CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – In a bid to quench the global – and not to forget, local – market’s thirst for crossovers, myriad manufacturers have set out to stop every existing gap (regardless how small) in their respective SUV/crossover portfolios. Case in point: the Volkswagen T-Roc. Mazda is no exception, with the Japanese firm now offering the CX-30. Having recently arrived on South African shores, the CX-30 slots in between its smaller and larger CX-badged siblings, the CX-3 and CX-5, in Mazda’s local SUV line-up.
Following a similar formula to that of the aforementioned crossover, the Mazda’s newcomer aims to take the underpinnings of a midsize hatchback (the Mazda3) add a few millimetres of ground clearance and SUV-like design cues to the equation, all without subtracting from the dynamism of the hatch on which it is based. Calculate. The (desired) result: a crossover adhering to its lifestyle-orientated prerequisites and offering a driving experience similar to its lower-riding, hatchback stablemate.
However, does this result equate to a few minuses? Recently, the local arm of the Japanese brand handed us the keys to the entry-level, Active variant. Let’s find out.
Dressed in Soul Red Crystal body hue, replete with Grey Metallic alloy wheels, the CX-30 in Active specification level cuts a dashing figure. The Kodo (“Soul of Motion”) design language endowing the latest Mazdas is arguably one of the most stunning works of exterior design in this ever-competitive segment. Flanking the large radiator grille, this entry-level derivative’s slim headlamps house automatic LED units (rain-sensing wipers are standard, too). Sited on opposite sides of the lower bumper are LED foglamps.
Perceived interior build quality is commendable. The cabin is neatly trimmed in myriad soft-touch materials, including on areas such as the facia and door cards. The seats of Active variants are upholstered in cloth and are comfortable enough. Dialling in the preferred driving position is a cinch. The driver’s pew offers height adjustment while the leather multifunction steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach, giving the driver a clear view of the instruments and standard head-up display.
In addition, the cabin features items such as Mazda’s latest infotainment system, cruise control and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The MZD Connect setup – displayed on the dashboard-mounted 8,8-inch screen – is a joy to operate thanks to the pleasingly tactile roundel sited on the centre console and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto screen-mirroring (enabled via USB) plus Bluetooth functionality. Music is relayed via an eight-speaker sound system. The Active model does, however, go without automatic climate control, keyless entry, park-distance sensors and a reverse-view camera. Owing to the latter two omissions and the Mazda’s tapered glasshouse, manoeuvring in tight spaces may require some consideration.
On-road, the Mazda CX-30 adheres to its brief as a more dynamically inclined crossover. The steering is well-weighted and the chassis feels agile. Although riding 175 mm from the tarmac, body lean is well contained when cornering. On a 400 km round trip, the Mazda performed just as well as in urban environments.
The 2,0-litre naturally aspirated motor and six-speed self-shifter work well together. The four-cylinder mill’s outputs of 121 kW and 213 N.m of torque, available from 6 000 r/min and 4 000 r/min respectively, did a commendable job at keeping the Mazda at a constant cruise at the national limit as well as when added pace was required for overtaking. The long-distance journey was ultimately a comfortable one. NVH levels are good; however, some engine noise permeated the cabin during and after completing overtaking manoeuvres as the six-speeder responded in a seemingly slow fashion to select a higher ratio when returning to the left lane.
Thanks to the increased ride height and 16-inch alloys’ thick rubber, CX-30 soaks up road imperfections admirably. And the Mazda was comfortable during brief stints driving on a (seemingly flattened) gravel road.
There’s a number of aspects to like about the CX-30. Mazda’s newcomer offers a driving experience nearly but not quite as dynamic as its hatchback counterpart, plus taller ride height (which South African buyers increasingly want in a vehicle), a solidly constructed cabin and stunningly good looks. The desired results seem to be there. However, there is one minus. The biggest drawback for the CX-30 comes in the shape of its larger sibling. The CX-30 sampled here is priced uncomfortably close to the similarly specified CX-5 in automatic guise. R100, that’s all that separates the two. And for R100, you get a more spacious cabin, which is equally well built, additional ground clearance and a more comfortable driving experience.
(Be sure to look out for a copy of the upcoming May 2021 issue of CAR magazine to find out how Mazda’s newcomer fares against its peers in a crossover comparative…)
Model: Mazda CX-30 2,0 Active AT
Price: R469 000
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Power: 121 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque: 213 N.m @ 4 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: n/a
Top speed: n/a
Fuel consumption: 6,60 L/100 km
CO2: 160 g/km
Service plan: 3-year/unlimited km