The Best Small SUV Comes At A Price
Crossovers and SUVs are plentiful these days, not just on the road, but in terms of choice as well. Mazda, for instance, has the CX-3, CX-5, CX-8, and CX-9. And then in late 2019, the Japanese automaker from Hiroshima launched into the Philippine market the all-new 2020 Mazda CX-30. The name may look out of place, but its role is simple to explain–to fill in the narrow gap between the tiny CX-3 and compact CX-5. Okay, so both the CX-3 and CX-30 are classified as subcompact crossover SUVs, but in a world where almost anything with body cladding sells these days, filling in a tiny gap in the market just makes sense. Oh, and in case you’re wondering why this car isn’t called the CX-4, well it’s because this model exists as a joint venture project by FAW Mazda in China.
The 2020 Mazda CX-30 is the first crossover SUV in Mazda’s next-generation vehicle range that currently includes the all-new Mazda 3, and that reflects with its minimalist styling. Just like in the Mazda 3 on which it shares the same platform, there’s a clear lack of character lines or any unnecessary styling elements. The next-generation Kodo design language is characterized by the simple purity of its curves. As a result, the CX-30 looks distinctive out on the open road. It’s a breath of fresh air when compared to its competitors whose bodies seem to have been carved out by a butcher rather than by an artisan who works with clay models. Being the AWD variant means it gets 18-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, LED taillights, and cool LED turn signals that have a “fade” effect rather than turning off abruptly.
Mazda’s interiors in recent years have set the benchmark for quality and luxury, and the all-new CX-30 is no exception. With a mix of synthetic and genuine leather wrapping the seats, doors, and even the dashboard, this interior isn’t even comparable to something like a Honda HR-V or Subaru XV. Rather, the CX-30’s interior puts it more in line with the Lexus UX, Audi Q3, or BMW X1. This is reflected by just how soft and plush the interior surfaces are compared to its rivals. Mazda’s designers also paid attention to how the buttons and switches feel. After all, it’s through these buttons where drivers physically interact with the vehicle.
The satisfying tactile feel provided by the switches and buttons makes the second-generation Mazda Connect infotainment system a joy to use. I’ve always preferred rotary knob controllers over touch screens, and the same applies for me with this infotainment system. The tactile feedback of the knob enables you to focus more on driving thanks to muscle memory. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all CX-30 variants, while this 12-speaker Bose sound system is only available in the AWD variants. The 8-speaker Mazda Harmonics sound system already sounds amazing, but the Bose sound system is just simply on another level.
Also noteworthy is the 7-inch digital gauge cluster. Among vehicles that blend analog and digital instruments, Mazda has the best execution yet, at least aesthetically. Mazda worked hard on matching the white glow from the digital screen and the analog gauges so that it would have a uniform look during both day and night time. Additionally, the screen does not wash out under harsh lighting, which is a weakness in numerous other brands that try to blend analog and digital gauges. I’m also a fan of Mazda’s windshield-projected head-up display (HUD) that projects driving information at your line of sight. However, I do wish that both the HUD and digital gauges displayed entertainment and telephone information too rather than just driving information.
Moving on towards the back seats, and space isn’t exactly what you would call generous. Still, I’m willing to forgive it since the rear seats are supremely comfortable and supportive. Thigh and back support are excellent, and while I won’t be able to do any “de-kwatro,” traveling on long distances still shouldn’t be a problem due to the sheer comfort of the seats. Trunk space is also pretty good, though not the class leader. At 430 liters, it puts it on the upper end of the subcompact crossover SUV class. Oh, and AWD variants of the CX-30 have a power liftgate–the only vehicle in its class to have one.
Under the hood of the 2020 Mazda CX-30 is a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G gasoline engine that produces 154 hp at 6,000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Sounds familiar? It’s the exact same powertrain that’s found in the Mazda 3. But because this is an all-wheel drive (AWD) crossover, this powertrain has to deal with a slightly heavier body. Is it felt on the road? Well not for the most part.
With a 6-speed automatic transmission rather than a CVT, the CX-30 feels peppier off the line compared to its competitors that use the belt- or chain-driven transmission. There’s simply no replacing the direct and sporty feel that an actual geared transmission provides. Under most circumstances, the weight penalty isn’t felt. Overtaking on provincial roads or expressways is still quite easy thanks in part to having the ability to use the paddle shifters. But under hard acceleration, the CX-30 is slightly slower to gain speed than the lighter front-wheel drive (FWD) Mazda 3.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous encounters with the Mazda 3, the Japanese automaker’s latest direction meant that the steering’s on-center response has been calibrated for a smoother driving experience. There’s less of a need to make constant steering corrections when driving on long straight expressways. But in order to achieve this, the steering’s on-center response is slower than past Mazdas. Does this make the CX-30 a boring Mazda to drive? No, not at all.
Turn the wheel even more, and the steering response becomes faster and more agile. What Mazda’s engineers have done is combine both straight-line stability along with the needed agility when going through winding roads. Combined with the suspension that deals pretty well with the car’s roll and pitching motions, and you have a crossover SUV that’s fun to drive when going through winding roads yet supremely relaxing on long-distance trips. It certainly helps that road and wind noise are minimized, making it one of the most refined crossover SUVs in the class.
Further making the CX-30 a relaxing crossover to drive is the reassurance provided by the comprehensive list of i-Activsense suite of advanced driver-assist systems. This includes automatic emergency braking (marketed as Smart Brake Support), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, along with front and rear cross traffic alert. It is also fitted with probably the sharpest 360-degree camera system I’ve seen in a sub-P2 million car along with mirrors that tilt when you’re reversing.
Despite having a heavier body and an AWD system, fuel economy isn’t too negatively affected. I was able to achieve 10.9 km/l with this small SUV over a week’s worth of use, which is pretty good for something that has AWD.
With a starting price of P1,490,000, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 is positioned at the high-end of the subcompact SUV segment. This AWD Sport variant with all the bells and whistles is even more expensive at P1,990,000. Heck, this variant even costs as much as the bigger, more powerful 2020 CX-5 2.5 AWD Sport. Is it worth it? For most people, probably not. The sensible bunch would head straight towards the bigger CX-5. But for the minority who wants the absolute best subcompact SUV out there, the AWD variants of the 2020 Mazda CX-30 truly fulfills that. It will also be this same minority of people who will most likely consider the CX-30 AWD Sport a more affordable alternative to something like a Lexus UX.
With Mazda’s continued pursuit of bringing its brand upmarket, this crossover SUV is the Japanese automaker’s most ambitious step yet to reaching that goal. After all, offering the best driving experience often doesn’t come cheap.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.