Mazda CX-30 review

Category: Small SUV

Small SUV is well-equipped and plush, but some rivals beat it for practicality

Red Mazda CX-30 front right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-30 front right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-30 rear cornering
  • Mazda CX-30 interior dashboard
  • Mazda CX-30 boot open
  • Mazda CX-30 interior infotainment
  • Red Mazda CX-30 front cornering
  • Red Mazda CX-30 front cornering
  • Red Mazda CX-30 rear right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-30 front right static
  • Red Mazda CX-30 rear left static
  • Red Mazda CX-30 overhead static
  • Mazda CX-30 headlights detail
  • Mazda CX-30 alloy wheel detail
  • Mazda CX-30 rear lights detail
  • Mazda CX-30 interior front seats
  • Mazda CX-30 interior back seats
  • Mazda CX-30 interior sunroof
  • Mazda CX-30 interior steering wheel detail
  • Mazda CX-30 interior air-con controls
  • Mazda CX-30 interior gearstick
  • Red Mazda CX-30 front right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-30 rear cornering
  • Mazda CX-30 interior dashboard
  • Mazda CX-30 boot open
  • Mazda CX-30 interior infotainment
  • Red Mazda CX-30 front cornering
  • Red Mazda CX-30 front cornering
  • Red Mazda CX-30 rear right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-30 front right static
  • Red Mazda CX-30 rear left static
  • Red Mazda CX-30 overhead static
  • Mazda CX-30 headlights detail
  • Mazda CX-30 alloy wheel detail
  • Mazda CX-30 rear lights detail
  • Mazda CX-30 interior front seats
  • Mazda CX-30 interior back seats
  • Mazda CX-30 interior sunroof
  • Mazda CX-30 interior steering wheel detail
  • Mazda CX-30 interior air-con controls
  • Mazda CX-30 interior gearstick
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Introduction

What Car? says...

Some people argue that SUVs – even small ones – are unsuitable for nipping around city centres, but the Mazda CX-30 is here to prove them wrong. Indeed, it aims to be all the car a family could need for every trip – from long-distance driving to quick jaunts around town.

To make that possible, Mazda has based the CX-30 on the Mazda 3 family hatchback, helping to keep the dimensions compact. Then, to make sure it has all the oomph you want, you can choose between two 2.0-litre petrol engines, both with mild-hybrid technology.

It sounds promising, doesn’t it? But is it as fun to drive as the Seat Arona, as practical as the Skoda Kamiq or as plush as the VW T-Roc?

That’s what we’re going to find out in this review, as we test the Mazda CX-30 against the best small SUVs to see whether it's top of the class for performance, practicality, comfort and more.

Overview

While its low-end performance is lacklustre, the CX-30 appeals thanks to its high-end interior, generous equipment levels and economical engines. We’d stick to the entry-level 2.0-litre e-Skyactiv G petrol engine, and pair it with Centre-Line trim.

  • Fantastic interior quality
  • Strong resale values and economical engines
  • Well equipped
  • Rear seats have limited flexibility
  • Boot doesn't have any clever features
  • Engines need working hard
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

To be honest, neither engine in the Mazda CX-30 is the best in the class. We much prefer the 1.5 TSI 150 engine in the Skoda Kamiq and any of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost Hybrid engines in the Ford Puma because they feel much stronger. 

The entry-level 2.0-litre e-Skyactiv G is the pick of the range, mainly because it keeps the price low. With 120bhp, it'll accelerate from 0-62mph in around 10.6sec, a tiny bit slower than the 1.0 TSI 110 engine in the Kamiq. Even so, the CX-30 doesn’t feel that much quicker until you push past 4000rpm, which is surprising when you consider it has twice the engine capacity.

On paper, the 183bhp 2.0-litre e-Skyactiv X engine will hit 0-62mph in 8.3sec (8.6sec if you go for the four-wheel-drive version). It does feel more lively, but not by enough to warrant spending the extra cash, and you still have to rev it out to feel any of its pace advantage.

Suspension and ride comfort

Much like the Puma, the CX-30’s ride is on the firmer side of things but isn’t uncomfortable. In fact, the CX-30 remains really settled for the most part and you’ll only ever feel a bit of a thwack over sharper potholes.  

That’s especially true if you go for a version of the CX-30 with bigger wheels and all-wheel drive, which make things slightly worse. So, we’d stick with one of the entry-level models – Prime-Line or Centre-line – which get 16in wheels. Alternatively, if comfort is a priority, the slightly softer VW T-Roc is worth a look.

The upside of the CX-30’s firmness is that it’s well controlled and there’s little of the float and wallow over undulating roads that you’ll feel in the softer Citroën C3 Aircross.

Mazda CX-30 image
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Red Mazda CX-30 rear cornering

Handling

The CX-30's steering doesn't feel particularly quick, but it is precise and has a reassuring, progressive weight build-up. What’s more, the taut suspension means there's minimal body lean when you scythe through twists and turns.

The harder you push, though, the less impressive it becomes. The CX-30 runs out of front-end grip earlier than you’d want, while the Puma – our handling benchmark in the small SUV class – is much more agile and satisfying to drive spiritedly.

Noise and vibration

The CX-30’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines are generally smoother and quieter than the smallest 1.0 TSI three-cylinder engines offered in the Arona and the Kamiq. Indeed, they're never intrusive, regardless of speed, and their stop-start systems operate smoothly around town.

Occupants are fairly well insulated from wind and road noise, although the T-Roc is more hushed at motorway speeds. There's also the odd thump and thud from the CX-30's rear suspension over bumps.

The brake pedal is easy to meter and the manual gearbox's gear lever has a really pleasant action. We’ve yet to try the optional automatic gearbox but, based on our experiences with the auto 'box in the Mazda CX-5, we suspect it’ll flick through the gears smoothly as you drive along.

"The CX-30 takes much longer than rivals to pick up speed, so you have to stir its gearlever more often. Thankfully, it has a delightfully tactile manual ’box that makes swapping cogs a pleasure, Will Nightingale, Reviews Editor

Driving overview

Strengths Comfortable and controlled ride; little wind and road noise; great manual gearbox

Weaknesses Engines need working hard; rivals ride even better

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

The supportive seats in the Mazda CX-30 give you a wide range of adjustments which, combined with the steering wheel adjustment, makes it very easy to get comfortable. Our only real demerits are that you don’t get adjustable lumbar support unless you go for one of the top trims and that the driving position is barely any loftier than that of the Mazda 3 on which it's based.

Still, in an age of ever more complicated touch-sensitive buttons for basic controls, the CX-30 is a breath of fresh air. It gives you good old-fashioned switches and knobs for the heating and stereo, allowing you to find all the controls by feel once you’ve familiarised yourself with where they are. That reduces the need to take your eyes off the road.

Part-digital dials are standard on all versions. They can’t show the breadth of information of the fully digital dashboards available from Peugeot, Skoda and VW, but they are crisp and easy to read. Handier still is the inclusion of a head-up display on every trim. It puts speed, sat-nav and speed-limit information in your line of sight.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

You’ll have no problems seeing out the front of the CX-30. And, while the front pillars are fairly thick, forward visibility and at junctions is generally good. The CX-30’s rear pillars are not as wide as on many of its rivals, but the small rear windows limit your view rearwards.

Rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera come as standard with the entry-level trim, while front parking sensors are added on the rest. If you go for top-spec Takumi trim, that camera is upgraded to a bird's eye view camera to give you an overview of your surroundings when manoeuvring, which works very well.

Every version has LED headlights with automatic high beam, while Exclusive-Line trim and above get clever adaptive LED headlights. They allow you to leave the main beam on, but tailor the shape of the beam so that it doesn’t dazzle other drivers.

Mazda CX-30 interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Unlike its rivals', the CX-30’s 10.3in infotainment touchscreen only works through touch when you’re at a standstill – a decision made to ensure you're not distracted while you’re driving. Instead, when you’re on the move, you control the system using a rotary controller that sits between the front seats. We much prefer that to the touchscreen-only system in the Seat Arona and many other rivals.

Better still, the system responds quickly to your inputs and comes with an impressive array of features, including DAB radio, Bluetooth and sat-nav, as well as wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Wireless phone-charging is standard from Centre-Line trim, while Exclusive-Line and above swap the impressive standard eight-speaker sound system for a more powerful 12-speaker Bose set-up – something music fans will appreciate.

Quality

We’re not going to beat around the bush: at the entry-level price of the CX-30, no other SUV comes close to its classy solidity. Indeed, you have to jump up a class to family SUVs including the BMW X1 and the Volvo XC40 to get a similar level of plushness.

The dashboard is slathered in squishy, expensive-looking materials, including lashings of leatherette in two colours. Add some classy chrome trim into the mix and it’s a fine place to be. Yes, there are hard plastics lower down, but the standards are still very high when you consider it next to most of the competition.

If you play with the switches, stalks and knobs, you’ll find they all click, turn and move with an expensive feel.

"Although the CX-30's instrument dials look conventional, the centre of this panel is actually a digital screen; it isn’t all that configurable, though," Neil Winn, Deputy Reviews Editor

Interior overview

Strengths Brilliant interior quality; good infotainment system; solid driving position

Weaknesses Driving position doesn’t feel like an SUV

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

Even very tall people will fit into the front of the Mazda CX-30 with room to spare. The seats go back a long way, head room is good and there’s plenty of elbow room.

Interior storage is decent, with two generous cupholders in front of the gearlever, a rubberised cubby in front of that with space for you to empty your pockets into, and decent door pockets with bottle holders.

Add in the large cubby under the central front armrest and there’s no shortage of places for all the things you'll need on a journey.

Rear space

Things don’t start well for the CX-30 in this regard because its small rear doors make it trickier to get in and out of the back than is ideal. We’ve yet to try fitting a bulky child seat in the back, but we can’t imagine it's particularly easy.

A long-legged passenger will have adequate room if they’re sitting behind a tall driver, with not much space to stretch out in, while the small windows bring a claustrophobic feel. Head room is ample for two adults sitting bolt upright, but the curve of the roof means it drops off dramatically to the sides. There’s also a floor hump for the middle passenger to contend with.

Overall, the Skoda Kamiq and the VW T-Roc are roomier and feel much airier.

Mazda CX-30 boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

As with most of its rivals in the small SUV class, the CX-30 doesn’t come with sliding or reclining rear seats and they split in the less versatile 60/40 configuration. The T-Roc comes with a handy ski hatch, but not the CX-30.

You can’t fold the bench from the boot, as you can in some rivals, and there’s no fold-flat passenger seat, either as standard or as an option, which would increase practicality.

Boot space

The CX-30 has a 430-litre boot, which is about the same size as the VW T-Roc's and has more space than you’ll find in the Seat Arona and the Skoda Kamiq. However, while the Kamiq and T-Roc took seven carry-on suitcases, the shape of the CX-30’s boot meant it took six. 

If boot space is important to you, the Ford Puma is better than all those rivals. Its cleverly designed and very deep boot took eight carry-on cases when we tried it.

Better news is that a variable-height boot floor that can act as a load separator is standard across the CX-30 range, while a powered tailgate is standard from Homura trim.

"The CX-30 is one of the best small SUVs for in-car storage, with a deep cubby under the armrest, two large cupholders and a handy tray for the contents of your pockets," Dan Jones, Reviewer

Practicality overview

Strengths Lots of front space; plenty of interior storage 

Weaknesses Small boot by SUV standards; rear seats aren’t versatile

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

As a cash purchase, the entry-level Mazda CX-30 will cost more than the entry-level Ford Puma, Seat Arona or Skoda Kamiq (although the CX-30 gets more standard kit) and less than the VW T-Roc. Slow depreciation means it’ll be competitive on PCP finance, though, especially if you take a look at our Mazda CX-30 deals.

Official emissions figures are pretty good, with all CX-30 engines undercutting the Karoq and XC40 for like-for-like average fuel economy. The e-Skyactiv X has lower emissions than the e-Skyactiv G, and is also more economical (the combined WLTP figures are 50.4mpg and 47.9mpg respectively). There's no plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or electric car option, though.

If you want low company car tax you should have a look at PHEV or electrified versions of the Kia Sportage and Volvo XC40. Despite being more expensive to buy outright, they’ll likely still cost you less in benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax.

Equipment, options and extras

There are five trim levels to choose from for the CX-30 and all are well-equipped. The Range kicks off with Prime-Line, which gets 16in alloy wheels, auto lights, cruise control, air conditioning, a head-up driver’s display, touchscreen infotainment and rear parking sensors.

Our recommendation is to step up one trim to Centre-Line, though. Doing so adds heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, climate control, keyless entry and front parking sensors.

Meanwhile, mid-spec Homura and above have leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers and a powered tailgate. However, they're too pricey to recommend, plus the bigger wheels they come with harm the ride.

Mazda CX-30 interior infotainment

Reliability

Mazda came 13th out of the 32 included car makers in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey – a fairly good showing that places it above Skoda, Seat and Volkswagen. Meanwhile, Kia and Volvo both finished higher up the order.

Every Mazda sold in the UK comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. That's a match for the warranty offered by Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen, but Hyundai, Kia and Toyota all offer five years or more.

Safety and security

In Euro NCAP safety tests, the CX-30 was found to provide outstanding protection to the driver and front-seat passenger and achieved an excellent score for adult occupant protection. That helped it towards receiving five stars – the organisation's top overall rating – but there were still some issues noted concerning whiplash injuries to children. 

The CX-30 comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assistance, a rear cross-traffic alert system (to warn of traffic in your path when reversing into a road) and a driver attention alert system as standard. 

If you pick a top-of-the-range trim level, you'll also get a front cross-traffic alert system, which uses side radar cameras to help you spot other cars approaching from the blind-spots to the front left and right of the car.

"Higher spec CX-30 models are very well equipped, with adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and a rear view camera as standard. Safety kit is comprehensive, too," Stuart Milne, Digital Editor

Costs overview

Strengths Slow depreciation; lots of standard kit; lower emissions that rivals

Weaknesses So-so warranty; expensive top trim levels

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FAQs

  • Although its engines aren’t the strongest at low revs, the CX-30 has a great interior, loads of standard equipment and efficient engines.

  • While it might not be classed as a luxury car, the CX-30’s interior is certainly one of the nicest at this price and is filled with loads of lovely materials.

  • If you like the look of the CX-30, you might want to consider other small SUVs such as the Ford Puma, the Seat Arona, the Skoda Kamiq and the VW T-Roc.

At a glance
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Save up to £2,309
Target Price from £23,800
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From £20,399
RRP price range £25,365 - £37,265
Number of trims (see all)5
Number of engines (see all)2
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol
MPG range across all versions 42.8 - 50.4
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,502 / £2,438
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £3,005 / £4,876
Available colours