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In one of my previous columns, I related my experience of more than two years with our Mazda CX-3 and how it gave us a tremendously amazing, hassle-free, problem-free ownership experience not to mention the amazing fuel efficiency and impressive driving dynamics for a compact cross-over in this segment. 

And I mentioned that since my sister needed a new car, and Mazda had some amazing offers to help keep the auto industry alive, we sold our CX-3 to my sister and made the tough decision of buying a replacement, even if in hindsight, it might not have been the most prudent choice when things were very uncertain. 

So what car did we end up buying? Why of course, another Mazda.

Enter our Mazda CX-30 2.0 FWD Sport,a mid-level variant that packs all the bells and whistles of the top-level AWD Sport variant. The reason? AWD will greatly impact fuel efficiency especially in city driving. But we wanted to experience the full-on luxury experience of a well-finished interior which the FWD Sport shares with the AWD Sport variant because after all, you spend more time inside the car than staring at it right? Interior space is very good too: more than enough space for four adults with gear on a long drive, although the sloping D-pillar and rear hatch does carve away some useful luggage space, already a decent 430 liters with the rear seats up, increasing to 1,280 liters with the rear seats folded flat. 

The first impression that you get as you step inside the CX-30 is how classy it feels. I daresay it compares better to a Lexus than a Toyota: clean and simple lines, simplified infotainment system, clear, legible and bold instrumentation, and the multimedia system has the best, most hassle-free and convenient Apple CarPlay mobile phone integration allowing you to Waze and your way through traffic easily, answer calls hands-free and enjoy the latest tunes on Spotify. While some might argue I should be paying more attention to actual driving, the truth is, I spend so much time commuting in traffic, so you have to make these down-times count to make all your daily activities fit. 

Safety features are impressive too: seven airbags are standard (front, side, curtains and a knee airbag for the driver), traction / stability control and ABS-EBD brakes with emergency brake assist. A reverse camera is standard and very clear, as well as ISOFIX mounts for child seats. 

The striking two-box design is Mazda’s next generation design language called Evolved Kodo. The shape is both organic yet futuristic, with small, squinty-eyed LEDS for both the headlights and tail lights. It’s also very Japanese, yet at the same time very bold and daring, unlike the typical generic Japanese offerings that are safe and appealing but not emotionally ‘moving’ to its owners and drivers. Cars are after all both rational and emotional purchase and the CX-30 (like the latest Mazda 3 on which it shares the same basic architecture) capture one’s passion and imagination very well. 

On the road, the CX-30 rides firm, like a European car. High-speed stability is impressive, and corners are what it lives for. Steering is light but offers very good feel, and coupled with the excellent body control, you start to behave rather irrationally for a cross-over driver: you find these corners, switchbacks and hairpins and dive into them with gusto, relishing the motions and transitions of the CX-30’s body, just as you would a rider atop a skilful and intelligent steed. Horse and rider, or Jinba Ittai indeed, is a Mazda creed after all. 

The brakes also deliver stellar performance. Firm, well-modulated and very progressive, the brakes give you confidence to really brake late as you dive into corners and use the weight transfer to help shift weight progressively and predictably to the tires with the most grip. It’s a bit of a miracle considering the front suspension is a modest Macpherson-strut design and the rear is an even more humble torsion-beam suspension. Both suspension types offer better packaging versus double wishbones and multi-link set-ups, are cheaper to design and build but lose out on handling dynamics. But it seems like Mazda engineers didn’t get that memo at all as the CX-30 out-handles all of the cross-overs in its class, hands-down and delivers the sharpest, most enjoyable and engaging driving experience. 

 The engine is the familiar SkyActiv G 2.0 that sees a slight bump in power from previous iterations: it’s now 152hp and 200 Newton-Meters of torque and coupled to the familiar 6-speed torque-converter equipped automatic. At times, the transmission can seem a bit indecisive but on a level road, or when you’re really gunning it, shifts are crisp yet smooth. Play with the paddles and it adds another dimension of control and heightens your driving enjoyment even further. Fuel efficiency isn’t that great yet as we’ve only covered 780 kilometers, no thanks to COVID) but we’re already seeing a consistent 7.8 kilometers per liter in the city for short drives, and a fairly decent 11.4-12.1 kilometers per liter in the highway. As the engine frees up and we take it out for longer drives, fuel efficiency should improve, as we experienced with our previous CX-3 which has the same engine and transmission, albeit in a lighter overall package. 

So, do we regret taking a big financial decision in the midst of the pandemic with our CX-30? Definitely not. Classy, stylish, drives very well and feels very premium, the CX-30 has got it all. Everything else in its class is a distant second. Despite limited driving time, the missus is so happy with her new car, she gets rather annoyed when I find excuses to borrow it from time to time. 

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