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The 3-based Mazda CX-30 is the first SUV based on the Japanese brand’s latest hardware

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Naming a new car is always a tricky business. Not only does it have to somehow suit the car – not always easy if you’re just mixing letters and numbers – but it also has to fit the wider range. The latter point is something that appears to have been forgotten when christening the Mazda CX-30.

Although it sits between the compact Mazda CX-3 and large Mazda CX-5, the CX-4 moniker is already used in China for a crossover coupé, hence CX-30. At least it being a multiple of three makes sense when you consider that underneath the flowing lines and tough plastic wheelarch extensions, you’ll find the Mazda 3’s platform.

The steering might not feel particularly quick off-centre, but it’s precise with an oily weight that builds progressively as you load up the chassis

Not that it’s just a 3 on stilts. The wheelbase and overall length have been reduced to help it feel more at home in town and the styling has been subtly tweaked to create a handsome, if not particularly lofty crossover. Indeed, even though I’m a mere 5’ 4in, I could easily see over the roof – not something that can be said of the Seat Ateca.

Both four-wheel drive and Mazda’s clever Skyactiv-X compression ignition petrol engine will be available at launch, but neither were available for our early drive. Instead, we were limited to front-wheel drive and regular combustion engines.

How does the Mazda CX-30 perform on the road?

With the petrol and diesel offering around 120bhp, performance is adequate two-up but nothing more. The latter certainly feels easier going thanks to its far greater torque below 2000rpm, but it’s the petrol that would be our pick. Not only is it much more refined, but there’s something rather appealing about a naturally aspirated engine in today’s downsized, turbocharged world. 

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Yes, you need to have the engine spinning well beyond 3000rpm for it to move with any great urgency, but that just means you have to interact with the deliciously tactile manual gearchange even more. An auto is available, but it feels distinctly old school.

Keen drivers won’t just appreciate the manual ‘box, either. The steering might not feel particularly quick off-centre, but it’s precise with an oily weight that builds progressively as you load up the chassis. Factor in perfectly weighted and ideally placed pedals, and you’ve an SUV that’s satisfying to drive even in stop start traffic.

It feels agile, too. On the smooth twists and turns just outside of Frankfurt, the CX-30 proved keen to scythe through S bends with minimal body lean and strong grip. The prospect of a more powerful 178bhp Skyactiv-X engine under the bonnet is a tantalising one for sure.

What's the CX-30 like inside the cabin?

Mazda’s interiors have been deeply impressive of late and the CX-30 is no exception. All models get lashings of leatherette on the dashboard, plenty of squishy plastics and controls that have a pleasing precision to them. Forget the Seat Ateca and Nissan Qashqai, this is quality to worry a BMW X2.

Infotainment is taken care of by the 3’s 8.8in screen mounted high up on the dashboard. This is controlled by a rotary dial between the seats, something that makes it easy to navigate even on the move. The graphics are sharp while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

There’s certainly space to stretch out in the front of the CX-30 and it’s easy to find a driving position that suits thanks to plenty of adjustment for the seat and wheel. Just remember that, while you do sit higher than in a hatchback, Ateca and Qashqai drivers will look you down on you. Rear space is less impressive as head and especially leg room are tight for a six-footer sitting behind a similarly lofty driver. Boot space also trails the class best and there are no clever features to boost practicality.

All things considered, we’d certainly recommend putting the CX-30 into your shortlist of SUVs to try if your budget is around £25,000.

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On this brief encounter, it could give the Ateca a run for its money as a driver’s tool and the CX-30’s interior quality (if not its rear space and boot) is unbeatable unless you consider something with a posh badge on its nose. Although we do wish it had a bit more punch, the Skyactiv-X engine should scratch that itch.

Satisfyingly agile and blessed with a truly high quality interior, the CX-30 is a tempting choice if you don’t need vast amounts of space inside.

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