New Mazda CX-30 vs MG ZS EV vs Skoda Karoq

Sitting midway between small and large SUVs in size, Mazda’s new CX-30 promises to be well suited to family duties. Let’s see if it’s a match for the MG ZS EV and Skoda Karoq...

New Mazda CX-30 vs MG ZS EV vs Skoda Karoq

The contenders

Mazda CX-30 2.0 Skyactiv-G 122 SE-L Lux

  • List price - £24,195
  • Target Price - £23,236

Keen pricing and an inviting interior make the CX-30 a tempting choice.

MG ZS EV Exclusive

  • List price - £30,495*
  • Target Price - £27,995*

(*before £3500 government grant)

An affordable price after grant and discount puts this fully electric SUV in contention.

Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI SE L

  • List price - £26,200
  • Target Price - £23,305

Comfy and highly practical, our favourite sub-£30,000 family SUV will be a tough nut to crack.

It would have seemed like something that belonged in science fiction just a few years ago, but we’ve now reached the point where you shouldn’t just be looking at petrol and diesel models when choosing your next car, but those that use electric power, too.

Don’t think this only applies if you’re spending big money, either. For this test, we’ve lined up three family SUVs – two petrols and one electric – all of which can be bought for less than £25,000.

The newcomers are the Mazda CX-30, in entry-level 2.0-litre petrol form, and the fully electric MG ZS EV, with an official range of 163 miles and rapid charging compatibility to try to ensure it will fit into most people’s lives.

However, both have to beat the reigning champ at this end of the market, the Skoda Karoq, which is here in mid-range SE L trim and with a punchy turbocharged 1.5-litre engine – our favourite. We know the Karoq offers a pleasant drive and a spacious, comfortable interior, but is it still your best option?

Mazda CX-30 driving

On the road

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Thanks to the near-instant punch of its electric motor and the fact that there are no gearchanges to punctuate the acceleration, the ZS is the quickest of our trio by a fair margin. This is the case whether you’re pulling away from a standstill or looking to pick up speed on the move. The only downside is that it’s quite easy to spin the front wheels in the wet when attempting to exit a busy junction quickly.

As for our petrol contenders, these represent two surprisingly different ways to skin a cat. The CX-30 has the bigger engine, but the Karoq is alone in being turbocharged, so it actually produces more power and torque. True, there isn’t much between them over the benchmark 0-60mph sprint, but ask the CX-30 to pull from low revs in a high gear and it takes much longer to pick up speed, so you end up having to stir its gearlever more often.

Thankfully, the CX-30 has a delightfully tactile manual ’box that makes swapping cogs a pleasure. The Karoq’s is also fine, being light and easy to use, but it’s ultimately less satisfying.

MG ZS EV driving

Compensation comes in the form of steering that responds more crisply than the CX-30’s; that means it’s easier to place the Karoq exactly where you want it, whether you’re in town or scything through a series of corners on a country road. In the CX-30, it feels like the first few degrees of steering wheel movement don’t actually do anything. And while the ZS’s steering is pleasant enough around town, it doesn’t weight up enough at higher speeds and feels rather vague.

You’re also aware of the ZS’s hefty battery when cornering, something that isn’t helped by the car’s relatively soft suspension. It’s the least agile of our trio and suffers from the most body lean, although there are at least no nasty handling vices and it grips reasonably well.

The Karoq also leans a bit, but it has the most grip and this is spread evenly front to rear, so while it isn’t exactly a laugh a minute, it’s tidy and secure. By contrast, the CX-30 runs out of grip at the front a bit too early for our liking; that’s a shame, because up to that point it feels the most composed through corners.

Skoda Karoq driving

This composure is thanks to firm suspension, but the downside is that the CX-30 has the least comfortable ride. It picks up on even minor surface imperfections and deals with rolling country roads in the most abrupt fashion. The ZS is much more relaxing most of the time, although sudden dips and bumps can cause it to pitch and wallow unpleasantly. So, it’s the Karoq that strikes the best balance between bump absorption and control.

What’s less impressive is the Karoq’s refinement, because it has the loudest engine and suffers the most from road noise at high speeds. With no engine noise, the ZS is a bit quieter than the Karoq overall, although you do hear some whining from the electric motor and plenty of wind whistle. That leaves the CX-30 as the quietest, and by a big margin.

As for braking, it’s tricky to compare distances, because it was raining on and off during our day at the test track. What we can say is that the CX-30 and Karoq pulled up with little drama, whereas the ZS nose-dived heavily, causing a definite increase in heart rate.