Raya weekend in Kuala Lumpur might sound like paradise for those who decided to not join the mass ‘balik kampung’ exodus. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy 4 days of smooth traffic and free tolls, right?
Well, the reality is there is still some traffic in the city and those free tolls do not apply on the weekends but then again, when you have something like the Mazda CX-30 on your driveway, a trip around the not-so-traffic-free capital is still pretty enjoyable.
The Mazda CX-30 is not an entirely new car with the fully imported from Japan (CBU) model being introduced in Malaysia back in late-2019 but fast forward roughly 3 years later and Bermaz Motors introduced the locally-assembled (CKD) version of the hot crossover.
Also read: 2023 Mazda CX-30 CKD launched in Malaysia - 4 variants now, from RM 128,109
This time, it’s only available with 4 variants instead of 5 which are all powered by a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine with front-wheel drive (FWD). The 1.8-litre diesel and AWD variants have been dropped for the CKD model and we got the top-of-the-range 2.0G 2WD High+ Premium for the long weekend which starts from RM 156,109 which is around RM 3,000 less compared to the CBU model of similar variant.
A class by design
Compared to its Japanese peers, Mazda is in a class of its own when it comes to design. The Mazda 3 Hatchback is one of the prettiest cars on sale and that beauty in design is carried over to the CX-30 which itself is based on the hatchback.
Also read: What are the prettiest common cars ever sold in Malaysia?
Rather than just jacking up the looks with body cladding and calling it a day like its little brother, the Mazda 2-based CX-3, the CX-30 still looks as gorgeous. Mazda also remedied one of the issues that some people might face when sitting inside the Mazda 3 Hatchback – its roominess.
Also read: Review: 2019 Mazda 3 Sedan/Liftback – Mind says no, heart says otherwise
The Mazda 3 Hatchback while pretty, has a thick C-pillar which made the interior, especially in the rear feel claustrophobic. In the CX-30, the crossover feels more airy inside with better visibility all around.
Speaking of the inside, the CX-30 feels premium throughout and on the highest-spec variant that we’re reviewing, it comes with a brown leather interior that adds a touch of class and premium feel. In fact, it feels more elegant in the Mazda than some BMWs that cost more but premium interior isn’t the only connection shared between the two brands.
It’s all in the handles
When you think of Mazda, you would think of its core value. Jinba Ittai. The philosophy of rider/driver and horse/machine as one is a philosophy seen in every Mazda model whether it’s the sporty MX-5, the nimble Mazda 3, or even in its SUVs.
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The way the CX-30 carves a corner is sublime with every input being direct as the car flows through the bends. It’s an engaging crossover and that’s a description you would rarely associate with other SUVs.
Also read: Review: 2019 Mazda CX-5 2.0L High - The driving enthusiasts' choice?
As a driver, you feel one with the car from the position of the pedals to the direct communication felt through the steering wheel. The seats feel comfortable, the ride is pliant, and the cabin is also quiet as you cruise on the fairly empty highways of Klang Valley. Back when we reviewed the CX-30 AWD, our decibel meter recorded a reading of around 67 dB at 110 km/h.
Also read: Review: All wheel drive 2020 Mazda CX-30, at RM 176k, you can buy a CPO BMW X1, worth it?
Power comes from a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre SkyActiv G petrol engine that makes 165 PS and 213 Nm. It is paired with a 6-speed automatic and this combination is decent enough to pull. Engage in Sport mode and the transmission switches up to be more precise as you pull even harder on the mostly traffic-free highways.
Since it was the long weekend, we decided to take a night trip over to Putrajaya where it was a lot emptier than KL. The administrative capital has plenty of modern architecture and wide roads, the antithesis of the bustling capital city and feels just right for a modern crossover like the CX-30.
Of course, being a driver’s SUV meant that the interior is designed for the person behind the wheel to focus solely on the road. Controlling the infotainment, for instance, is only via the MZD Connect dials as the centre screen is not touch-supportive and is too far to reach anyway.
It's also quite weird to have an infotainment that appears designed to be operated by touch and not have such a feature. Since it supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, controlling the apps via the dial takes some getting used to.
It’s fine when you’re looking for a specific Spotify playlist or calling someone on the phone but when it comes to searching through navigation, it feels very weird to scroll through the keyboard with the dial to type your destination.
From the driver's position, the CX-30 definitely excels and you can get acquainted fairly quickly with controlling the infotainment through the rotary knob. But the CX-30 is still essentially a crossover, so how does it cope with the passengers?
Well, though the ride feels dynamic up front, rear occupants would find a bit more discomfort. Compared to the likes of the Corolla Cross and the HR-V, the CX-30 doesn't feel comfortable at all with a stiff ride. The driver might be having fun in front but in the back, the passengers might probably wish for a more supple experience.
Also read: Ratings: 2020 Mazda CX-30 2.0 High - Well-appointed cabin justifies its price
You might think that it’s a bit of a price to pay to have better driving dynamics over comfort or vice versa but even in a BMW, you feel a balance of both comfort and handling. In the CX-30, the handling part surpasses the comfort department and for a family crossover, that might need some convincing over with the significant other.
Also read: 6 traits that make a great handling car
As for rear cabin space, the CX-30 is not the roomiest though it can fit 3 adults with 2 being more desirable in terms of space. The rear seats are also a bit too upright and they can’t be adjusted to recline but there is enough rear legroom.
Still, even if it feels a bit cramped in the back, the CX-30 has a large boot space. At 430 litres, it’s bigger than the Mazda 3’s 358-litre boot even though the crossover is smaller in size.
If looks are the only thing to judge a car, then the CX-30 is a winner by a long mile. Inside and out, the CX-30 stands out much more than its Japanese or other Asian peers and is very much on par with the more expensive Continental rivals.
With a lower price than the fully imported (CBU) model, the CKD Mazda CX-30 is a win-win for both partners. It wins in looks which feel timeless despite being launched 4 years ago and it also wins in the handling department for that petrolhead family member.
That said, as a crossover proper, the CX-30 does falter especially in terms of comfort. But for those who wouldn’t mind the compromise and simply want a good-looking crossover, the CX-30 is clearly your answer.