Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Just two engines available in the CX-30
  • Both are petrol, both use mild-hybrid tech 
  • Skyactiv-X expected to take most sales

Two engines are available from the car's launch in the UK in December 2019, comprising of two 2.0-litre petrols with different power outputs. 

The cheapest, badged Skyactiv-G, has 122hp, while the new Skyactiv-X engine has 180hp. Both feature mild-hybrid technology to recover wasted energy and improve efficiency overall, which can also offer a small performance boost when required..

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Either engine is available with a very sweet-shifting six-speed manual or a perfectly serviceable six-speed automatic. If you want four-wheel-drive, you'll need to pick the Skyactiv-X engine.

Back to back, the Skyactiv-G's 2.0-litre petrol feels noticeably weaker than the X. Getting up to speed on motorway slip roads, and overtaking, sounds strained and it's clear the engine's working hard to deliver the performance needed. In urban environments, it's adequate.

The Skyactiv-X is a 180hp 2.0-litre petrol engine that uses compression ignition technology, like a diesel, and claims to offer petrol-like performance with diesel-esque fuel efficiency. It's interesting, and goes against current trends. Mazda has ploughed resources into alternatives to turbocharging petrol engines because it thinks that these are the way to go for greater real-world fuel economy, but that doesn't mean the Skyactiv-X is 'simple'. It uses a small supercharger, and is arguably even more complicated - and less familiar to most mechanics - than rival's engines.

Mazda is so confident in the advantages of the Skyactiv-X engine that it's not offering a diesel engine with the CX-30 for the UK market.

The results are mixed. Headline power is 180hp, and it feels a good chunk quicker than the Skyactiv-G. It's more vocal than a traditional petrol engine on start up, with a slightly gruff sound, but once moving it's quieter than a diesel. Power delivery isn't as linear as many petrol engines (it's not a smooth acceleration), and to get full power you need to rev it out to around 6,000rpm. Enthusiastic drivers will appreciate this, but for regular chores and commutes it could become tiresome.

In fact, on a cross-country driving route, the Skyactiv-X didn't seem to offer an awful lot more performance than its slower counterpart. The mild-hybrid system is more noticeable in the slower car, and the little nudge of acceleration it gives when you put your foot down helps it to feel more responsive. 

Gearboxes

The six-speed manual has a quality feel, and very few people will have grumbles about it. Changes up and down are slick, and there's a nice mechanical feeling through your hands to let you know you've changed gears successfully.

The automatic gearbox is good too. Especially so with the Skyactiv-X engine; it's keen to change down a gear if you press the accelerator to the floor. It also has a Sport mode that changes down gears more readily, and holds it in gear for longer when you're accelerating. Keen drivers will be pleased to find that in manual mode, it will rev all the way to the rev limiter without interference.

How does it handle?

  • Good handling is a Mazda hallmark, even on its SUVs
  • CX-30 feels well-controlled but still comfy 
  • An excellent all-round performer

Being good to drive is pretty much a staple of Mazda’s whole brand identity, so it’s no surprise the CX-30 is up there as one of the best small crossovers in this regard.

A particular highlight is the ride, which is slightly softer than a comparable 3 hatchback, allowing the CX-30 to absorb a lot of lumps even if you go for the larger wheel sizes. A trade-off is that body roll is much more pronounced than the hatch it's based on. It's something you'd notice if you drove it back to back with the 3, but in isolation it's up there with the best SUVs for sure.

The steering is also another sweet spot; it's not unnecessarily light or lacking in precision. In fact, it's quite the opposite, giving you the impression that the CX-30 is almost like driving a normal hatchback. Mazda's G-Vectoring technology uses the brakes to help maintain grip and cornering speeds if you're in the mood for a bit of fun on a country road, too.

The brake pedal feels heavy and it requires a good shove to get it to stop. This is because of the mild-hybrid system that draws in energy from the brakes to put back into a 24v battery.