The fun-to-drive MX-5 Miata has long been considered the soul of Mazda and the automaker mentions it at every opportunity.
“You drive it naturally, and feel a part of the process,” says Naohito Saga, Program Manager at Mazda. But he isn’t talking about the MX-5 – he’s talking about the brand’s newest crossover, the CX-30.
“We studied how people drive and use their cars, and built the CX-30 around making the vehicle feel as natural as possible. This is just like [the process when making] the MX-5. We just want to deliver that same experience to more customers.”
With the MX-5, Mazda has created one of the best driving cars on the market today, and one that has gained Mazda a lot of fans. But Mazda’s mission to bring the MX-5 experience to a larger, more practical vehicle sounds contradictory. How do they justify it?
“We are not going away from the MX-5,” says Saga-san. He explains that the MX-5 isn’t really about sportiness and performance, but is more about being natural and engaging to drive. The company has used the term jinba ittai, Japanese for “rider and horse as one”, to refer to this philosophy.
So, Mazda spent the time to make the CX-30 feel good to drive, through technology like G-Vectoring Control Plus which uses a nearly imperceptible amount of brake vectoring to improve handling and reduce body roll.
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We’ll have to wait until the first drive in December to see if the brand was successful in transplanting the MX-5’s pure driving feel into the CX-30, but this approach to usability has some other benefits as well, namely with interior quality.
One look at the CX-30’s interior, and you’ll be impressed with the quality and attention to detail in the cabin. The knobs are wonderfully textured, and there are soft-touch materials where drivers and passengers will rest their arms or knees. While some may see Mazda attempting to one-up its competitors, the automaker says this isn’t the case, it’s just the result of prioritizing the needs and touch-points of the people in the car.
“We didn’t try to make the CX-30 luxurious. We started with how the vehicle will be used and proceeded from there,” says Saga-san.
Not only is the interior impressive, but the CX-30 will attempt to satisfy a broader audience than the CX-3 and the CX-5. A few are confused as to why the CX-3 and CX-30 will be sold alongside one another, but Mazda is adamant that the two vehicles serve different purposes.
“The CX-3 has a good emphasis on manoeuvrability. It’s great for the driver and front passenger, but when it comes to rear-seat passengers or cargo room, it’s not big enough.” Saga-san explains that buyers wishing to move up from sedans and into crossovers, found the CX-3 too small, and the CX-5 a bit too big.
“The CX-30 will be perfect for a couple, for example, who may eventually be expecting a baby,” he says, suggesting that the CX-3 would be too small for this scenario and the CX-5 would be overkill.
“We looked at the cargo area early on, and said it should fit a suitcase and a baby stroller,” once again emphasizing that the car was built with its users in mind, not segment standards or size expectations. “From there, we wanted to make sure it could fit four adults comfortably.”
The CX-30 team approached the vehicle with a mindset on usability, but then the automaker focussed on packaging to ensure that the vehicle would be attractive to buyers unfamiliar with the brand. In Canada, there are three trim levels, two engine options, and two drivetrains; safety equipment like forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance are offered in mid-tier trims. Base models even get smartphone infotainment systems, like Android Auto and Apple Car Play; and top-trim models get a head-up display.
The CX-30 may look like a puzzling addition to the lineup as it’s bigger than the subcompact CX-3 crossover, yet smaller than the compact CX-5 crossover, but it’s development process may allow it to transcend expectations. Plus if all goes well, it’ll feel as natural to drive as the MX-5.