Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first.  The CX-4 badge having already been applied to the back of a crossover sold in the Chinese market, this latest mid-range SUV finds itself branded the CX-30.

It slots neatly in between the CX-3 and CX-5, and borrows much from the well-received Mazda 3, most obviously its updated Kodo design philosophy and its edgier, wedgier snout.

Size-wise, it squares up to the VW T-Roc, Audi Q2, BMW X2, etc.  That’s a pretty useful space to occupy in the pantheon of SUVs, with the German offerings becoming almost the default choice for many.

The thing is, the CX-30 I’ve just spent a week tooling about in easily has the measure of that little lot, and if you’re looking for an indication of how far Mazda have come you need only spend a few moments in the cabin.

For a start, space up front is surprisingly generous.  I had no trouble finding a comfortable position for my 6ft4 frame, while the light and airy feeling makes the CX-30 a relaxing place to while away a family road-trip.

There are endless useful touches, such as the large under-arm storage bin with its own USB charging port, lidded cupholders, trays for phones and change, decent door bins, and so on.

The quality levels are high, too, with soft-touch materials and attractively stitched leather surfaces everywhere, while slick switchgear and well-damped controls make everything a pleasure to use.

There are even real temperature controls!

The instrument cluster is a model of clarity, although we’re still not convinced by the need for two fuel gauges, while the dash-top infotainment screen uses high-resolution graphics, smart animations, and a logical layout.  It’s all presided over by a rotary controller mounted by the gear lever, our only criticism being the lack of a touch-screen element making it a chore to enter navigation destinations.

Space in the back perhaps isn’t quite so generous.  Headroom is fine, even for six-footers thanks to a recess in the roof panel, but legroom is a squeeze.  The boot’s respectable at 430 litres, rising to 1,406 litres with the seats folded.

There are just two engines to choose from, both 2.0-litre petrols with a mild-hybrid set-up.  The first is a 122ps unit with cylinder deactivation, 45.6mpg economy and a 10.6 second 0-62mph time, while the other is Mazda’s clever Skyactiv-X spark controlled compression ignition engine.

The latter offers a chunkier 180ps and knocks a second and a half off the 0-62mph time, but for my money it’s still a little lacking in torque, requiring a downshift or two where a turbocharged unit would just power through.

That’s perhaps not as much of a hardship as you might think, largely thanks to the CX-30’s typically excellent manual gearshift action, but we did also notice some occasional hesitation in the power delivery as the electronics juggled between conventional ignition, compression ignition, and the otherwise seamless assistance of the mild-hybrid system.

All in all, it makes for relaxed and efficient progress.  We averaged around 50mpg during our testing, and although there’s some diesel-esque clatter on start-up, on the move it all settles down to something close to barely audible.

Mazda reasons that SUV buyers don’t want to be troubled by such trifles as fine handling and sharp chassis responses, but the CX-30 still points and steers in a way many of its rivals have long forgotten was even possible.  The ride is undoubtedly set up on the softer side although I wouldn’t object to a little extra damping, the CX-30 occasionally rebounding once too often after cresting an undulation.

Where the CX-30 scores highly, though, is in its value for money.  The range starts at £22,895, while a range-topping Skyactiv-X GT Sport can be yours for £28,875.  Every model in the range has automatic LED headlights with high-beam control, automatic wipers, head-up display, radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, satnav with five years of free map updates, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Our GT Sport goes further with adaptive headlights, reversing camera, power tailgate, power sunroof, leather heated seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, and a Bose surround sound system.

All-wheel-drive is available with the Skyactiv-X engine for £2,220 while an automatic gearbox can be added to every model in the range for £1,500.

In a market seemingly dominated by the same SUV wearing only a different badge, the Mazda CX-30 offers something truly distinctive.

Tester’s Notes

  • Infotainment appealing to look at, easy to use, although a touch-screen would make post code entry easier.
  • Quality interior; proper temperature controls!
  • Great gearchange.
  • Cabin roomy, although not a massive amount of rear legroom; boot a decent space.
  • Damping could be a little tighter, occasionally rebounds once too often after undulations.
  • Skyactiv-X needs to be revved, really would benefit from forced induction for more low-down torque; some mild lumpiness at low revs as it juggles SPCCI; mild-hybrid unobtusive.
  • 50mpg on test
Entry-level Price£22,895Price as tested£29,425
Engine1998cc 4-cyl petrolTransmission6-speed manual
Power180ps @ 6,000rpmTorque224Nm @ 3,000rpm
0-608.5 secsTop speed127 mph
Economy47.9 mpgCO2105 g/km
Dimensions4395 x 1795 x 1540 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1542 kg