Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre engine produces 120bhp and is our pick. There’s a more powerful Skyactiv-X version that makes 178bhp despite having lower CO2 emissions, but it’s more expensive and, while it feels a bit quicker, you really have to work it to feel the difference. Neither of the CX-30’s engines can match the low-rev flexibility of the turbocharged engines of its rivals, such as the Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca.
The optional six-speed automatic gearbox is fairly responsive, particularly in Sport mode, in which it responds to kickdown demands quite promptly. Because the CX-30’s mild hybrid system gives you a little boost when setting off from a standstill, automatic CX-30s aren’t plagued by the annoying delay you get when you press the accelerator in a Range Rover Evoque.
Suspension and ride comfort
Scarred urban roads cause the CX-30 to fidget; every pothole sends a thud through your seat. Even at speed on the motorway, you’ll still feel road imperfections as they filter up to your posterior.
The upside is that there’s none of the float or wallow that induces nausea on fast, undulating roads. However, there’s no doubt that the Skoda Karoq is better at cushioning you from bumps. As is our usual advice, avoiding the larger alloy wheels takes the edge off some of the Mazda’s bumpiness.
Although the steering doesn't feel particularly quick off-centre, it’s precise and has a reassuring weight that builds progressively as you increase your cornering speed. The CX-30 proves happy to scythe through twists and turns, with minimal body lean, and initially feels more of a driver's car than a Nissan Qashqai.
However, push harder and you’ll find that it runs out of front-wheel grip earlier than a Skoda Karoq, let alone our handling benchmark in this class, the Seat Ateca. This is especially true in wet conditions.
Noise and vibration
The Mazda’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines are generally smoother and quieter than the three-cylinder engines offered in the Karoq and Ateca, although the Skyactiv-G is better than the sometimes coarse Skyactiv-X.
Occupants are well insulated from wind and road noise, although you’ll hear the odd thump and thud from the rear suspension over bumps. Even so, the CX-30 provides a quiet environment in which to rack up the miles.
The main controls, such as the clutch, accelerator and gearlever are set in such a way that it’s easy to drive the CX-30 smoothly in traffic. The manual gearbox has a short action and a delightfully mechanical feel that makes you want to use it – handy, given how hard the engines need to be worked. If you’d prefer an automatic, the Mazda’s is smooth and obedient.