REVIEW | Forget about the market, Mazda's new CX-30 must first overcome sibling rivalry

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2021 Mazda CX-30
2021 Mazda CX-30

• The CX-30 is the latest addition to Mazda South Africa's portfolio.

• The crossover must convince the local buying public of its prowess against its siblings.

• Mazda fitted its 2.0-litre petrol engine under the CX-30's bonnet.

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The all-new Mazda CX-30 has to be one of the best vehicles we've ever driven from the Japanese automaker. Everything gels well to make it as comprehensively sound as possible - from its design to the interior layout to the engine and gearbox. During our tenure, the test team lauded it for being so profoundly different and refreshing, and we applaud Mazda for bringing such a youthful vehicle to market.

Of course, the MX-5 holds a very special place in our hearts, but this new vehicle takes a very close second.

However, while we enjoyed our time with the crossover, we looked at it more critically, especially against some of the other vehicles in Mazda's stable. In particular, the CX-5 SUV and Mazda3 sedan. These two vehicles are opposite to the CX-30, but to put the latest Mazda in a greater context, we can't ignore its position within Mazda South Africa's portfolio.

For this, we lined up the CX-5 2.0 Dynamic manual and Mazda3 2.0 Astina auto to go up against the CX-30 2.0 Dynamic - and it makes for interesting reading…

Mazda CX-30
2021 Mazda CX-30

Size and practicality

The CX-30 is not that big of a vehicle. In fact, it slots in almost perfectly between its siblings in terms of overall size. With a height, length and width of 1540mm x 4395mm x 1795mm, it sees to the dimensions of a crossover without bordering on where the CX-5 and Maza3 plays. The CX-5 (1680 x 4550 x 2115) and Mazda3 (1440 x 4660 x 1795) almost matches it, but each vehicle, luckily, stays true to itself.

Of the three, the CX-30 has the smallest boot. At 295 litres, it is trumped by both the CX-5 (442L) and Mazda3 (444L). Users can let the rear seats down, but you can do so in the other two vehicles, as well. And still, the CX-30 would trail them in terms of overall loading size. Five passengers can easily fit in all three vehicles without feeling that the space is too cramped. This is something Mazda has managed to get right every time over the years: making its cabins as comfortable as possible without hindering loading space.

If one must tow a trailer, each vehicle has an unbraked towing capacity of 600kg (CX-30), 600kg (Mazda3), and 750kg (CX-5).

The CX-30 does not have an apparent size or practical advantage over its siblings. If anything, the only thing that truly separates it is its design, which will probably swing the vote in its favour.

mazda,mazda 3,mazda3
2021 Mazda Mazda3

Engine and gearbox

The same engine powers all three vehicles: a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine that offers 121kW and 213Nm. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox (manual, in the CX-5's case), and drivers have the option to change gears via the paddles behind the steering wheel.

The CX-30 puts its power down positively and impresses with a sturdy feel and surety in terms of steering feedback. Given the lack of forced induction (turbo or supercharger), the engine must be worked slightly to get anything out of it. Drivers will also come to find that the gearbox is far more comfortable cogging over when it sees fit, which is not a bad thing in this regard.

The engine's mapping can be changed slightly by engaging 'Sport' mode, but it's a bit of overkill for a vehicle that's already getting the job done. During our test period, we averaged around 7.6-litres/100km. Mazda claims 6.6-litres/100km.

Also read:

REVIEW: Mazda's CX-5 is a bit long in the tooth, but still makes a relevant point

REVIEW: Mazda's 3 gets the basics done

The CX-30 and Mazda3 have 51-litre fuel tanks, but Mazda claims a 6.2-litres/100km fuel return for its sedan. As such, the theoretical range for each vehicle is 773km and 823km, respectively. The CX-5 has a claimed economy of 6.9-litres/100km and has a theoretical range of 812km on its 56L fuel tank.

Again the CX-30 2.0 Dynamic falls short in terms of claimed fuel return. Though owners are unlikely to drive their cars until the fuel tank is completely dry, it would not have been such a bad thing if Mazda tried to fit the CX-30 with the CX-5's bigger fuel tank. It would not have made such a massive difference to on-road dynamics.

Mazda CX-5
2021 Mazda CX-5

Features and tech

All three vehicles share Mazda's latest multimedia system that's Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible. Users can also connect their smartphones via Bluetooth, but only when the vehicle has come to a complete stop. This is a bit cumbersome when a passenger wants to connect their device. Interestingly, the CX-30 does not come with a CD player or AUX input, whereas the other two does. And the Mazda3 is the only one that features satellite navigation as standard.

The Mazda3 2.0 Astina is also the only one of the three that features adaptive headlights (LEDs) and a sunroof. Like the CX-30, it is fitted with leather seats.

All three are equipped with cruise control, keyless entry and -start, rear camera, and rain sensor wipers. The CX-5 has six airbags, whereas the CX-30 and Mazda3 have seven.

Mazda CX-30
2021 Mazda CX-30

Pricing and warranty

All three vehicles come standard with 'Mazda Care' that includes a 3-year or unlimited km service plan, a 3-year factory warranty, 3-year roadside assistance, and a 5-year corrosion warranty.

However, price-wise, the CX-30 is tagged higher than both its siblings. At R499 000, it tops the CX-5 2.0 Dynamic (R484 400) and Mazda3 Astina (R488 900).

Considering the CX-30 as a whole and against its siblings, it's hard to justify it at this price point. Fair enough, it is the newer of the three, but its lower-priced siblings are better sales propositions on the face of it. With that, we are not trying to deter prospective owners from considering the CX-30 as a purchasing option. We'd just like to encourage the buying public to make an informed decision as to where they'd be spending R500 000.

Janine Van der Post says: "If I had to judge the CX-30 on its entirety and pretended its bigger siblings did not exist, I'd put it down as a fantastic new crossover. Even a better alternative for those perhaps looking for a niche product in our oversaturated market. 

"Mazda knows how to put a good car together. The cabin is simple yet sophisticated. Less is more. As Charlen mentioned, they also know how to make the most of space, even when dimensions might be tighter on paper. It's a very comfortable car to drive, and if you're also a passenger upfront or in the back.

"The 2.0-litre engine is punchy, and its driving dynamics are surprisingly pleasant. It's solid on the road, with great throttle and steering responses.

"I wasn't too phased by the smaller luggage room. To be honest, I think it's more than sufficient. There's enough room for a little trip to the grocery store or a quick weekend away for a small family.

"Would I pick the larger CX-5? Yes, but only if it had to come down to boot space. The CX-30 puts up a good fight in the arena, even if it's up against its own siblings."

Mazda CX-30
2021 Mazda CX-30
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