison you could also take a look at the Toyota Kluger which ranges from about $45K to $70K. There's also the Kia Sorento which ranges from $43K-$60K and I'm going to throw in the Hyundai Santa Fe – it's not as big as the CX-9, but the new one is larger than the previous model and it's a seven-seater, too.
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.
All CX-9s have the same engine – it's a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol that makes 170kW and 420Nm. That's simple isn't it? Also simple is this: all CX-9 have the same six-speed automatic transmission.
Every grade apart from the Azami LE comes with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Azami LE is purely all-wheel drive.
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.
Big car, big drinker? The CX-9 used to be back when it had a V6, but not any more. The turbo-four is efficient, with Mazda saying that front-wheel drive version will use 8.4L/100km, while all-wheel drives will use 8.8L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads. You'll also only need to feed it 91 RON – that's the cheap petrol.
My testing on the launch saw me use 10.3L/100km, according to the car's trip computer, but I was really getting into those roads and stamping on that accelerator like it was a funnel web spider, so for it still to be that low is great.
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.
There is no way to make a 5.1m long, 2.0m wide, two-tonne SUV feel small in a supermarket car park and you'll feel its size particularly in multi-storey ones as you navigate the HMAS CX-9 up through the levels. I've lived with a CX-9 and I'm not ashamed to admit that I find it tricky to manoeuvre in tight spaces. But you have AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors at the back and good visibility to make it as easy as it possibly can be.
Get the CX-9 out on the street, though, and it feels a lot less cumbersome. And on the open road the CX-9 is brilliant. Not only does it just much up miles in comfort, it has such great handling ability that it defies my logic.
In this update Mazda says it has refined the driving experience while making the SUV more responsive though suspension and steering changes. A thicker material behind the headlining in the ceiling has also been used to keep the cabin even quieter, too.
The result? A ride that's knocking on the door of German prestige SUVs and great dynamics.
Even on the 20-inch wheels and 50-profile tyres fitted to the Azami LE I tested at the launch, the ride was outstanding while the handling was excellent. Pushing the Azami LE hard in the corners should have had something of this size and weight leaning on its door handles, but a moment after entering the turn the CX-9 was able to compose itself, hunker down and hold its line in a controlled and planted way.
The Azami LE is all-wheel drive only, but the front-wheel drive version for the base grade Sport and the FWD Azami I drove felt just as composed with great body control and impressive handling ability for the class. In some ways the Sport being lighter and on smaller wheels and higher profile tyres meant the ride was more comfortable and acceleration a bit better.
That engine is a good thing, although part of me misses the old V6 from years ago for its smoothness and torque. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo has enough grunt and it's fuel efficient, but to me a six-cylinder suits this big flagship better.
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.
Safety is another strong point of the CX-9 with its maximum five-star ANCAP rating and AEB which works forwards and backwards, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. This update has made the advanced safety tech suite standard across the full range adding adaptive cruise control with stop and go feature, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition.
For child and baby seats you'll find three top-tether anchor points across the second row and two in the third, while there are ISOFIX points in the back as well and two in the second-row window seats.
Under that boot floor you'll find a space saver spare wheel.
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.
The CX-9 is covered by Mazda's five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12 month or 10,000km intervals. Servicing is capped and switch from $329 for the first visit, $371 for the next and then back to $329 for five services.