2020 Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X Review: Practical Magic

The Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X puts a near magical spin on the heart of Mazda’s cool, small crossover


Mazda’s CX-30 is one of the near-perfect cars of this generation. It’s a small crossover, making it very family-friendly and in line with current buyers’ trends in Singapore.

It’s also very much part of Mazda’s design philosophy of building driver-centric vehicles based on its ‘Jinba-ittai’ ideal, which means ‘horse and rider as one’ in Japanese. The idea is that a car should feel like an extension of the driver’s body, and it’s one of the real differences that set any Mazda apart from the other Japanese cars today.

While the 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated engine in the regular car is more than adequate for the job, here’s a very special variant of the car, the CX-30 Skyactiv-X 100th Anniversary.   

Take a quick walk around it and you’ll find special edition 100th Anniversary badging all over the car. The wheel hubs carry the 100th anniversary logo, the red leather seats have it embossed on the headrests, and even the floor mats have a special badge all proclaiming this as the car that commemorates Mazda’s century as a company.

Besides the badges, it looks very much like the regular CX-30. But if you’re clued-in about engineering, however, the little Skyactiv-X badge on the rear should intrigue you plenty.

It means the CX-30 is powered by Mazda’s very unique 2.0-litre, four-cylinder high-compression engine. Through a combination of engineering smarts and high compression cylinders, the engine works mostly via compression ignition to burn fuel, which makes it like a diesel engine. Except it runs on petrol.

The ignition system is called SPCCI, which stands for Spark Controlled Compression Ignition. There’s a spark plug in each cylinder, but from what we understand it doesn’t need to fire up at low revs and is there only to assist the combustion process at mid and high revs.

The Skyactiv-X engine is the first of its kind, and the result is a more efficient engine that’s admirably economical in daily use. 177 horsepower from a 2.0-litre engine without the use of a turbo or supercharger, before the addition of the hybrid assist, is quite an achievement even by  today’s tech standards.

It’s also paired with Mazda’s M Hybrid system, which makes the car a mild hybrid. A 24-volt lithium-ion battery is charged through regenerative braking, and powers the car’s electrical systems to take some load off the engine. It can also generate up to 4.8kW of power to assist the engine during acceleration from a standstill. 

Mazda is no stranger to innovation, and the Japanese car maker has a long history of launching cars with special engines going back to the Cosmo in 1965, which older ones reading this may remember from the Ultraman TV Series from the same time period, and the original RX-7 coupe with the Wankel rotary engine later on. 

Eurokars Mazda informed us that only a “very limited number” of the CX-30 Skyactiv-X variants are available in Singapore. In our local context, it’s really a car for engineering enthusiasts as it does cost a pretty big amount over the base model CX-30. Yes you do get the 100th Anniversary special badging and all, but all up it costs more than $20,000 more.

Find out what the regular non-X CX-30 is like in our video review!

Still, the CX-30 is really a very well-built car that can give the usual luxury brands a good run for their money. The cabin features plenty of soft-touch surfaces and the leather seats are of very high quality.

It’s also very well equipped with active safety aids and standard equipment. It comes standard with a head-up display system, integrated satellite navigation and adaptive cruise control, plus blind-spot warning, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems. 

Much of that is the stuff of premium luxury cars, but there’s an intangible appeal to the CX-30’s interior as well. It’s not just another appliance car, but as far from one as possible in this segment. It’s actually a proper driver’s car. Mazda’s human-centric engineering is very evident and there’s a compact, focused section around the driver and a spacious interior everywhere else for the four passengers that you can carry.

It’s the kind of car that somehow feels bigger inside than it looks from the outside, and that quality includes a large boot with 422 litres of space. 

It might have the practicality of a crossover, but the CX-30 almost drives like a sports car, which, we discovered with our experience, is very much how the whole current Mazda lineup feels regardless of their size and shape.

The Skyactiv-X engine feeds a very smooth six-speed automatic transmission with power delivered to the front wheels. It feels especially punchy in the lower half of its operating range, almost like it has a supercharger attached to it. It actually has one, but rather than the traditional use for cramming more air into the engine for power it’s used to increase the air to fuel ratio, allowing for a leaner, more economical burn.

In low speed urban traffic it’s a pretty quick car for darting into gaps in traffic and feels faster than its 0 to 100km/h time of 9.1 seconds would suggest. 

Here are the choicest small crossover/SUVs in Singapore now – and the CX-30 is part of that list

Show the CX-30 some corners and it does become a right barrel of fun too. It’s got G-Vectoring Control Plus, which is Mazda’s version of torque vectoring control to help keep the car planted and accurate through curves, and like the best such systems you never really feel it doing its thing. It is exceptionally accurate when you turn the steering wheel, with the car’s change of direction feeling surgically precise.

Still, at $148,888 with Certificate Of Entitlement, the car is $24,000 more than the standard CX-30. You do get a very groundbreaking engine, but it’s hidden under the bonnet and to spend that much extra on something you can’t really see, and only the driver can feel, takes some consideration to do. You do need to think of this as a luxury-level crossover, which it really is, given the quality of the interior.

Well the CX-30 also has another plus, as it has just won the Japan Automobile Hall of Fame (JAHFA) Car Design of the Year, a new prize in this year’s Car of the Year Japan awards. It’s also worth noting that Mazda has actually pushed Toyota from the top spot of the Consumer Reports Auto Reliability in the US. These are seriously engineered and seriously reliable cars, so if you appreciate that, it’s a car worth a drive in. 

Mazda CX-30 Skyactiv-X 100th Anniversary Edition

Engine1,998cc, in-line 4
Power177hp at 6000rpm
Torque224Nm at 3000rpm
Gearbox6-speed automatic
0-100km/h9.1 seconds
Top Speed204km/h
VES Band / CO2 B / 133g/km
Fuel Efficiency5.8L/100km
AgentEurokars Mazda
PriceS$148,888 with COE
VerdictThe CX-30 is already a very complete car, and the Skyactiv-X engine variant is a lot to pay for, but it is really the first one of its kind

about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.