How I found Mazda's CX-30 to be the crossover that looks, and drives, more like a hatchback
First drive Mazda CX-30
Mazda's new CX-30 small SUV is designed to fit in the range between the established CX-3 and CX-5. While it's compact, at just over 4m long, some interior dimensions match those of the larger CX-5.
It's the second of Mazda's new generation of cars, after the recently launched 3 hatch. This CX-30 is recognisably based on the 3. There were times when we had to look twice to tell them apart. The suspension is raised slightly but not as much as you'd expect. It certainly avoids the slab-sided look adopted by some other SUVs: it's really quite a looker.
There are no body creases to be seen. Instead, the designers favoured complex curves which reflect light, lending the car a certain dynamism.
We tested it on roads around Frankfurt and a mix of urban and main roads; the CX-30 was pleasant to drive.
It feels more like a hatchback than an SUV when on the move. Even when the roads got twistier, there was a linearity about the response. The cabin is well-built with the instruments clustered around the driver for visibility. An 8.8in screen takes care of navigation and other systems, controlled by a knob, centrally mounted between the seats.
We found the navigation to be excellent. Instead of being told to turn in 300m, the spoken instruction was to turn at the traffic lights. This was much more natural and easier to follow.
Other interior highlights include an intriguing finish for the gear lever surround: smoked, translucent plastic covering an engraved metal pattern, offering some subtle reflections of light. There's also a wing-shaped hood on top of the dashboard which gives the interior its own look.
Our test car was fitted with the 2.0- litre Skyactiv-G petrol engine. Fitted with a mild hybrid system, powered by a 24-volt battery mounted between the front wheels, the engine also has cylinder deactivation when cruising on part throttle.
It's tuned for economy, producing just 122PS. At times it struggled on hills and we had to change down to maintain progress. Hopefully the 1.8-litre diesel will be better in that respect.
We also tried out a new engine in a Mazda3, the intriguing Skyactiv-X, which is said to combine the best characteristics of both diesel and petrol engines.
Fuelled by petrol, it has a much higher compression ratio and fuel injection pressure - much like a diesel.
The result is officially described as Spark Plug Controlled Compression Ignition. The fuel is partially ignited with a spark plug and by the heat caused by compression.
It's significantly more powerful, at 180PS, than the standard two-litre petrol. I'm not sure how economical it will be in the real world though. Gentle driving produced a figure of 4.5 l/100km, an excellent result but as we pressed on into the hills, this rose to around 7.5 l/100km, not much better than I'd expect from a petrol.
We really won't know for sure until a more comprehensive test on more familiar roads. And this was a pre-production launch so there are refinements to come.
Expect to see the new CX-30 at the end of November with pricing €2,000 above the equivalent Mazda3 (from €26,495).
There will be a 4WD option; trim levels will be the same as the 3. The Skyactiv-X engine will follow; it will be on a range of Mazda models.