For starters, it's more akin to a shrunken Subaru Outback wagon in style and proportion than a properly squared-off SUV as per the Kia Seltos. So, think of it as a Mazda3 wagon with 30mm greater ground clearance (at 180mm), streetwise plastic cladding around the arches and on-demand all-wheel drive availability.
Adhering to its maker's upmarket aspirations, even the entry-level $29,990 G20 (for Gasoline 2.0-litre engine in Mazda-speak) Pure front driver heaves with standard kit. Safety is seen to with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot alert, lane-departure and lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert (RCTA), front/rear crossing braking, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, driver-fatigue monitor, auto high beam headlights, reverse camera, rear sensors and low tyre-pressure warnings.
Also standard are satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, auto on/off headlights, self-folding mirrors, 16-inch alloys and even a head-up display. Only a few years ago this level of swag would have embarrassed some so-called luxury models.
The $31,490 G20 Evolve ushers in dual-zone climate control, a leather-sheathed wheel and gear knob, rear vents, paddle shifters and 18-inch alloys, followed by the $34,990 G20 Touring's leather trim, power front seats with driver's side memory, keyless entry with walkaway locking, dipping mirrors in reverse gear and front parking sensors.
Finally, the $38,990 G20 Astina scores adaptive headlights, front cross-traffic alert (FCTA), 'Cruising and Traffic Support' tech for semi-autonomous low-speed stop/go distancing in heavy traffic, a surround-view camera, Bose audio system, heated front seats and steering wheel, powered tailgate and more lavish finishes. And... breathe out.
Touring and Astina buyers can also choose the 2.5-litre G25 upgrade for $2000 and $2500 respectively (as the latter also includes a sunroof), and another $2K for all-wheel-drive, which is certainly a boon for improved vehicle control and confidence in inclement conditions in or away from the Big Smoke.
Our G25 Astina AWD, then, starts at $43,490. All-in, broadly speaking, the Thai-built CX-30 costs roughly 15 per cent more than its corresponding Japanese-made Mazda3 siblings and 10 per cent over the larger CX-5 equivalents.
Again, comparable crossover rivals are thin on the ground for now. Probably the closest is the Volkswagen Golf-derived T-Roc 140TSI SE AWD ($42,990), though by late 2022 the conceptually similar Toyota Corolla Cross will join the fray. There's also the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD ($39,490) and Hyundai Kona Highlander AWD 1.6T ($40,200).
Conversely, up in premium-ville, the Audi Q2 35TFSI, BMW X2 sDrive18i, Lexus UX200, Mini Countryman Cooper and Volvo XC40 T4 Momentum are all within around 15 per cent of our CX-30, but all lack many of the Mazda's little luxuries at their entry-level price points.
Given how plushily presented and well-specified this grade is – and with the bonus of AWD to boot – it must be said the G25 Astina AWD represents value buying, particularly if eye-catching looks and a quality interior matter...