High hopes for

handsome newcomer

Mazda CX-30, front action
Mazda CX-30, side action
Mazda CX-30, front static 2
Mazda CX-30, rear action
Mazda CX-30, front static
Mazda CX-30, full front action
Mazda CX-30, side static
Mazda CX-30, rear seats
Mazda CX-30, front seats
Mazda CX-30, dashboard
Mazda CX-30, engine
Mazda CX-30, front static upright

TALK about confident; Mazda is so sure its new compact SUV will precisely hit the spot it expects the CX-30 to outsell all the other cars in its range within months.

That confidence comes from more than mere hope. Rather a lot smaller than the existing Mazda CX-5 (the company's largest SUV), the newcomer is usefully bigger in both boot and back seat than the smallest SUV in the Mazda range, the CX-3.

Which puts it in precisely the hottest part of the incandescently successful market for SUVs, whose built-taller lines and all-round ruggedness are set to topple hatchbacks from pole position sometime soon.

Built on the underpinnings of the recently released Mazda3 hatch and saloon, it is actually a little shorter than that car but more generous for people and their luggage and its modest extra height gives drivers that feeling of added security that makes up an important part of any SUV's success.

Mazda hopes you'll be smiling as you alight from the test drive - the company itself will be grinning if the CX-30 adds to company sales on course for a four per cent annual rise in a chilling UK market down three per cent overall and not looking more cheerful any time soon.

It's always a sign of consumer confidence if the price of something takes second place to the urge to own it. So the CX-30 looks to be sitting in a healthy space, with most buyers expected to opt for a version that adds upwards of £1,500 to the bottom line because of its clever petrol engine.

That's called SkyActiv-X and combines a bit of diesel tech to make this petrol burning machine usefully more economical and cleaner in the newly stringent emissions test all cars have to submit to.

This cleverness produces 180hp and up to 47.9mpg officially, while the same 2.0 litres but in cheaper SkyActiv-G guise produces 122hp and up to 45.6mpg. Tailpipe emissions are as low as 105g/km for the dearer engine and 116g/km for the cheaper one.

In the real world the good guy engine will save a lower rated taxpayer business user between a mere £1 and up to £20 a month in tax liabilty but private buyers will face higher insurance demands if they take the more powerful option.

Mazda won't be selling a diesel version of the CX-30 in the UK, reckoning the clever SkyActiv-X technology produces diesel-like economy.

But less of such practical matters. The CX-30 is a properly handsome car to behold, building on the coherent look that Mazda has across its entire range (prompting thoughts that only Volvo does this as well at the moment) and punching well above its price in the car park fashion parade.

Entry will cost from £22,895 for a CX-30 with the 122hp engine, six-speed manual gearbox and drive to the front wheels only. At the other end of the cost spectrum there's a 180hp, all-wheel drive, automatically geared version for £33,495.

Whichever car you choose you'll find it comes well equipped. Surprisingly well in the lower reaches of the price list as you glean that every CX-30 comes with a brilliantly clear head-up display (planting important info on the windscreen in line of sight) and radar controlled adaptive cruise control standard across the entire range. Both these features will cost you (plenty) more on most of the opposition.

Other standard kit includes satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and LED headlights. Move up through the grades and goodies can include reversing camera, CD player, larger alloy wheels, superb adaptive LED lights that give long range vision without blinding oncoming drivers, heated steering wheel and a 12 speaker Bose sound system that sadly means no chance of the optional space saver spare in the boot (where the bass speaker sits).

So, the CX-30 looks good, has plenty of room for passengers and luggage and comes well equipped for the money. All of which you can judge in the showroom before the car turns a wheel.

Before you set off on the test drive you'll also notice a cabin that feels properly upmarket for the price, especially if you find £200 for 'stone leather trim with rich brown accents' available on dearer versions.

Out on the road there's the typical, and welcome, no nonsense approach to driving that Mazda has held to for years. That means a commanding driving position and a set of instruments that clearly value clarity over unreadable style - well done Mazda on that.

On some demanding and often narrow Devon roads the CX-30 impressed with its sharpness of steering and a decent ride on the larger 18-inch alloy wheels of the upper grade cars. Auto gears are available but the manual change is so superbly precise you'll miss the fun by shunning it.

You needn't feel left out, though, if it's the lesser powered version of the CX-30 you end up driving. It's not as pacey on paper as the 180hp (10.6 seconds to 62mph plays 8.5 seconds and top speed is 116mph against 127mph) but it feels plenty quick enough.

You have to rev the dearer SkyActiv-X to produce its best performance, when it is clearly the faster car but both versions tried (over admittedly different routes) produced a closely similar 41mpg.

Swings and roundabouts, then, with this fine addition to the rapidly swelling ranks of mid-size SUVs.

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