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Mazda CX-30 long-term test

2019 onwards (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 3.8 out of 53.8

Written by Jake Groves Published: 10 August 2022 Updated: 10 August 2022

Living with a Mazda CX-30:

Update 1: Welcome

It looks like I’ve inflated the Mazda 3! My previous Soul Red-coloured hatchback has made way for something a little more…hench.

Living with a Mazda CX-30

This won’t be the first CX-badged Mazda I’ve run before either – I briefly looked after the smaller long-term CX-3 back in 2016 and quickly became a big fan of that. This CX-30 isn’t quite as good-looking in my opinion, especially at the rear and with all the body-cladding hiding the paintwork down the side, but it does look very modern, well-proportioned and a little like the Lexus UX in shape.

When I first compared the CX-30 to the 3 hatchback, the two were so similar I wasn’t really enamoured by this SUV. This might sound like a bad thing, but I can see the flipside being great for those who don’t want to feel alienated if they’re moving away from their existing car with a lower seating position. If your current hatchback serves you well and you simply need an easier entry point, the CX-30 won’t mess up the formula too much.

Which Mazda CX-30 do we have?

We have ourselves the top-of-the-range GT Sport Tech model – the one badged with all the fancy buzzwords, basically – coupled with the identical Skyactiv-X engine and six-speed manual gearbox fitted to my previous 3 long-termer.

Mazda CX-30 GT Spor Tech rear

This means the 180hp 2.0-litre petrol engine with long gearing and fuel efficiency-boosting SPCCI tech. It might be the most powerful engine on offer, but it’s also very sensible.

This time, though, we have all-wheel drive, so it’ll be good to see how fuel economy and performance compare to our lighter, two-wheel drive predecessor.

What options do we have?

Our GT Sport Tech is jam-packed with a comprehensive level of kit. As a result, the Polymetal Grey metallic paint, which curiously looks a little blue, is the only option we’ve gone for. We’d already argue that the next grade down, named GT Sport, is as high as you’d ever need to treat yourself to, as our Tech model adds a handful of extra safety equipment, including adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera, and front and rear cross traffic alert – things we can easily live without.

Mazda CX-30 GT Spor Tech side

As with the 3 hatchback, every model is so well equipped it’s not so easy to differentiate between the entry-level SE L from the top-spec one we have here. The smaller 16-inch wheels fitted to the former are the main giveaway, but I quite like the navy blue coloured highlights dotted around the cabin on models fitted with cloth seats. Our leather interior substitutes these with brown highlights instead.

First impressions

The interior is already brighter and less monotone than my previous 3 hatchback, thanks to the lighter-coloured roof lining, sunroof and aforementioned brown accents. So I’m a fan already.

Mazda CX-30 GT Sport Tech interior

I’d be tempted by the lighter stone interior but there’s very little to complain about in here.

The higher seating position also helps you feel less claustrophobic, plus, the refinement is noticeably better than the 3, with less vibration and kickback from the steering wheel and a smoother engine.

As two-car garages go, Mazda may have you covered pretty well with this practical family car for the week and the sporty MX-5 for weekends…

Mazda CX-30 meets MX-5 R-Sport 2020

Update 2: is all-wheel drive worth getting?

We find out with the 100th Anniversary edition…

One benefit of choosing the most powerful SkyActiv-X engine is the ability to option it with all-wheel drive, but is it worth having? Our long termer is fitted with it and, at the time of writing, our AWD GT Sport Tech model costs £2,200 more than the regular front-wheel drive one.

Long term Mazda CX-30 meets 100th Anniversary Edition

We’re yet to really push it, but under normal driving conditions, we’ve never struggled for traction, with an absence of wheelspin, or even a judder from the tyres in wet weather conditions.

That said, our two-wheel drive predecessor in the shape of the Mazda 3 didn’t have any issues either, so, what’s it for? Light off-roading? Or is it just overkill?

It’s not like you’re going to look at the CX-30 and consider what the approach and departure angles are before venturing off for some green-laning.

Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary Edition vs standard model

The only time it would have been properly used so far would’ve been at Goodwood Speed Week, when we had to park in a wet, grassy and muddy field, where the CX-30 shrugged it off without any fuss.

Time to compare the two…

Since Mazda has been celebrating its centenary this year with a range of 100th Anniversary Special Editions, it was the perfect time to book one of the CX-30s in to see how it compared with our long-termer- especially since these are two wheel drive.

All special editions come with Snowflake White pearlescent paint (which you can have any CX-30), and subtle exterior badging, but it’s the interior that stands out from the rest, with burgundy red leather seats and mats, along with white armrests on the doors and front centre console.

Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary Edition interior

The burgundy mats certainly appeal to the inner Honda fanboy in me as they remind me of the DC5 Integra and JDM version of the EP3 Civic, even if they’re very different cars to the CX-30 here!

And it’s two-wheel drive?

Yes, and at £31,695 it’s also cheaper than our long-termer. Plus, as it’s based on the high-spec GT Sport, it comes with all the equipment you’ll ever want.

On the road, there are a few differences to note, as it feels lighter on its feet with a smoother ride quality as well. The steering is also lighter, with less kickback as you go over mid-corner bumps on the road, making this even more effortless to drive.

Mazda CX-30 AWD handling

On the contrary, our long termer may feel a little heavier, but also stiffer, helping it feel reassuringly planted for those who prefer that higher sense of stability on the road. I personally prefer the weightier steering on my long-termer, too.

The 100th Anniversary model is the sweeter car to drive, though. It’s by no means quick, but the engine is a little more eager to pick up from low revs, and if you combine this with the lighter weight on board, it feels that bit more fluid as it flows from bend to bend.

Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary Edition headrest

Arguably, if you can live with that interior, the 100th Anniversary is the one to get, bringing a touch of individuality to the range. But with only 100 coming to the UK, you’ll have to look harder to find one.

In the case of ‘two-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive?’, you’d be perfectly fine with the former for 95% of situations.

Update 3: not your average practicality test

As we head into the depths of winter, I’m writing this wondering where on earth our summer has gone.

This is chiefly because of the brighter, sun-lit pictures you see of my long-termer here, as it gracefully demonstrates how practical it can be as a camera tracking car – you can sense the Vitamin D production of our videographer, Elliot, just by looking at him.

Mazda CX-30 as a camera tracking car

Since lockdown lifted back in the summer, my CX-30 finally got to stretch its legs properly and went straight to work.

We were back out filming, shooting Tim Pollard’s long-term Bentley Continental GT, so the CX-30 seemed the perfect size to fit our Automotive Videographer in the boot for him to do tracking shots – it’s big enough to fit a human in the boot, but not too big or unwieldy to drive down narrower country lanes.

We had to fold the rear seats down so he could try filming while lying on his front, but being 6ft 1in tall, we had to slide the front passenger seat forward several inches as well. So, if you ever think about camping in the back of one of these, or need to fit a wardrobe in here, it will be a squeeze – plus, the backrests don’t fold down flat.

Mazda CX-30 boot space

Otherwise, the CX-30 was up to the task – in terms of space, that is. The biggest challenge, in fact, was down to a safety system, as it evidently didn’t want us driving around with the boot open.

As a result, the powered tailgate would close in on him from time to time. But, considering how unconventional our task was, it’s not something we’ll ever complain about.

When they say ‘one’s misery is another’s entertainment’ though, this was a phrase that applied here. My CX-30 may have been trying to obstruct Elliot’s video shots in the interest of safety, but this was becoming increasingly entertaining for me, as the driver, as it simply looked like my long-termer was trying to eat him.

Is the Mazda CX-30 good for videographers?

I’d love to see what the view was like from the Bentley behind us – if Elliot didn’t look like he was being consumed, at the very least, it would look like the slowest, most tragic kidnapping.

Still, he got his footage in the end. He won’t want to use my long-termer again come the next time we film, but at least we know you won’t be driving with your tailgate open for long, should you ever leave it open by mistake.

The only other observation he made was the heat coming from the boot floor when accelerating. Again, this isn’t something you’d normally notice unless you were stuck in the boot, but on a hot summer’s day, it might be something to take note as you carry frozen or refrigerated food around.

Fiddly folding boot floor

As of summer 2020, SE-Lux models and above come with a folding boot floor – otherwise known as the Smart Cargo System. It’s divided into three segments, allowing you to fold it in various ways to partition the width of the boot, or you can simply leave it flat as a normal false floor to store items underneath.

Mazda Smart Cargo System

It’s a good idea, but works with varying degrees of success – the picture above shows objects on either side of the partition, with a segment stood vertically in the centre, but if you only have one item of luggage to place here, the board will topple over. The main problem is the partition won’t stay stood upright on its own accord for very long.

Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary folding boot floor - Smart Cargo System

It needs more support, and when the partition itself is laid flat as a false floor, it doesn’t seem sturdy enough for heavier items, as it tends to bend in the middle.

Also, since I have the Bose system underneath this boot floor, it renders the partition system useless, as placing anything below means it sits on all the hardware. You can place the parcel shelf here and tuck it out the way, but you can’t necessarily use that as a platform either, as it’s not flat. The 100th Anniversary pictured above had no such issue, however, so it is a specific problem for mine.

Mazda CX-30 folding boot floor cargo system

The partition that Volvo fit on the V90 with a hinged segment of the boot floor works far better, even if that is fixed. So, while the Smart Cargo System is a nice idea, if I was looking at this as a retrofit or an optional extra, I’d most likely hold out for Smart Cargo System Version 2.0.

Update 4: Service time

As our CX-30 reached its first birthday, the trip computer would display a ‘Service Soon’ message in the middle dial every time we’d start the car.

Mazda CX-30 Service Soon message

With service intervals of 12 months or 12,500 miles, depending on which comes first, we’ve ended up coinciding with the former, as minimal journeys during lockdown meant we were far short of reaching the latter figure.

Thankfully, despite the pandemic, the process of getting a service arranged was nice and straightforward. We rang up our local dealer, Donalds Mazda, and booked the nearest available time slot with a courtesy car available. The quoted price of £193 for an oil change and filter, inspection of tyres and a clean of the outside, is pretty much on a par with the first service for my own Ford Fiesta ST.

Mazda CX-30 service at Donalds Mazda

A few days later, I dropped the car off first thing in the morning and left in a Soul Red Mazda 2. By lunchtime, our long termer was ready for collection – it couldn’t have been easier.

It’s safe to say our Mazda didn’t feel much different afterwards, which is hardly surprising, considering it’s barely covered 5,000 miles in total, but it’s good to treat it to some TLC considering it’s spent a lot of time stood still throughout 2020.

Spotting a silver Mazda CX-30 for the first time

I did see a CX-30 in silver for the first time while I was there, though, which I was a big fan of – the paintwork contrasts well with all the grey body-cladding and looked pleasingly crisp in the darker winter light. If you want a brighter colour without having to clean it as often as a white one, this could be a great choice.

Update 5: long distance comfort

As the time to return the keys of our CX-30 draws near, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about this Mazda’s greatest strength – comfort.

Yes, due to the pandemic, we’ve all covered far fewer miles than we normally would – frequent airport runs literally came to a halt overnight – but when the opportunity to cover a large chunk of the country did arise, I never once winced at the thought of doing so.

Mazda CX-30 2020 long-distance comfort

Whether it’s to drive right across to Wales, or to head down south to Windsor or Goodwood SpeedWeek, this refined motorway cruiser has made it so easy thanks to its hushed cabin, comfortable seats and forgiving ride quality.

There’s very little engine or wind noise when you settle down to motorway cruising speeds – you can hear a distant flutter by the door mirrors, but again, this is chiefly because everything else is so well isolated. Road noise could be better, despite the 55-profile tyres, but refinement is still above average compared to some full-size SUVs.

The punchy Bose sound system really doesn’t have much noise to fight against and while the surround sound function on a Volvo system is far more immersive, this is good enough.

Mazda CX-30 2020 Bose sound system

In fact, the loudest thing you (or your music), might have to contend with is the ventilation system on a cold day, when it’s trying to warm you up quickly on a high-speed fan setting.

The driver’s seat has plenty of adjustable lumbar support to help with my awful back posture and the padding is firm enough to remain supportive – likewise the suspension, which isn’t doughy enough to let this small SUV wallow about too much, despite the added height over my previous Mazda 3 hatch.

The head-up display is clear and not too bright – likewise, the dials which display enough data without you needing to frequently sift through menus on the trip computer.

There are little features that make life easier, too, such as the tinting driver’s door mirror that reduces glare from headlights behind you. Plus, the heated seats and steering wheel that switch on automatically to take the chill off the leather as soon as you start the car on colder days.

Rear seat space is also better than the Mazda 3, with a slightly higher base for a better view out and to reduce those with longer legs feeling like they’re bunched up against the seat in front.

Mazda CX-30 2020 rear seat space

Plus, not only are the windows bigger than the 3 hatchback (which suffers from that rising window line), there’s an additional rear side one, helping reduce that claustrophobic sensation and improving rear visibility. The other big contributor is that the roof line doesn’t drape down so much, which also benefits access.

What’s not so good?

The lacklustre SkyActiv-X engine isn’t particularly comforting when you need to gather pace in a hurry, but it’s mainly the safety systems that disturb the peace.

Mazda CX-30 2020 2.0 SkyActiv-X engine

In heavy rain, the front radar sensor gets covered up with water, which then throws a warning message onto the trip computer advising you to drive with additional caution. It’s quite disconcerting at first, as it chimes a warning sound each time as well, but it doesn’t actually do anything except cause a momentary distraction.

Also, as with the 3 hatchback, the adaptive cruise control is quite abrupt in its responses to other traffic, which isn’t a comforting experience either, when it slams on the brakes each time. The only perk of lockdown with quieter traffic means this hasn’t happened too often, but it is slightly baffling how the safety systems seem to be more disruptive than providing relief.

Update 6: Farewell

It’s time to say farewell to what I called my Lockdown Long-termer. If this was a Caterham, or something wholly impractical, the low mileage and dialled-down use on the roads during the pandemic could’ve perhaps been ideal.

Living with a Mazda CX-30 - polymetal grey

Our CX-30, however, felt like it was made for pre-pandemic life and could have kept running around the country. Our time on the roads may have been short, but sweet.

So what’s the verdict on the CX-30, having lived with it?

I will happily concede that, when I first compared the CX-30 to my long-term Mazda 3, I struggled to see what the point of it was. But, over time, I noticed all the little differences have resulted in a noticeably more comfortable car to live with.

Living with a Mazda CX-30 - side

This ranges from its easier access, to the brighter cabin and additional levels of refinement.

As a vehicle to cover long distances in, there’s little to complain with the CX-30. As much as I praised my previous Audi Q3 for the same trait, the CX-30 does a similar job without being so bulky.

Living with a Mazda CX-30 - interior

The seats and suspension that are just on the right side of firm reminds me a little of one of my other favourite cars to cover long-distances in, the Volkswagen Passat – and that’s high praise. The Mazda’s adaptive cruise control could be better calibrated to react gently to traffic and the windscreen wipers are still too slow for heavy rain, when set to maximum speed, but this Mazda is otherwise reassuringly stable and relaxing to drive. With a little more sound deadening this would polish off the CX-30’s breadth of abilities.

Is it cheap to fuel?

In regards to fuel economy, we’ve seen roughly between 390-420 miles on a full tank. The trip computer indicated 41.7mpg by the end, with our real-world calculations showing 38.9mpg – a figure that had only started dipping from the 40s due to the amount of short trips during lockdown – plus, the amount of time spent sat stationary waiting for the CX-30 to demist in the cold winter months.

Living with a Mazda CX-30 - rear light

Speaking of which, as someone used to Ford’s heated front windscreens, the CX-30 seems to takes an age to demist when just relying on the ventilation system.

Would we have changed anything about our spec?

The all-wheel drive system isn’t essential and we’d like to see ambient lighting fitted to jazz-up the cabin at night, as well as a secondary boot light, but that’s about it. We’d love to sample the 2.5-litre turbocharged engine offered in America, as the 2.0-litre SkyActiv-X we get in the UK doesn’t excel in any area. Which is a shame, given how clever it is, as it’s not as sprightly as the performance figures suggest, or as economical as you’d hope, given the fuel-saving tech.

But that’s it… I’ve enjoyed living with the CX-30 and it’s a very well-rounded car that could supplement a weekend MX-5. It’s practical enough for families, refined and isn’t cluttered with too much tech.

What I’m dreading the most with my next long termer is having to get acquainted with a touchscreen infotainment system again! I much prefer Mazda’s system controlled by the rotary dial – it might take a while to get used to, especially if you’re well rehearsed with touchscreens, but this is far more precise and much less distracting to use on the move.

Long-term test: Mazda CX-30
Mileage 5,298
Real-world economy 38.9mpg, 89% of official
Official economy / MPP 43.5mpg / 6.4
Joined Parkers August 2020