But that small Q3-sized segment, so lucrative to manufacturers, hasn’t had much competition from Japan, a nation famed for producing cars that simply have more character than their European counterparts.
Mazda – renowned for their brilliant MX5s during recent decades – recently dipped their toe in the German-infested waters and their crack at the crown, the CX-30, is very good indeed.
Revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2019 and available to order now, the CX-30 enters a new market segment for Mazda, slotting into the firm’s award-winning SUV range between the CX-3 and CX-5.
Looks-wise, its dimensions are just right. It’s different, ultra-modern and has the marque’s traditional honeycomb-effect gaping front grille and sleek, slimline headlights.
Step inside and its interior – perhaps a moot point of old when compared to German equivalents – is the star of the show. Mazda’s been on a roll recently in this department and the CX-30 has bags of minimalistic quality, little in the way of scratchy plastics and uses premium materials. Its design is sharp, the switchgear feels rock-solid and the steering wheel is arguably one of the best in the game.
The car is based on the Mazda3, but any notion that it’s ‘just’ a slightly loftier version can be forgotten about because its wheelbase and length have actually been reduced to help it feel more nimble.
It doesn’t take long to feel the benefits of that move, either. Crossover SUVs have a tendency of feeling somewhat aloof from my experience but the CX-30 feels almost hatchback-like from the off. Head onto a twistier road and it handles sweetly and its body roll – the nemesis of all SUVs – is controlled.
Two engines are available, comprising of two 2.0-litre petrols in either 122bhp or 178bhp guise. Both use ‘mild hybrid’ systems – effectively capturing energy usually wasted during braking and cleverly storing it to power the car’s electrical systems – which saves fuel in the long run. Both are well-matched for the CX-30 and while the more powerful version inevitably means more regular fill-ups, the de-tuned 2.0-litre still has enough oomph and both claim 40-plus miles to the gallon.
Available in five trim levels – SE-L, SE-L Lux, Sport Lux, GT Sport and GT Sport Tech – the new CX-30 features Mazda’s characteristic generous standard equipment across the entire range.
Key to its brilliance from a driving point of view is its six-speed manual gearbox which is a peach. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Mazda and it is a carbon copy of the transmission found in the MX5. The short-throw and pleasing action means it’s a gearbox you want to use.
In an age of larger and more complicated touchscreens taking care of the most basic of controls, the CX-30 is a breath of fresh air. Thankfully, Mazda’s wisely stuck with the traditional method of buttons for the heating and stereo controls, so you can operate everything simply by touch instead of rifling through a sub-menu within another menu.
Peak in the rear and there’s ample leg space, and the boot’s 430 litres is plenty for most.
In an ultra-competitive sector, Mazda’s taken its best traits and put them together to create a car that’s worthy of a title shot, one which bloodies German noses thanks to its enviable qualities.
Starting at £22,985, the CX-30 is available to test drive at Perrys, Claycliffe Road, Barugh Green, Barnsley. Call 01226 887504 for more details.