In Singapore, Mazda’s CX-30 small SUV is accomplished enough to compete with the Germans and not just the Japanese/Korean mainstream gang
The new Mazda CX-30 may be the same size as the uber-popular Honda HR-V, but that’s not its main rival.
Mazda’s evolution into a ‘premium version of itself’ has taken off in the past five years.
Take the CX-9 sport utility vehicle (SUV) for example. A large, Japanese seven-seat SUV would compete against the Mitsubishi Outlander, or the Kia Sorento, right? But it has a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine, plenty of premium features, it’s not cheap-cheap, and is best seen as something like a BMW X5 for far less cash.
Likewise, the current Mazda 3 was the first East Asian sedan to pack comprehensive active safety and a mild hybrid system. As seen in our reviews of the hatchback and sedan in range-topping Astina trim, as well as the mid-range Elegance model, it raises the bar real high on what Singaporean car buyers should expect from a S$90k-S$110k mainstream sedan, and it’s made the new Toyota Corolla Altis’s job a lot harder.
What applies to the CX-9 and Mazda 3 also applies to the CX-30, but with its capabilities and price position, it blurs the line between mainstream and luxury even more.
To begin with, it’s a car in a very hot segment, one that’s more emotionally-driven than a sedan at the very least. While it is an SUV, it isn’t as tall and upright as most soft-roaders, being almost six centimeters shorter than a HR-V in comparison, Mazda’s going for the sleeker, coupe-SUV image here as you can see below, it has a sleeker roofline than the larger CX-5.
Otherwise it looks like a shrunken CX-5 and we’re by now thoroughly familiar with Mazda’s ability to create good-looking cars with all the right curves that look very different from anything else on the road.
Check out our video review above to have a good look at the Mazda CX-30 outside and in, as well as how it drives.
The luxury aspect is bolstered by the engine size. Like the CX-3, the CX-30’s only engine choice for now is a 2.0-litre inline four – but keep in mind the gulf between Cat A and B COEs is quite small now.
It delivers 165hp to the front wheels, and gives the CX-30 acceleration on par with smaller German turbo SUVs (eg the BMW X1 sDrive18i). The difference here is that this is a non-turbo engine, so has a Lexus-like smoothness to its power delivery, and no CVT gearbox that adds a layer of unresponsive sludge when you want to get running.
Mazda’s modern drivetrains are quite efficient by nature, even its 2.5-litre units, and this 2.0 can easily match lesser East Asian engines when driven smoothly – we hit 5.0L/100km on the highway and 7.0+/100km in town without too much effort.
Unlike the Mazda 3, the CX-30 lacks a mild hybrid system. But the lack of the M-Hybrid system may make it even more convincing to local buyers, who tend to look at hybrids askance and for good reason, unless a significant price advantage is to be had.
Buyers do have to contend with almost double the road tax of a 1.5-litre, though: S$1,210 per year for the CX-30 2.0-litre, versus S$684 for a 1.5-litre engine. If you’re a keen driver, or hop up to Malaysia often, then we think the added power is worth it.
That’s because the CX-30 also handles well. The ‘Mazda 3 on stilts’ analogy works again because it’s similarly well-behaved when pushed and eager for corners, as a Mazda should be. It does have the same bugbear as the Mazda 3 though, a rather stiff and busy ride, though it feels a little more plush and less harshly damped.
Inside, the CX-30 is very similar to the Mazda 3, and that’s a good thing. A totally new, minimalist interior which has a very natural operating flow and feels premium to view, touch, and use.
Natural flow with a premium feel also sums up the infotainment system: The same 8.8-inch full colour unit on the Mazda 3, and controlled solely by rotary dial.
We personally detest touchscreens, so this is balm to us, but its snappy, clear graphics, full navigation and infotainment features (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) rank it amongst the best systems around, bar none. It even has voice commands that (mostly) work. Our only complaint is it nannies the user – you can’t input a navigation destination unless you’re in P with the handbrake on.
The model driven here is the top-range Luxury variant, which can be identified by the brown trim elements in the dash and door panels, while the Classic and Elegance models have blue. Buyers have a choice of white, blue, or black leather, the test car’s soft, white leather was a nice change from the usual dark interior of a mainstream SUV.
The CX-30 also delivers on the SUV promise of increased room: The rear can hold two adults comfortably, with decent legroom and headroom. The latter thanks to cut-outs for passengers’ heads, despite the car not being as tall as other Japanese SUVs. Boot space is much larger than a small hatchbacks, at 430-litres, though smaller than the Honda HR-V’s cavernous 470-litres, but the Mazda gains points again with an electric tailgate.
Note that the Luxury version has 422-litres because of the underfloor subwoofer that’s part of the ear-tickling 12-speaker Bose premium sound system.
That brings us to the question of which variant to get – Classic, Elegance, or Luxury?
The Classic, at S$107,888 with COE, still isn’t quite as inexpensive as its rivals but we think the overall experience is still good enough to warrant the premium, and the 8.8-inch infotainment system is still there, plus Mazda’s Classic Acoustics sound system is pretty good.
But it’s only a $5k step-up to Elegance and that is hard to ignore. Essentially the split between the Luxury and Elegance models is the Bose sound system, powered driver’s seat, and most importantly, the active safety systems.
While the Elegance retains the blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, it misses out on everything else, namely adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking, lane departure warning and lane keeping, driver monitoring/attention alert. Other safety features it lacks are adaptive LED headlights and the 360-degree parking camera.
Normally we’d advise buyers to go straight for the Luxury model as a result, it has all the things that add up to a premium experience and a big accolade – being one of the safest cars Euro NCAP has tested. In our experience, the average Singaporean buyer may not want to shell out S$10k for more safety, but it’s not like the Elegance skimps on safety with its seven airbags and BLIS. Another point towards the Elegance:
The Elegance model does have 16-inch wheels, like the Classic, and that could translate into a comfier overall ride, and it also retains the Luxury model’s all-important sunroof.
You can’t go wrong with either model though, the CX-30 is a terrifically competent package, and given the slight price premium you pay over mainstream East Asian rivals, it’s perhaps better to think of it as a mainstream alternative to a BMW X1 or Lexus UX.
The absence of a premium badge being a major factor is something only you can decide on, but we think the car’s target audience isn’t looking at affordability as the prime directive here, rather those who want more for their money will get it with the Continental-rivalling CX-30.
Mazda CX-30 Luxury
|Engine||1,998cc, inline 4|
|Power||165hp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||213Nm at 4000rpm|
|VES Band / CO2||B / 150g/km|
|Price||S$122,800 with COE|