In-depth reviews

Mazda CX-30 SUV - Engines, drive & performance

The Mazda CX-30's SUV proportions don't blunt the driving experience

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Mazda CX-30 is based on the Mazda3 hatchback, a car we've already described as having a great chassis. Happily, the extra height of the CX-30 SUV's roof hasn't affected it too badly either, so it's still fun to drive. The manual gearbox is excellent, and there's a lovely cohesion to the feel of the pedals and steering that makes it intuitive to drive.

Drive along a twisty road and there's just a little body lean, which lets you know when the car is reaching the edge of its comfort zone. The trade-off for the body control is a slightly firm ride over small imperfections, although bigger bumps are soaked up well. Along with the Ford Puma and Cupra Formentor, it's one of the most fun SUVs for keen drivers.

Unfortunately, the entry-level petrol is a weak point of an otherwise compelling package. Without a turbocharger it lacks the punch of most rivals, which is doubly frustrating when the rest of the CX-30 is so accomplished. Even the more potent SkyActiv-X engine suffers from a lack of low-down pull, but it's faster than the entry-level petrol when you drive it hard.

Mazda CX-30 petrol engines

The entry-level e-SkyActiv-G petrol is a relatively large 2.0-litre engine but it's almost unique in the class because it doesn’t have a turbo. This means it lacks the plentiful low-down torque found in most rivals, instead requiring higher revs to make decent progress. In most situations it just doesn't feel that quick, getting from rest to 62mph in 11.2 seconds with an automatic gearbox fitted. In hilly areas this also has a tendency to hang on to gears, creating a bit of a din for passengers. Mazda's snappy six-speed manual gearbox is far better, and would be our pick.

The e-SkyActiv-X engine is a much better companion for the CX-30, with 184bhp and 240Nm of torque from its clever new design, sending power to either the front or all four wheels, depending on which model you pick. However, while its 8.3-second 0-62mph acceleration is a match for most rivals, you still have to be prepared to work this normally aspirated engine quite hard. Compared with turbocharged models, its maximum torque arrives roughly twice as high up the rev range, so you may need to change down a few gears before overtaking or blasting up a steep hill.

Both petrol engines are also aided slightly by Mazda's mild-hybrid technology, conserving energy gathered as the car slows down and using it to assist the engine under acceleration. You'll barely detect it working as you drive but the e-Skyactiv-X engine does feel more willing to pick up speed from low revs than the engine it replaces.

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