THERE could hardly be better time to launch a high-rider...on the very month that SUVs become the most popular body shape among British car buyers, outstripping even the family hatchback.
So Mazda starts from a good place with the CX-30, a compact SUV that's out to challenge the SEAT Ateca, VW T-Roc, Nissan Qashqai and even the highly lauded Volvo XC-40 at the top end.
It joins the well established CX-5 and CX-3 in the Mazda stable of crossovers and slots pretty neatly between the two in terms of dimensions.
It is actually slightly shorter than the Mazda3 hatchback on which it is based, though 10cm taller.
The CX-30 comes with a choice of two petrol 2.0-litre engines, both mild hybrids to maximise economy and performance.
The smaller 122bhp model needs to be rowed through the gears particularly up gradients but the standard six speed box is as sweet as they come so no great hardship there.
With 178bhp at hand, the more powerful SkyActiv-X version feels instantly more nimble and will polish of the run to 62mph in a swift eight seconds. Nevertheless, high gear performance is a tad lethargic so it pays to change down a cog or two.
Deeply impressive is the lack of thirst particularly evident in the anticipated best seller SkyActiv-X which averages 47.9mpg and has an emissions level of just 105g/km, slightly better in fact than the cheaper SkyActiv-G. Prices start at £22,895 while the dearer GT Sport version comes in at £28,875.
Both versions have razor sharp throttle response and are endowed with Mazda's renowned eagerness and sporty nature.
In fact, it's easily the most car-like SUV currently available to drive and thrives on enthusiastic driving and rewards you with crisp, incisive handling and impressive agility.
Steering too, though light, is precise and high geared. The top version is available with four wheel drive if extra traction is required.
Cabin space is generous in the front with loads of legroom and it's plenty wide enough for comfort without being too bulky in the supermarket car park.
Back seat occupants might not be quite so chuffed with their lot as both headroom and legroom is tight for six-footers.
A powered tailgate is standard across the range. The boot is about the same size as the best selling Qashqai but smaller than the Ateca or T-Roc. It's well shaped but luggage must be lifted over a noticeable lip.
The driving position is less elevated than most SUVs and closer that of a family hatchback, but visibility is good and there are copious seat and steering wheel positions to ensure you get comfortable. The fascia and switchgear is smart and well planned if a tad plain in design.
Madza goes to the top of the class when it comes to cabin quality. Soft touch trim and well-shaped seating front and back lift the comfort levels and ambience of the CX-30 to a higher level.
A number of conventional controls have been retained for heating and radio instead of being totally converted to touchscreen operation, which is a pleasant change and helps make concentration on the road ahead easier. This is further assisted by a head-up display on the windscreen directly in front of the driver which indicates speed and sat nav instructions.
Parking sensors are standard across the range and all versions bar the entry model include a reversing camera. The top model also gets birds-eye-view lens to show your surroundings.
It looks like the Mazda CX-30 has not only plugged the gap between the brand's smaller and larger SUVs but launched a possible market leader in terms of looks and driver appeal.