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Mazda CX-30 2020 review: G25 Astina AWD


Daily driver score

4.5/5

Urban score

4.3/5

Mazda, it seems, is embarking on a spot of social climbing.

After years of affordable, well-engineered and highly popular alternatives to Toyota, Japan's smallest big carmaker has set its sights higher, starting with last year's redesigned Mazda3. Costing about 10 per cent more than the Toyota Corolla equivalent, it's moved up to Volkswagen Golf territory, prioritising design, advanced technologies, luxury finishes and a high specification over being number one.

Invariably, the Mazda3-based CX-30 is a manifestation of this mindset. The ‘0' denotes a raised SUV, aimed at singles, couples and small families seeking a practical compact wagon with one eye on adventure.

Perfect, then, for our Urban Review. Here we look at the range-topping G25 Astina AWD.

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

Nestled snugly between two big-selling SUVs – the ageing Mazda2-derived CX-3 and family-favourite CX-5 – the low-slung CX-30 isn't so easy to pigeonhole.

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.

It comes with 18-inch alloys. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) It comes with 18-inch alloys. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

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.

It comes with heated front seats and steering wheel. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) It comes with heated front seats and steering wheel. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

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).

The $38,990 G20 Astina scores adaptive headlights. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) The $38,990 G20 Astina scores adaptive headlights. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

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...

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Mazda reckons it set out to design "the most beautiful SUV in the world". Nicely proportioned, delicately detailed and – wearing those 18-inch wheels – broad of stance, it's difficult to think of a more elegant SUV design. Period.

The brand's current fascination with simple flowing forms carries on inside, with a sleek dashboard that seems purposely created to minimise visual distraction – as well as evoke some unexpected classics.

The brand’s current fascination with simple flowing forms carries on inside. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) The brand’s current fascination with simple flowing forms carries on inside. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

That three-spoke wheel is very Mazda RX2; the big dished analogue dials bookmarked by large vents recalls the Porsche 968's; and how Audi-esque is the wide console between the front seats? Interesting stuff.

The central screen, at 8.8-inches, already looks dated against the vast Cinemascope-style touchscreens gracing the Mercedes A-Class, even though it carries the latest Mazda multimedia interface that's a huge step forward over previous models.

Note it isn't a touchscreen, but instead uses a controller as per BMW's 'iDrive' that's intended to minimise eyes-off-road distraction while offering better scrolling accuracy between screens.

How practical is the space inside?

Like Goldilocks, you'll find the CX-30's size just right if you're after a higher-riding wagon without the bulk or boxiness of more utilitarian SUVs. And Mazda in no way tries to hide the fact that aesthetics was prioritised during packaging development. This is a statement SUV for urbanites seeking some of life's finer things.

That said, and compared to the low-slung Mazda3, the CX-30 is easier in terms of entry, egress and loading up the luggage area, thanks to wide doors, large apertures and low sills.

No hitting heads or bending knees getting inside, while both front seats can be lowered or heightened as desired. Despite the slinky styling, the Mazda deftly walks that fine line between form and function.

As touched on earlier, the interior continues the premium themes, but not at the cost of practicality.

The rear seat area is fine for small to medium-sized people, but longer-leg travellers might find knee and legroom tight. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) The rear seat area is fine for small to medium-sized people, but longer-leg travellers might find knee and legroom tight. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

For starters, leather-faced and lightly bolstered, the front seats offer fine support. Tilt/telescopic steering provides ample adjustment to help find a comfortable driving position, backed up by the stubby auto gear-lever action (with forward downshift/backward upshift manual manipulation), excellent paddleshift placement, a pleasingly narrow-grip wheel and perfectly square-on instrumentation, highlighting the CX-30's intrinsic driver focus.

Those classy analogue-look digital dials convey at-a-glance info effortlessly, while the head-up display projects speed, traffic-sign and other travel-related data right up to the operator's eye-line. It's hard to recall a better-resolved Mazda dash.

There's more, like oodles of ventilation, the tactility of the switchgear controlling them would pass muster with the Germans and the overall quality is solid and tight, without a single squeak, rattle or hum in our example.

Better still – and this may come as a huge surprise to owners of older Mazdas – the levels of air, road and tyre noise entering the cabin are remarkably low. Maybe even more so than most Euro premium rivals' efforts.

However, it's not all a CX-30 lovefest inside.

Though aided by that surround-view camera, thick pillars, relatively small exterior mirrors and that shallow glass area conspire to compromise side and rear vision.

There is a cornucopia of storage scattered throughout the front of the cabin – including within the console and door bins. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) There is a cornucopia of storage scattered throughout the front of the cabin – including within the console and door bins. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Mazda offers a subtle colour contrast to lighten the plasticky look and feel of the interior, backed up by vinyl-like covering lining parts of the dash, doors and console, but the Japanese haven't quite mastered the art of disguising the cheapness of some of the lower-lying trim.

While there is a cornucopia of storage scattered throughout the front of the cabin – including within the console and door bins, they're all quite small or shallow, including the glove box. In this regard, most rival small SUVs run rings around the CX-30.

Further back, the rear seat area is fine for small to medium-sized people, but longer-leg travellers might find knee and legroom tight; that's the upshot of a 70mm shorter wheelbase compared to the Mazda3.

Additionally, that swoopy roofline may play havoc with hairdos, wigs and toupees gracing taller scalps. And there's no close access to the USB ports, meaning having to use one of the two plugs up front.

  • Happily, the CX-30’s boot area beats the meagre 3’s 295-litre capacity, by just 22L to 317L. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) Happily, the CX-30’s boot area beats the meagre 3’s 295-litre capacity, by just 22L to 317L. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)
  • And this is with a space-saver spare underneath the floor. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) And this is with a space-saver spare underneath the floor. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)
  • That low loading height and big (electrically operated – though not via foot gestures, sadly) tailgate’s cavity, there’s enough room back there for most urban needs. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) That low loading height and big (electrically operated – though not via foot gestures, sadly) tailgate’s cavity, there’s enough room back there for most urban needs. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Oddly, too, no wireless smartphone charging (a conspicuous omission), USB-C ports or Wi-Fi hotspot are available.

Happily, the CX-30's boot area beats the meagre 3's 295-litre capacity, by just 22L to 317L. And this is with a space-saver spare underneath the floor.

Compared to most SUVs, it's on the low side (though better than the CX-3's 264L rating). Still, that low loading height and big (electrically operated – though not via foot gestures, sadly) tailgate's cavity, there's enough room back there for most urban needs.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Though the Astina is available in 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated G20 guise, the G25's 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre alternative is by far the preferred choice.

Both, by the way, employ a six-speed (torque-converter) automatic as their sole transmission choice. Unfortunately, no manual is available.

How much you get out of the G25 depends on how much you're willing to explore the upper reaches of the rev range as well as throttle travel.

Compared to the G20, the added torque is very welcome around town, where the driver does not have to visit the tachometer's red line every single time just to access the sort of performance that the CX-30's seductive styling suggests.

Though the Astina is available in 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated G20 guise, the G25’s 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre alternative is by far the preferred choice. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) Though the Astina is available in 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated G20 guise, the G25’s 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre alternative is by far the preferred choice. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Armed with low gearing and smooth upshifts, off-the-line response is instant and the power comes on through in a measured stream as speeds increase, without the hesitate-then-go wallop of some turbo/dual-clutch auto combo alternatives. Consistency is the key.

Furthermore, here's a surprise. The Mazda offers frankly-amazing flexibility at higher speeds, where you might need an extra surge of speed for safe overtaking. With plenty of revs left in reserve due to that lofty 7000rpm redline, it's as if that lusty and raspy 2.5L heart gains a second wind past 4000rpm, to really streak ahead exactly when you need it to.

Thus, the G25 AWD swings a hot lot harder and feels much faster overall than its official 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.1 seconds suggests. You just have to work it to reap the rewards.

How much fuel does it consume?

Mazda quotes an official combined cycle consumption figure of 6.8 litres per 100km, while we averaged a pretty good 7.6L/100km (indicated) during our test regime. Note that a solid and spirited performance drive did decimate that to just under 10L/100km during a separate test.

Like most Mazdas, the G25 Astina features stop/start and cylinder-deactivation tech to help save fuel, and is also tuned to run fine on 91RON unleaded petrol. However, putting in the richer brew does eke out a few extra kilowatts and Newton metres, for a bit more performance sparkle and pep.

Fitted with a 48-litre tank, over 705km between refills is possible.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

With a higher-than-average suite of inclusive safety features, it's clear how the CX-30 achieved a high ANCAP crash-test rating during 2019: five stars.

Let's see... seven airbags (dual front, driver's knee, side and curtain for all outboard occupants), anti-lock brakes with brake assist and brake-force distribution, traction and stability control, driver-fatigue monitor, AEB (that works from 4km/h to 80km/h), blind-spot alert, lane-departure and lane-keep assist, RCTA, front/rear crossing braking, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, auto high beam, reverse camera, rear sensors, tyre-pressure warning and two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers for straps.

The Astina takes it further with the aforementioned adaptive headlights, FCTA, CTS slow-traffic distancing tech and surround-view camera.

Some of those posh Euro alternatives cannot match this level of safety spec. Nice one, Mazda.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Mazda offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty as well as roadside assistance on all CX-30s, as well as capped-price servicing, scheduled every 12-month or 10,000km intervals. It costs $315 annually or $360 every second year, over that same five-year period.

What's it like to drive around town?

If you're into driving, the G25 Astina AWD shines both within and away from urban environs.

For instance, that slick, muscular 2.5-litre atmo four launches off the line quickly and cleanly, without any hesitation or jerkiness from the transmission, regardless of incline.

And as we said, it really reacts to a caning, so it's up for darting in and out of traffic gaps. Yes, you'll be met with a thrashy metallic howl approaching that redline, but the result is exponentially greater gusto and zeal.

Some testers lament the G25's lack of turbo oomph. In this application, and especially armed with that manual-override shifter in hand that holds on to each ratio, the thing comes alive.

Mazda's engineering enthusiasts also had their way with the CX-30's lovely, progressive and inclusive steering action, which manages to communicate the state of the road below and isolate from the awful stuff.

The Mazda CX-30 is not an SUV and doesn’t pretend to be. (image: Byron Mathioudakis) The Mazda CX-30 is not an SUV and doesn’t pretend to be. (image: Byron Mathioudakis)

It's a pleasure to glide your way around corners and through tight turns, thanks to minimum body movement and a real sense of four-square body control. In this regard, the CX-30 isn't just car-like... it is a car, full stop. Stable, secure and unfussed.

Finally, even wearing relatively big Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 215/55R18 rubber, the suspension does an impressive job dealing with the many bumps and thumps inner-urban commuting throws up.

There is some underlying firmness over larger stuff like speed humps, but it's never uncomfy and the suspension smooths over them graciously.

By the way, out on the open road, that subtly sporty chassis is a knockout, with the handling and roadholding coalescing beautifully, resulting in a rapid and rewarding grand touring machine. As a fast point-to-point family car, you can do a lot worse than this.

The Mazda CX-30 is not an SUV and doesn't pretend to be. It isn't a wagon either, but a crossover with a little more height and functionality as a result.

Before testing the G25 Astina AWD, there were fears that the value-packed sweet base package would not translate at $45K, particularly against some very capable larger SUV alternatives. We shouldn't have worried, because the exceptional engineering, refinement, specification and standout styling make the premium worthwhile.

In fact, as one of our favourite new releases this year, Mazda's social climbing CX-30 G25 Astina AWD outclasses many so-called luxury-branded competitors.

$43,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Urban score

4.3/5