SAN DIEGO, Calif. — You might not think there is much of a gap, size wise, between the Mazda CX-3 and CX-5. But, Mazda has done extensive research among existing customers and folks who have done their shopping elsewhere. The CX-30 is a result of that information — the belief there is room for a vehicle bridging the sub-compact and compact segments.
The obvious name would have been CX-4 but that moniker is not available, being in use elsewhere in the global auto industry.
Mazda’s research showed the principal reason for rejecting smaller cute utes like the CX-3, Honda HR-V and Hyundai Kona was universal — “price too high.” Delving beyond the expected top response, they found the next biggest negative to be “vehicle too small.”
Designed at Mazda’s European design studio in Frankfurt, by a team led by a new father, the CX-30 is 12 cm longer than the CX-3. The wheelbase is 8.4 cm longer and that extra space has been allocated to the rear seat and trunk areas.
The top features found to positively influence the purchase of a CX-3, HR-V, Kona, Subaru Crosstrek and Nissan Qashqai were all-wheel drive and “value for money.” AWD is available on all CX-30 trim levels and standard on the top one. Prices run from $23,950 for an FWD version of the entry model to $33,850 at the top. The answer to the value issue was to equip the CX-30 with a raft of standard equipment.
The least expensive GX trim level comes with advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear-view camera, alloy wheels, LED headlights, power mirrors, 22-cm-wide display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, eight-speaker audio system, wireless connectivity with SMS text messaging function, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, push button start, cruise control, electronic parking brake, tilt and telescope steering wheel, heated front seats and power windows and locks. That’s the ”base” model.
The research revealed more than a desire for a larger vehicle. It highlighted a number of “want” features Mazda was able to bake into the CX-30 during development. Among these: a power lift tailgate, driver seat memory, factory-installed navigation, and blind spot monitoring. As Mazda continues to move into “premium” territory these are either standard or available on the CX-30 depending on trim level. They are either not available at all, or only on the highest trim level for the competition.
The interior reflects a level of craftsmanship not associate at this price point. There are a couple of unique colour choices to brighten things up — rich brown and navy blue. There is an electronic owner’s manual within the infotainment system, finally! The opening for the cargo area is wider and lower than most.
The same methodical attention to detail that puts Mazda products at the head of their respective classes in terms of driving dynamics appears here. A series of engineering and technical presentations during the CX-30’s North American debut here generated enough notes to fill a book. A day on drive from here to Palm Desert proved their effectiveness.
With the knowledge that 80 per cent of collisions and 65 per cent of near collisions involve driver distraction, the infotainment system has been mounted high on the dash, responds to voice commands and where necessary, provides direct access to features at a single touch. The console-mounted controller is easily reached and intuitive in nature. Engineers worked with psychologists to ensure a positive, pleasant, consistent experience with everything you touch or feel from volume knob to window switches.
LED headlights are standard; all interior lighting is of the same hue. It is common for there to be three or more colours in the instrumentation alone.
Extensive work on NVH has resulted in a very quiet interior with both road and wind noise kept at bay. But it is the optional Bose audio system that impressed the most. Mazda and Bose engineers worked in conjunction on this project. It is more, waaay more than adding speakers and power. The location and design of the speaker enclosures and the development of a new system of locating and reproducing recordings has to be experienced to be believed, especially in a vehicle at this price.
Studies of the way leg muscles react has resulted in a highly responsive brake pedal with a firm feel at the top of travel and the ability to brake smoothly. The seats are all new, designed to eliminate slouching and keep the driver in the best position for controlling the wheel and pedals. Major suspension components like control arms, and minor ones like bushings have been tweaked to improve steering response, reduce body roll and head toss.
The AWD system utilizes a torque coupling at the rear instead of the traditional centre differential reduces the fuel mileage penalty of AWD systems and results in quicker response.
All of this combines to make the CX-30 a sweetheart to drive, especially if the road develops the bends. Steering and brake inputs result in instant and linear response. Coddled by a supple suspension, and smooth ride, you are surprised at how flat it remains in the corners.
The GX comes with a 2.0-litre four producing 155 horsepower. The GS and GT both use a 2.5-litre 186-horsepower four. FWD is standard on the GS and GX. AWD is available across the board. I only had access to the 2.5-litre version and power is adequate, if not exciting.
Developed to meet the needs and wants of an active young family. The CX-30 fills a need most didn’t realize existed.
Model: 2020 Mazda CX-30 GT AWD
Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, 186-horsepower, 186 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: six-speed automatic
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.9 / 7.7
Length: 4,395 mm
Width: 2,040 mm
Wheelbase: 2,652 mm
Price: $23,950 base, $30,550 as tested, plus freight
Competition: Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Mitsubishi RVR, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota C-HR.
Standard equipment on the GT trim, in addition to that listed above for the GX trim: 18-inch alloy wheels, radar-based cruise control with stop-and-go function, front and rear smart city brake support, rear park sensors, colour heads-up display, pedestrian detection, forward obstruction warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, heated mirrors, dual zone automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, power liftgate, automatic levelling adaptive front lighting, 12-speaker Bose premium audio system, satellite radio, navigation system, HomeLink wireless control system, leather trimmed upholstery
Options on test vehicle: luxury package (leatherette upholstery, 10-way power driver’s seat, with memory function, power glass moonroof, auto-dimming rear-view mirror linked to seat memory function, reverse tilt-down function for exterior mirrors), $1,900, polymetal grey metallic paint, $200