New Mazda CX-30 2021 review
Can the combination of stylish looks and a petrol mild-hybrid engine turn the Mazda CX-30 into a class winner?
While some drivers will still prefer the easy nature of a turbocharged petrol engine, Mazda's upgraded mild-hybrid e-SkyActiv X powertrain has its perks. Linear and responsive, it rewards drivers who want to use its sweet manual gearbox to enjoy its surprisingly wide power band. The CX-30 has poised handling to match it, but this is a smaller SUV with less rear passenger and boot space than some rivals, which holds it back from the best in the class.
Mazda is a manufacturer that likes to do things differently, so while virtually all of its rivals have turned to turbocharging, Mazda's innovative SkyActiv X technology shuns it. Instead, it uses clever compression-controlled spark ignition to borrow some of the best aspects of a diesel engine, with all the advantages of a high-revving petrol.
Not content to stop there, the brand’s engineers have now added mild-hybrid technology and updated the 2.0-litre engine, badged 'e-SkyActiv X'. The addition of a starter generator, modified pistons, revised intake valve timing and a lower compression ratio has added 6bhp and 16Nm of torque, while also bolstering efficiency.
Power is up to 184bhp, but there's a reduction in CO2 emissions of between five and 11g/km depending on the car's spec, while fuel efficiency is up to 2.5mpg better. Seemingly small changes, but reductions especially welcome to company car drivers looking to save on monthly Benefit-in-Kind payments.
Mazda's attention to detail also shines through in the mild-hybrid system's integration, because painstaking software tuning has been carried out to ensure the torque injections of the mild-hybrid hardware are imperceptible for the driver.
Compared with the plethora of small, turbocharged petrol engines found in rivals such as the 1.5-litre turbo SEAT Ateca, it takes a few miles to adjust to the normally aspirated e-SkyActiv X engine, which doesn't have a surge of torque to ride from 1,500rpm or so.
Instead, the driver is rewarded with a responsive and linear engine, but one which needs working a bit harder and is a slightly more vocal as a result. Its maximum torque of 240Nm is now only 10Nm less than the Ateca's 1.5 TSI EVO engine offers, but it doesn't arrive until 4,000rpm.
If you simply want an SUV that's effortless to drive, you may find the CX-30 e-SkyActiv X a bit frustrating as a result. However, if you're a keen driver, you'll delight in changing down a gear or two with the sweet six-speed manual transmission to get back into the power band, and winding the engine out as you get up to speed. Doing so is all part of the fun, because the gearbox only requires a flick of the wrist and feels incredibly accurate.
Rather like the Cupra Formentor, it would be easy to forget you aren't driving a sporty hatchback, were it not for the raised seating position. Its steering is light, but feels linear and natural, with just enough information reaching your fingertips to telegraph the road conditions.
The CX-30 excels in keeping the driver engaged, even at normal speeds. Fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, the ride is firm enough to contain body roll, without upsetting passengers, and only manhole covers and deep potholes send a thump through the car's structure.
Mazda’s driver-centric approach is reflected in the rear, where passenger's approaching six-feet tall are likely to find their knees brushing the seat in front. Head room is also tight, and a large C-pillar and small windows, combined with a rather upright seatrest, mean long journeys are likely to feel a bit claustrophobic.
The boot measures up to 422 litres (430 litres without the Bose subwoofer fitted in our test car), which is a decent step up from the 334 litres of the Mazda3, but some way behind the 510-litre boot of the SEAT Ateca, with its more upright, boxy bodywork.
It's also worth noting the cargo figure includes a storage area under a removable boot floor, which creates a smooth loading lip when left in place. There's some well thought-out storage dotted around the interior, including a wide cubby between the front seats and large door bins. It's a shame the front cupholders are ahead of the gear lever, though, as this is likely to prove a bit of an awkward stretch while driving.
A simple rotary wheel on the central console can be used to control the 8.8-inch infotainment display. It has a minimal menu system with clear graphics along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although you'll still need a cable plugged in as these aren't yet wireless.
The e-SkyActiv X engine is available in SE-L Lux, Sport Lux, GT Sport and GT Sport Tech trim levels, starting from £26,305. The range-topping GT Sport Tech costs from £30,505, with features including a heated steering wheel, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, leather seat upholstery and a 360-degree camera view. There's also active safety tech to help avoid collisions, including when changing lanes on the motorway and when reversing.
Mazda CX-30 2.0 186ps 2WD GT Sport Tech
2.0-litre 4cyl petrol MHEV
Six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive