Tested: Mazda’s all-new SUV to battle Hyundai Kona

NOT too big and not too small, the CX-30 is the just-right new SUV from those masters of moderation at Mazda. When it arrives in Australia early next year, this compact good-looker will slip gracefully into the gap in Mazda's range between the small CX-3 and medium CX-5.

The CX-30 has the latest generation technologies developed by the Japanese brand under the Skyactiv label, meaning its engines, transmissions and chassis components are shared with the recently launched Mazda3. The CX-30 also adopts its very effective noise-killing body construction features.

The Mazda CX-30 drives unlike any other SUV.
The Mazda CX-30 drives unlike any other SUV.

Mazda will launch front and all-wheel drive versions of the CX-30. As with the 3, base and middle grades will come with a Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre four-cylinder and top models get a 2.5-litre.

Taller and with more ground clearance than the 3, the CX-30 has less distance between the front and rear axles and it's shorter overall than even the hatchback version of Mazda's popular small car.

The CX-30 has been carefully scaled to appeal to SUV buyers who find the CX-3 a little too little and the CX-5 a bit too big. Still, it matches both in some important measures.

For example, its front seats are roomily spaced as far apart as the CX-5 but its turning circle is the same as the CX-3.

The CX-30 is more suited to four adult passengers.
The CX-30 is more suited to four adult passengers.

The exterior combines curvy pressed-metal panels up top with hefty pieces of plastic cladding down low for a look Mazda describes as "Sleek and Bold".

Inside, the aim is for class and quality throughout. Everything is good to look at, well made and easy to use.

Front seat comfort and adjustability are outstanding and the driving position pretty much ideal. Mazda designed the height of the seat for easy access by "people of all nationalities"; taller Australians, Americans and Europeans, and shorter Asians - access is very easy.

There may be five seat belts but Mazda designed the interior to be comfortable for four adults.

In the spacious rear seat - even if the backrest is fairly upright - there's ample headroom for those up to about 185cm tall and plenty of space for feet beneath the front seats. The cargo compartment is reasonably roomy at about 400L.

The CX-30 sits in between the CX-3 and CX-5.
The CX-30 sits in between the CX-3 and CX-5.

As well as being pretty and practical, the CX-30 also has driving personality. Its centre of gravity is naturally higher than the Mazda 3 but the SUV's handling is equally eager to please.

The CX-30 loves to go around corners. Its steering is neat and quick and this is one SUV that doesn't wobble or wallow when driven briskly. It's a four-wheeled fun-lover that will make friends, and fans, easily.

At city-centre speeds, the ride is quite firm but it's impressively smooth at a country-road clip. It's also quiet inside - noise levels from engine and tyres are low, in contrast to previous Mazda models.

The CX-30 is based on the popular 3 small car.
The CX-30 is based on the popular 3 small car.

With the new 3, and now the CX-30, the company has come up with winning strategies for the war against noise and vibration.

Mazda chose Germany to introduce the new CX-30 to media, bringing only front-drive examples equipped with Europe-specification engines. The version of the Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre four is less powerful and comes as a mild-hybrid for better fuel efficiency.

It wasn't bad by any means but for Australia Mazda will fit the CX-30 with a livelier Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre, as in the new 3, teamed with a six-speed automatic.

With the Australian launch at least six months away, Mazda has not finalised prices for the CX-30. Still, it's very safe to assume the range will be positioned between the CX-3 and CX-5 equivalents.

The CX-30 continues the trend of excellent Mazda interiors.
The CX-30 continues the trend of excellent Mazda interiors.

This means a base-grade CX-30 front-drive with 2.0, should be about $27,500.

Whatever price it ends up wearing, the CX-30 is sure to deliver a lot of compact SUV goodness for the money.

Star in the making

Program manager Naohito Saga believes his car could be a star for Mazda. "We are hoping this crossover becomes the third core model for Mazda," says the man who made the CX-30 what it is. What this means in concrete terms is global sales to rival the strong selling 3 and CX-5. It's easy to imagine SUV-loving Australia helping make his ambition become reality.

Mazda CX-30 vitals

Price: From $27,500 (est)

Safety: Not yet rated

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 90kW/213Nm (Europe specification)

Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD

Thirst: 6.3L/100km