With the best will in the world you would not describe the Mazda CX-30 as an SUV, yet that is what it’s there for.
It took over from CX-3, a proper SUV, but Mazda took a different styling route making the 30 sleek and curvaceous and nothing like its rivals. A risky move? Hardly because it quickly became the company’s best seller, something the CX-3 failed to achieve.
Is the 30 an SUV fraud? It is basically a pumped up Mazda3 hatchback but with a slightly higher driving position. It doesn’t offer the commanding view of some of its rivals and the sloping roof line means passengers have to stoop to avoid banging a head.
But people like it and I think it is Mazda’s best car. That Maz3 connection has its advantages because here we have a car that is a lot of fun to drive which is the Mazda way. Handling and steering precision are spot on for guiding the car through twists and big turns while the six speed gearbox is as slick as they come. The suspension is firm so be prepared to feel a good old thump if you catch a pothole or get caught out by a speed hump.
If the styling is radical then so is the choice of engine. While the opposition have gone for smaller, turbo charged engines Mazda has taken a different route with a non aspirated 2-litre petrol with a kick of its own. The Skyactiv X engine has compression controlled spark ignition that brings on the power sooner than a conventional petrol but still not as quickly as a turbo.
It means more gear changing to get things moving but the response is reasonable and the engine purrs strongly right up to the red line.
What would help is a full hybrid system. Mazda has been slow on this front and it is only now that a hybrid engine is on stream with the new CX-60. The CX-30 has an electric motor which gives a small lift in torque while the key beneficiaries are lower emissions and better economy.
I clocked up nearly 700 miles with an average of 46mpg and got into the mid 50s on long runs which is pretty impressive for a car pumping out 183bhp and a better return than the 120bhp option.
Does it come up to scratch as a medium sized family SUV? More conventional rivals offer a little more boot space and a tad more legroom for back seat passengers so it comes down to individual needs.
Where CX-30 stands out is the build quality and layout of the cabin. Mazda’s mission was to break into the premium sector and achieved it years ago. Here is the perfect example with superb levels of trim across the board. The driver’s binnacle is partially digital and would benefit from going the whole hog as information is a bit scattered but it is largely neat and there is an excellent head up display.
The infotainment centre was upgraded last year and is the most user friendly I have come across and a lot of that is down to Mazda sticking with a rotary controller positioned between the front seats for selecting the menus. Use the 8.8in display as a touchscreen if you like but the little controller is far less fiddly and safer for the driver on the move.
The level of kit across the five model range is generous from entry level and once you reach GT Sport it is pamper time with a long list of goodies including keyless entry, heated front seats, powered driver seat adjustment, power tailgate and a 12 speaker Bose sound system, along with an extensive suite of safety features. The adaptive LED headlights give out a fantastic breadth of light.
Back to the question of whether CX-30 is a SUV fraud. Not really. It loses out on outright space against most rivals and in the end it comes down to whether you prefer style over outright practicality.
CX-30 GT Sport
£31,415 (starts £24,645)
0-62mph 8.3secs; 127mph
128g/km. 1st road tax £245
Insurance group 20
Boot: 422/1398 litres