The Mazda CX-30 review is the 2021 Wheels Car of the Year

The Mazda CX-30 review is the 2021 Wheels Car of the Year

‘Unanimity’ can be a tricky word to say; much harder to achieve. In an increasingly divided and opinionated world, getting a disparate group of individuals to form a unilateral consensus on anything can be near-impossible.

The COTY judging process is often no exception, yet for 2021, in a rare moment of great(ish) minds thinking alike, all six members of the judging panel cast their vote for the winner you see here.

There would be no split decision, no recasting, no blow-ups or toys thrown out of the pram. The Mazda CX-30 is the 2021 Wheels Car of the Year, and all of us agreed on it.

For Mazda, it’s one hell of an achievement, and takes the company’s tally to nine COTY victories since the award’s inception in 1963, putting the Hiroshima-based brand only one win behind Holden as the award’s most successful manufacturer of all time. (Hot tip for those who enjoy a punt: Mazda has the better odds compared to the Lion brand to increase its haul...)

So where exactly does the CX-30’s brilliance lie? Well, that warrants deeper dissection, because that’s arguably what it doesn’t have: an area of true breakthrough brilliance. The old expression ‘jack of all trades; master of none’ used to be one of denigration; a suggestion that a worker was versatile yet lacked an area of true speciality.

In the case of the CX-30, it’s actually the highest compliment we can deliver it. As we’ll outline here, the key to its COTY success was not a couple areas of pure genius; instead it scored solidly against all five criteria, and resolutely did not drop the ball in any measurable area.

Well, we got the CX-3 light SUV instead, with it based on the Mazda2 hatchback, and needless to say, it wasn’t quite the right fit.

However, patience is a virtue and the Mazda3 of small SUVs is finally here … actually, it’s been on sale for more than 12 months now.

And guess what? The curiously named CX-30 hit the ground running! So, it’s time to take a look at what is possibly its most appealing variant for the urban jungle, the G20 Touring FWD.

That overarching sentiment started to flow from the moment the judges really crawled around and through the car on day one.

Mazda has clearly designed the CX-30 as a crossover, rather than a more pragmatic, boxy SUV, effectively making it a higher-riding (by 25mm) wagon version of the Mazda 3 on which it’s based. No-one could argue with the logic, even if it does bring a few potential compromises to packaging. Headroom in the rear is only just adequate for six-footers, and the boot, at 317 litres, is on the small side for this class.

“I’m okay with that,” conceded DC. “I think a comparatively small boot like this is probably more a theoretical disadvantage for most people rather than a regular real-world annoyance. For me, the exterior celebrates design and style; unlike rivals, where design feels like more an obligation.”

Byron was also quick to point out a design advantage held by the CX-30 over the related 3: “That the six-light glass area means more light floods in than in the 3. And I really like the extra splashes of colour for a change inside a Mazda – navy blue or brown as contrasts to the black on most variants; it gives a nice lift to the ambience.”

The three variants we had on test gave the judges a solidly indicative sample of the nine-strong CX-30 line-up. Our least-expensive tester was the G20 Evolve FWD (one model up from base Pure) with its 2.0-litre atmo four/six-speed auto combo, priced at $31,490.

In the middle sat the G25 Touring, powering its front wheels by the 2.5-litre four tied to the six-speed auto, and priced at $36,490.

Topping our trio was the CX-30 flagship; the X20 Astina, driving all four wheels by the new Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre petrol compression-ignition engine, priced at $46,490

It was broadly agreed that that the top-spec X20 Astina doesn’t represent the CX-30 line-up at its best, so let’s address the value question first, as it’s clear the CX-30 doesn’t attempt to lure customers into the showroom via a bargain-basement price tag.

Cheapest model in the line-up is the $28,990 Pure with a six-speed manual – a model with loads of appeal but won’t find favour with many Aussies. Cross-shopping the CX-30 against the Mazda 3 on which it’s based sees the Japanese-built CX-30 some $3500 dearer than the corresponding 3 Pure.

It’s a sizeable hike, given the similarities in equipment, but the judges still felt that within this segment, the CX-30 delivered decent value for money against the likes of rivals like the Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR.

“If it wore a premium badge, it would be considered a bargain,” said Inwood.