Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Mazda CX-30
- Exterior styling
- Interior and cabin appeal
- Rear space, and space overall
- Lack of boot space
- Driving position not too high for some
- Engine noise slightly un-sexy
- Beautiful design
- Great safety gear
- Better practicality than CX-3
- Back seat still tight
- Boot still a bit small
- Engines could be better
Apparently there is an ugly Kardashian, but you don’t care, or if you do, you shouldn’t, so let’s talk about the Hemsworth brothers instead.
In any other family, Luke Hemsworth would probably be called handsome, if a little short. Unfortunately for him, standing next to Liam and the God who walks amongst us that is Chris (I had to interview him once, he really is dreamy), Luke looks like he’s barely keeping his chin above the water line at the shallow end of the gene pool.
The Mercedes-Benz SUV range has quite a variation of lookers in its family tree as well, but I would argue that the new, entry-level GLA is pretty much the Chris of the range, or at least the Liam. The unfortunate, slightly large-foreheaded GLB would obviously be the Luke.
The only problem with all this, of course, is that the car that originally gave birth to the GLA - the A-Class - is more attractive than all of them, and Craig Hemsworth, sire of the family, doesn’t quite pull that off.
The point is that the new GLA is going to be even more popular than the original one, which sold a staggering one million units worldwide, because it is not only bigger and taller, but better looking, inside and out.
And let’s face it, no one is buying an urban SUV like this for the way it can climb a snow-covered alpine pass. Even all-wheel drive is optional.
But the GLA has this niche nailed, and the new one - thanks to its style, space and the effortless way it rides - is going to be an even bigger success.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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|
You can tell that this car is going to be a success just by looking at it. For a lot of people, to see one will be to want one, and when they sit in that hugely high driving position and gaze upon the future-fabulous interior they’ll be even more sold.
It’s fair to say the GLA 250 does everything well - aside from providing boot space - and with great comfort, and in terms of looks, inside and out, it reaches the level of outstanding.
Personally, I’d take the lower and sleeker A Class every time.
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:
I have to say that it’s quite an effort for a car company to get me interested in the look of an SUV, but from its tough, bold and yet stylish grille to its taut back end and BMW-aping rear light cluster, the new GLA really is a looker.
I had the good fortune to bring our GLA 250 test vehicle home and park it right next to the previous model, in the same colour, thus properly ruining the day of one of my neighbours.
The growth in size is clear - the new car is 12cm taller, 30mm wider and has a 30mm-longer wheelbase, yet overall it is 14mm shorter, which makes it look neater as well as stronger - but it’s the little tucks and tweaks of design that have really improved the look. The rear-light cluster is worth mentioning again, as it's just so much nicer.
While the original GLA was simply a case of making an A Class on stilettos, its success has encouraged Benz to really pour some effort into its successor, and the result is clear. This thing is a real looker.
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.
The main goal of the GLA’s new, more SUV-like shape, in practicality terms, seems to have been to lift the driver even further off the ground, because the command-seating position is obviously a big selling point for someone who finds the A Class too ground-hugging.
So, while some of that growth in height has been used to increase head room to the point where I could easily wear Abraham Lincoln’s hat while driving, much of it has gone to making the driving position a full 10cm higher than in the previous GLA (it’s also 14cm higher than in an A Class).
Personally, the height of the seat drove me slightly spare, and every time I got in I tried to lower it, only to find it doesn’t go any lower, but, tellingly, my wife - who is not far off being an elf - loved it.
What I did like was the back seat, which is truly voluminous. Through clever packaging, Benz has managed to liberate no less than 12cm of extra legroom back there, and I could properly stretch out.
With its standard double-paned panoramic roof and huge windows (part of huge doors, which do come close to scraping on any gutter higher than a match box), it’s a very glassy interior indeed, and visibility is excellent.
There are two cupholders between the front seats, and there’s storage for big bottles in each door. Oddment storage is plentiful, although they could have more if they did away with the now redundant mouse pad and the so-called “arm rest” behind that, which feels more like a gear-shift lever they forgot to remove when they put the shifting functions up on a column stalk.
There’s no need for the track pad any more because the giant and truly very lovely 10.25-inch touch screen does everything via touch, and sits next to another screen the same size that acts as your dash readout, making the whole thing look like a particularly long iPad.
While other car companies, including Audi, which has long been the winner in any interior-design conversation, are still just jamming big screens on top of dashboards, Benz has turned its entire dash into a digital display, and it looks amazing, and futuristic. Like a concept car you can actually buy.
The overall feeling of quality and tech - particularly at night when it all lights up beautifully in a colour of your choosing - in this alluring interior is one of the main reasons buyers will flock to the new GLA.
The seats are not as sporty as some, but they’re comfortable enough.
The one letdown, however, which comes as a shock with all that space in the rear, is the boot, which is just 435 litres, compared to the Audi Q3’s far more practical 530 litres. It really is a surprise when you open the back and see so little there, and that really does lower the practicality mark.
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.
Price and features
I find it hard to believe I’m saying this about a Benz, but at a starting price of $66,500, the GLA 250 4MATIC does seem like quite a lot of car for the money. This might be influenced by the fact that I know a couple who recently dropped more than $70K on the smaller A Class (they actually went shopping for a GLA, but then fell in love with the look of the little hatch).
There, are of course, always issues with the Germans when it comes to what you do and don’t get for your tempting entry price, and in the case of our test vehicle it would stick in my craw quite badly to pay $385 extra for its Polar White paint. Yes, white paint costs extra.
While the Titan Grey Pearl and Black Lugano Leather is nice, it’s only in the car as part of the $2838 AMG Exclusive Package. Throw in the Sports Package at $1915, which gets us the sexy 19-inch AMG alloys, and the Driving Assistance Package for $1531 worth of extra active safety, drop on a dollop of LCT at $1329 and the asking price for our urban SUV hits a less-enticing-sounding $74,498.
Your standard inclusions for the $66,500 are a very lovely panoramic electric sunroof, heated and electronically adjustable front seats, with memory function, lowered comfort suspension and sports-direct steering, plus the Off-Road Engineering Package, while the standard, non AMG wheels are also 19-inch alloys, presumably just less sexy ones.
And you don't have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay, which is nice.
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.
Engine & trans
The GLA 250 comes with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a handy 165kW and 350Nm, which is sent to all four wheels using 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The claimed 0 to 100km/h time is 6.7 seconds.
Your silky smooth gearbox is an eight-speed, or 8G-DCT automatic, in Benz speak.
The engine feels powerful enough, without being exciting, and sounds pleasant enough, without sounding sporty - it's pretty much Goldilocks for an urban SUV.
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.
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.
With such a high driving position, the worry is that you’re going to feel like you’re sitting on the new GLA rather than in it.
But the fact is that, once I became accustomed to the fact that I couldn’t get the seat as low as I wanted to, it all became comfortable enough, and I could get on with fully appreciating the ride quality.
While the GLA has a good, Germanic solidity to the way the interior is bolted together - the doors are almost too heavy, I fact, and can be tough for little people to close - it’s the way it sits on the road that really impresses.
The little Benz soaks up the bumps, particularly in Comfort mode, and provides the kind of ride and handling quality that you’d expect in a six-figure German car. Or a Benz of old, you might say.
Critics of A Classes past were heard to complain that they just didn’t ride as softly or richly as a Mercedes should, but the company has put things to rights with its smaller cars in recent years and you really feel like you’re getting the badge you paid for here.
Step out of the cruisy, snoozy Comfort setting into Sport, however, and the CLA feels out of its, well, comfort zone. It’s almost too toey for its own good, wanting to lurch around, holding each gear desperately and making noises that are merely loud rather than sexy.
Engine noise is a little intrusive whenever you try and accelerate fiercely in the GLA, in fact, but there is some handy pace there if you really need it.
Fast driving does feel out of character for the GLA 250 variant, however, and those who want that kind of thing should wait for the AMG-fettled version that will arrive in the next month or so, bringing 225kW and 400Nm.
As a cornering weapon, this car is more of a butter knife, smoothing its way around bends with minimal bodyroll. It’s an urban SUV, and it drives like one, albeit a very good one.
Typically, the steering is also light and easy to use rather than heavy and talkative.
Being the 4-MATIC variant, the GLA 250 also offers an Off-Road mode, which takes full advantage of its torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but sadly our slightly brief introduction to the car didn’t provide us with the chance to hurl it down a scree-covered mountain side, nor to test out its version of hill-descent control.
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.
The GLA has not been ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash rated yet, but the first car got five stars from the Euro test and was never ANCAP tested. It’s safe to say they design their cars around being damn sure they get five stars.
You’ll also be getting no less than nine airbags - front, pelvis side and window bags for driver and front passenger, sidebags for the rear occupants and a knee bag for the driver.
In terms of active safety, the Active Brake Assist - which works up to 60km/h - is standard, as is Blind Spot Assist, with exit-warning function, which alerts the driver to approaching cyclists or vehicles when they’re about to open their door. Active Lane Keep Assist is also standard, as are the Active Bonnet, Traffic Sign Assist and Cross Wind Assist.
But you will have to stump up for the Driving Assistance Package to get things like Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist.
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.
Your GLA comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is Japanese good, if not Korean good.
In terms of servicing, you can choose to purchase a Service Plan or pay as you go with capped-price servicing.
The costs for three annual services are $2050 for the Service Plan, or $2550 with the Capped Price Servicing (first is $550, second is $750, third $1250).
Service Plans can be bought in four or five-year lots, at $2950 and $3500 respectively.
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.