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.
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.
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 turbocharged petrol engines in the Seat Arona and the Skoda Kamiq. They have more guts at low to medium revs, which makes them more relaxing to drive.
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 10.6 seconds, 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 8.3 seconds (8.6 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.
The 1.5 TSI 150 engine in the Kamiq and any of the 1.0L EcoBoost Hybrid engines in the Ford Puma feel much stronger.
Suspension and ride comfort
The CX-30 has a slightly firm ride that remains settled most of the time but begins to thump over sharper potholes. Indeed, it’s not dissimilar to the Puma. Iff ride comfort is a priority, you might want to look at the VW T-Roc instead.
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. We’d advise sticking with one of the entry-level models with the smaller 16in alloy wheels.
The upside of the CX-30’s firmness is that it’s more controlled and there’s little of the float and wallow over undulating roads that you’ll feel in the softer Citroën C3 Aircross.
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 our handling benchmark in the small SUV class, the Puma, 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, it’s never intrusive, regardless of speed, and the stop-start system operates 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.
Strengths Comfortable and controlled ride; little wind and road noise; great manual gearbox
Weaknesses Engines need working hard; rivals ride better
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.
There's even a tilt adjustment for the front seat bases, although only the top two trims have adjustable lumbar support. It’ll disappoint anyone who wants an SUV-style raised driving position – it’s barely any loftier than the Mazda 3 it’s based on.
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, Seat and Skoda, 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 narrower front pillars would make seeing out at junctions easier, forward visibility is generally good. The CX-30’s rear pillars are not as wide as on many of its rivals, but the small rear windows and rear windscreen limit your view rearwards.
All versions get rear parking sensors, with front sensors and a rear-view camera standard on all but the entry-level trim. 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 but tailor the shape of the beam so that it doesn’t blind other drivers.
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.
Wireless phone-charging is standard from mid-spec Homura 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 practicality is important to you, the Ford Puma is better than all those rivals. Its clever 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 range, while a powered tailgate is standard from Homura.
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, you can expect to pay around the same for an entry-level Mazda CX-30 as you will for the equivalent Ford Puma, but more than for a Seat Arona or Skoda Kamiq. That is, unless you take a look at our CX-30 deals – you might be able to get yourself a big discount.
The VW T-Roc, meanwhile, will cost you around the same as a mid-spec CX-30 Homura, but is predicted to hold its value better. In fact, the CX-30 is predicted to lose its value pretty slowly, matching the Kamiq, so PCP finance rates should be competitive.
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 better for fuel economy (the combined WLTP figures are 50.4mpg and 47.9mpg). 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 options in the Kia Sportage and Volvo XC40 range. Despite being more expensive to buy outright, they’ll likely still cost you less in benefit-in-kind tax (BIK).
Equipment, options and extras
There are five trim levels to choose from for the CX-30 and all are well-equipped. The minimum standard is Prime-Line, with 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. Doing so adds heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, climate control, keyless entry and more parking aids.
Meanwhile, mid-spec Homura and above have leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, a powered tailgate and wireless phone-charging, but they're too pricey to recommend, plus the bigger wheels they come with harms the ride.
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.
Strengths Slow depreciation; lots of standard kit; lower emissions that rivals
Weaknesses So-so warranty; expensive top trim levels
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
|RRP price range||£25,350 - £37,250|
|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|