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Mazda CX-30 2020 review: G20 Astina

Mazda's CX-30 shoots for premium, but does it score?

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

3.8/5

What’s in a badge?

Would someone who would normally be hopping into something like a Lexus really be tempted into a Mazda at an almost $10,000 discount? Heck, even if the CX-30 is truly better than one of its premium competitors, would it matter?

Mazda’s upmarket push has put it in an interesting spot. The brand has done its darnedest to make its latest offerings as slick as ever, without pushing pricing quite as high as to challenge the premiums, but still a notch above many of its usual competition.

Can it retain some of those more budget oriented buyers, while tempting a few more aspirational ones? Does the CX-30 have what it takes to be a bit more? I took a top-spec Astina with the regular 2.0-litre engine for a week to find out.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10

First, the price. Yes, the CX-30 is quite a bit more expensive than its CX-3 smaller sibling (which, as it turns out, it will not replace) while only being slightly larger. It shares its underpinnings and much of its switchgear and trim with the Mazda3 hatch, which is not a bad thing at all.

Its $38,990 MSRP places it in competition with other segment-bending SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Koleos, but toward the top end of each model’s line-up. The fact that you can have the Mazda in the top-spec Astina grade without being forced into a bigger engine or all-wheel drive is a neat touch for those who don’t care for the extra grunt, and adds real budget flexibility to the range.

You probably don’t need all-wheel drive, especially if you’re planning on sticking to suburban limits anyway.

So, what does the Astina grade buy you? The top-spec car gets 18-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, an 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as digital radio and built-in nav, a 12-speaker premium Bose audio system, LED headlights and tail-lights with auto-high beam and progressive indicators, leather trimmed seats with 10-way power adjust for the driver, heating for the front two seats, front and rear parking cameras and sensors with a 360-degree top-down function, dual-zone climate control, and keyless entry with push-start ignition.

  • The Astina comes with 18-inch gunmetal alloy wheels. The Astina comes with 18-inch gunmetal alloy wheels.
  • The 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • There's also dual-zone climate control. There's also dual-zone climate control.

Sounds like a lot. And it is. Keep in mind the Astina also has an equally formidable safety suite which you can read about later in this review, but suffice it to say it’s one of the best in the segment.

There is a slight catch, though. The grand majority of the equipment (bar some of the luxe stuff like leather heated seats) comes on the cheaper Touring and most of the necessary stuff comes on much cheaper Evolve grade, and to look at from the outside, there really isn’t much to distinguish them, either.

It also lacks some small non-deal breaking advanced connectivity items (which you might expect in premium-badged rivals) like USB-C, wireless phone charging, or a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10

The CX-30 adopts Mazda’s new classy design language, and there’s no doubt about how upmarket it looks, even up close.

It’s slick, subdued, curvy. The delicate silver grille lining and almost ocular-looking light fittings finish it off nicely.

The CX-30 is perhaps a little less controversial than the new 3 hatch from the rear three quarter, but it’s also not quite as interesting. Better looking than most of its rivals though? To my eyes at least, almost certainly.

The CX-30 is slick, subdued, and curvy. The CX-30 is slick, subdued, and curvy.

Inside shares most of its styling, ambiance, and switchgear with the 3 too, and that’s a good thing.

A mixture of soft-touch surfaces adorn its minimalist dash design, and are interrupted only by a smattering of tastefully-applied chrome finishes. The plastic panels which were clearly not able to be leather-clad are even reasonably rubbery to the touch, and the flourish pieces also have a sturdy feel to them.

It’s a damn sight better than the already-good last-generation Mazda vehicles. It’s certainly on the inside where you can tell how serious Mazda is about taking on the likes of Lexus at the very least.

The cabin shares most of its styling, ambiance, and switchgear with the 3. The cabin shares most of its styling, ambiance, and switchgear with the 3.

The screens have great software and are integrated rather seamlessly into the design, although the semi-digital dash cluster doesn't do anything particularly remarkable aside from look good. It seems the fancy functions have been reserved for the head-up display.

It’s also worth noting the brand has made an interesting human interface choice by not making the primary screen a touch panel, instead pushing you to use its signature dial. This is a blessing and a curse, as we’ll explain later.

How practical is the space inside? 6/10

The CX-30 is pretty much the perfect size for a city commuter. It’s in the perfect zone between just being a lifted hatch, and actually taking advantage of the extra design space granted by the extra ride height of an SUV.

It still falls short of something like the Nissan Qashqai, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, or Renault Kadjar, all of which lean into the extra size of this odd void between a small SUV and a mid-sizer. Instead, the CX-30 has chosen to be more design and front passenger focused than those more family-oriented options.

It’s odd, too, given the CX-30 is only a smidge more practical than its smaller CX-3 sibling. Deliberately targeting empty-nesters and young couples? I’d say so.

The optional brown/cream contrast trim in our test car is certainly a lifestyle choice at any rate.

Legroom and headroom are notably limited in the rear. Legroom and headroom are notably limited in the rear.

The front seats feel pretty lavish, and the leather trim of the seats proved nice and comfortable on longer trips. Strangely though, there’s a lack of the kind of modern cabin storage which many of the CX-30’s competitors, both on the budget and premium end of the market now have.

The centre console, for example, only has a small shelf under the climate controls which could barely fit wallets and phones, two large cupholders placed far forward on the transmission tunnel (with one of those early 2000s-style plastic fold-out covers), a decently-sized centre console box with a single USB port, and that’s about it. The doors have small trenches and bottle-holders in them, and the glove box is too shallow to eat the user manual.

One boost is the leather-trimmed padded surfaces everywhere you’ll reasonably come into contact with, which go a long way to making the cabin go the extra distance toward feeling ‘premium’.

A mixture of soft-touch surfaces adorn the CX-30's minimalist dash design. A mixture of soft-touch surfaces adorn the CX-30's minimalist dash design.

One small annoyance was the sunroof. It’s small, placed almost halfway back in the cabin, and didn’t appear to have a diffuser for wind. A design like this calls for a panoramic roof, but the one which comes on the CX-30 is borderline useless above 60km/h because it makes the cabin so noisy. All the headspace wasted for something which functions only as a small window seems silly.

The story for rear seat occupants is not as good as it is for the front seats. Legroom and headroom are notably limited (especially when compared to premium rivals like the Q3 Sportback), and there are no power outlets, leaving rear passengers with only a set of directional air vents in terms of amenities.

Again, there are small bottle holders in the doors, a drop-down armrest, and pockets on the back of the front seats.

The boot presents a better story than the tiny one in the CX-3, but it still could be better. On offer is 317 litres of storage space which is smaller than most rivals in the class. Still, it consumed our largest (124L) CarsGuide travel case alongside my usual equipment bags with a little room to spare, so if you rarely need the space you might not miss it.

  • Boot space is rated at 317 litres. Boot space is rated at 317 litres.
  • The boot is big enough to fit our largest (124L) CarsGuide travel case, but left little space. The boot is big enough to fit our largest (124L) CarsGuide travel case, but left little space.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 6/10

This is one of the key areas where this Mazda falls well short of the premium end of the market. The world of small capacity turbos, dual-clutch transmissions, and hybrid systems still seems to elude Mazda.

It’s a part of the market where a 2.0-litre non-turbo four-cylinder engine with middling power figures (114kW/200Nm) just seems so… ordinary.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 114kW/200Nm. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 114kW/200Nm.

To top it off, the engine is only Euro5 compliant, meaning you shouldn’t feel particularly environmentally responsible driving it, and the 0-100km/h sprint time of over 10 seconds shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That said, there is a refreshing simplicity to the lack of a dual-clutch a-la VW T-Roc, or a dreaded CVT like the Lexus UX. And Mazda hopes its incoming SkyActiv-X semi-compression-ignition technology will be its big step forward. We hope to learn more about the new engine locally soon in this car’s Mazda3 sibling, so stay tuned for our review.

How much fuel does it consume? 7/10

The lack of engine tech translates to a pretty ordinary fuel figure, and not for the right reasons.

See, while we truly enjoyed driving something turbocharged and punchy when it came to the T-Roc, the same-if-not-higher consumption of this Mazda is nothing to write home about, especially since my week involved a healthy dose of freeway running.

Several hundred kilometres later, and a dash-returned figure of 8.0L/100km, while not terrible, was hardly impressive.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 9/10

Thankfully, Mazda has had a big focus on safety tech in the last few years, often leading segments in which it competes, and the CX-30 is no exception.

Our top-spec Astina was absolutely loaded with the latest in active safety, including freeway-speed auto emergency braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control.

Not content with just those items, the Mazda goes truly above and beyond with front and rear cross traffic alert, reverse auto braking, and torque vectoring.

If that’s not enough to sell you, the CX-30 scored an unprecedented 99 per cent in ANCAP’s adult occupant protection category, with stellar scores in other segments, too.

Unsurprisingly it has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, and is fitted with seven airbags, dual ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the rear seats, as well as the standard electronic stability, traction, and brake controls.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10

Mazda covers its fleet with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty promise which is up to spec with all of its major Japanese competitors, and still ahead of some premium automakers still offering three-year cover (or in the case of Lexus, a four-year warranty).

Mazda offers capped price servicing for the first five years, costing between $315 and $360 per annual (or 10,000km) visit. It works out to an affordable yearly average cost for the life of the warranty of $333 per year.

What's it like to drive around town? 8/10

It is quite clear someone at Mazda has become tired of us motoring writers complaining about how noisy cabins in their cars are, because the CX-30 has well and truly addressed this problem.

It’s now remarkably quiet and refined behind the wheel, with next to no road or wind noise on all but the most coarsely-grained surfaces. Even at high speed the CX-30 impresses with brief freeway stints really working to showcase this car’s best features.

Given this is an urban review, the freeway miles proved interesting, because it’s actually better there than it is around town. The quietness and relative refinement is still there, but the engine is really the weak link when it comes to how the CX-30 feels.

There’s just nothing premium about its lacklustre acceleration, it lacks the grace of a hybrid (a-la UX) and the punch of a turbo (pretty much everything else).

Mazda’s holdover 2.0-litre engine is probably all you need for plodding around town, though, so ask yourself if you plan on doing much touring before you opt for the larger G25 engine option. Time will tell if the new SkyActiv-X semi-compression ignition engine feels special. It’s due to arrive before the end of the year.

The CX-30’s other attributes are mostly admirable. There’s smooth and direct steering, controlled inputs from the pedals, and suspension which is on the firmer side, but never unpleasant. The only thing I’d go out of my way to note about the ride is how the front is firmer than the rear.

This is the opposite of how small SUVs are usually set-up, and creates some shuddering over corrugations which you can feel through the wheel.

It does excel at parking in tight quarters though, where you won't be able to tell its extra size over a CX-3. The front, rear, and overhead parking cameras are excellent (and backed by front and rear low-speed auto braking), so you'll never feel at risk of denting its delicate panelwork over something like an unseen bollard.

The CX-30 has the look and feel of a car its price, and at this grade, almost everything you could want out of a city-slicking small SUV. Its just-right sizing will be a key selling point for most buyers.

It might still fall a little short of being truly premium, but the fact you can compare it with cars $10,000 more expensive speaks volumes for how far the brand has come.

Plus at this price, I would seriously be looking at a CX-30 over a Lexus UX, for example.

$41,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

3.8/5