Achieving mastery in the utility-vehicle segment is not necessarily defined by the automaker that sells the most, but by which one, or ones, best combine styling, spaciousness and driving competency.
By that measure, the current trio of Mazda models — the CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9 — are highly regarded.
Despite what the name implies, the new CX-30 plugs a noticeable gap between the 3 and the 5. As for the tale of the tape for a vehicle that should be called the CX-4: About 13 centimetres longer than the three and 15 centimetres shorter than the CX-5.
Why is it called the CX-30? Apparently because Mazda already makes a CX-4, although not for this market.
In terms of cargo capacity, aft of the front seats, the CX-30 offers only slightly greater room than the CX-3. That’s due in part to a sloped liftgate, which gives the newcomer a sportier silhouette but cuts into stowage room (with the split-folding rear seat up or lowered). This is big deal because one of the CX-3’s shortcomings — and therefore one of the reasons to move up to the CX-30 — is cargo room.
Fortunately, the rear door is relatively wide and the cargo floor is quite low (unlike in the CX-3) to accommodate bulkier objects.
When viewed head-on, the CX-30’s visually appealing grille and elongated hood — part of the Kodo design language — appear to be lifted straight from the CX-5.
As you would expect, the CX-30’s passenger volume falls between that of the 3 and 5. The control panel and standard 23-centimetre touch-screen — appearing partially sunken into the dashboard — is also similar to the CX-5’s unit.
Elsewhere, Mazda focused on a quiet cabin. Along with added insulation, the sound system’s low-frequency speakers, which are normally placed in the lower front-door panels, are moved upward and closer to the pull handles. The automaker claims this means more bass plus a reduction in outside noise leaking in through the speaker grilles.
The base CX-30 engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that produces 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet. Both engines are connected to six-speed automatic transmissions.
Front-wheel-drive is standard for both engines, and all-wheel-drive is optional for both.
Fuel consumption for the FWD 2.0 is rated at 8.9 l/100 km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.1 combined.
A new AWD feature is the Off-Road mode that assists traction on rough/uneven/loose surfaces.
Pricing in Canada starts at $26,000, including destination charges, for the base CX-30 GX. That’s $3,000 higher than the CX-3’s base, but the CX-30 includes extra-cost content such as an 22.3-centimetre screen, heated front seats, LED headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels and eight-speaker audio. Also standard is blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The midgrade GS comes with the 2.5-liter engine plus dual-zone climate control, 18-inch wheels and a heated steering wheel. There’s also a much larger grouping of key active-safety tech, including adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, inattentive-driver alert and emergency braking.
The top-line GT trim level comes with all-wheel-drive plus a 12-speaker Bose-brand audio package, heated front seats with power adjustment (including lumbar support and memory settings) for the driver.
You also get leather seat inserts, power moonroof, power liftgate, adaptive (left-right pivoting) headlights and head-up display that projects speed and other information onto the windshield.
Note than the GT’s 2.5-litre engine includes cylinder deactivation that shuts down two cylinders during light cruising to save fuel.
For the 2020 model year, every CX-30 (as does every new Mazda in Canada) comes with an unlimited-kilometre warranty with three years of comprehensive coverage (including roadside assistance), five-years of powertrain and seven years of anti-perforation (rust-through) coverage.
As buyers continue to gravitate to utility vehicles, the CX-30 is a smart play on Mazda’s part and could be a smart buy for anyone seeking flair and finesse in a useful package.
What you should know: 2020 Mazda CX-30
Type: Front- / all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle
Engine (h.p.): 2.0-litre DOHC I-4 (155); 2.5-litre DOHC I-4 (186)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Market position: The CX-30 gives Mazda four utility vehicles to cover a wide range of size and price. It fills a critical spot in the lineup between the CX-3 and the CX-5.
Points: Slightly less practical (but better looking) than the CX-5, but a nice option to the CX-3. • Interior remains spacious for people and cargo, despite the smallish dimensions. • Stout optional engine is the same one installed in the heavier CX-5, so it should perform well with less heft to haul around.
• Well priced considering the lengthy list of base content.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (std.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.); drowsy-driver alert (opt.)
L/100 km (city/hwy) 8.9/7.1(2.0, FWD); Base price (incl. destination) $26,000
Base price: $26,100
Smallest of Honda’s utility model provides a versatile space for cargo stowage.
Base price: $27,600
Tall, stubby model uses a modest 138-h.p. engine. Replacement due for 2021.
Base price: $23,350
New second-generation wagon is roomy, stylish and affordable, but no AWD.
If you’re interested in new or used vehicles, be sure to visit TodaysDrive.com to find your dream car today!
-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media