Road tests

New Mazda CX-30 e-Skyactiv X 2021 review

Is the mild-hybrid Mazda CX-30 e-Skyactiv SUV the pick of the range? We find out…


While some drivers will still prefer the easy nature of a turbocharged petrol engine, Mazda’s upgraded mild-hybrid 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, 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, the firm’s naturally aspirated Skyactiv X engine shuns it. Instead, it uses clever compression-controlled spark ignition to combine some of the best aspects of a diesel engine with all the advantages of a high-revving petrol.

The tech was introduced back in 2019 in the 3 family hatchback, and now the brand’s engineers have added a mild-hybrid system to the 2.0-litre Skyactiv X. It gets a new name, too – e-Skyactiv X – and is now offered in the CX-30 crossover.

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 boosting claimed efficiency.

Power is up to 184bhp, with a drop in CO2 emissions of between five and 11g/km depending on the car’s spec, while fuel efficiency is up to 2.5mpg better. These reductions are especially welcome to company car drivers looking to save on monthly Benefit-in-Kind payments.

Compared with the small, turbocharged petrol engines found in rivals, it takes a few miles to adjust to the normally aspirated e-Skyactiv X engine, which doesn’t have a surge of torque from 1,500rpm or so.

Instead, the driver gets a responsive and linear engine, but one that needs working a bit harder and is slightly more vocal. Its maximum torque of 240Nm is only 10Nm less than in the SEAT Ateca’s 1.5 TSI EVO engine, but it doesn’t arrive until 4,000rpm.

If you want an SUV that’s effortless to drive, you may not like the CX-30 e-Skyactiv X. 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.

The rev-hungry engine doesn’t feel out of kilter with the CX-30’s chassis, either. Its character feels much closer to the Mazda 3 hatchback’s than that of the CX-5 SUV.

Just as in rivals 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. The Mazda’s steering is light, but feels natural, with just enough information reaching your fingertips to telegraph the road conditions.

The CX-30 excels in keeping the driver engaged. On 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 attitude is reflected in the rear, where passengers approaching six-feet tall are likely to find their knees brushing the front seat. Headroom is tight too, while a large C-pillar and small windows combine with a rather upright seatrest to mean long trips are likely to feel a bit claustrophobic.

The boot takes up to 422 litres (430 without the Bose subwoofer in our test car), which is a decent step up from the 334 litres of the Mazda 3, but some way behind the 510-litre boot of the Ateca, with its more upright, boxy bodywork.

It’s also worth noting the cargo figure includes an 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 cup-holders are ahead of the gear lever, though, because this is likely to be an awkward stretch when driving.

A simple wheel on the centre console controls the 8.8-inch infotainment display. It has minimal menus with clear graphics along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although you’ll still need a cable plugged in because 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.

Model:Mazda CX-30 2.0 186PS 2WD GT Sport Tech
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl petrol MHEV
Transmission:Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:8.3 seconds
Top speed:127mph
On saleNow

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