Mazda's new contender in the crowded crossover segment is the CX-30, a model that sits between the CX-3 and CX-5
Mazda CX-30 crossover: Perfect blend The Mazda CX-30's century sprint time of 11.2 seconds may not be impressive, but it is responsive and nimble around corners. PHOTOS: MAZDA MOTOR CORPORATION

Mazda's new contender in the crowded crossover segment is the CX-30, a model that sits between the CX-3 and CX-5.

Style-wise, the CX-30 has the same striking design as the good-looking new Mazda 3, although the extensive plastic cladding around the wheel arches is a bit out of place. But it is there to give the car a more rugged appearance, a must-have for sport utility vehicle aficionados.

Now, if you think that the CX-30 is the same size as the latest Mazda 3, you would be wrong. The CX-30 is shorter, with an overall length of 4,395mm. The Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback are 4,460mm long.

And the CX-30's 2,655mm wheelbase is 70mm shorter compared with the Mazda 3's, too.

The CX-30 may be compact, but get behind the wheel and you will think that you are in something much bigger. One reason for this is the distance between the CX-30's front seats is the same as that between the front seats in the larger CX-5.

Legroom in the backseat, however, is going to be tight for anyone taller than 1.75m.

The best seat is the driver's. When you adopt an optimal driving position, the seat helps ensure that your spine maintains its S curve. This helps maintain good balance. Mazda wanted to make driving the CX-30 feel "as natural as walking" - the same thing it said for the Mazda 3.

They have succeeded. Together with a well-tuned suspension, head movements, especially the pitching associated with going over speed bumps, are greatly minimised.

Seats aside, the interior itself is very impressive. From the angled dashboard to the tactility of the buttons and controls, the CX-30 has the refinement of a much more expensive car.

The engineers even calibrated the sound of the "clicks" controls make. And that is what makes the CX-30 such a peach to drive.

Its naturally aspirated 2-litre engine, despite its relatively modest 121hp output, is always keen to rev. A six-speed autobox is the motor's willing partner. It is so responsive that I did not feel the need to engage Sport mode.

A bit of pressure on the accelerator makes the gearbox drop two cogs, so you can pile on the revs. The CX-30's century sprint time of 11.2 seconds is not quick. But it makes up for this with its nimbleness around corners.

The car has the ability to tuck into bends at speeds that would unsettle lesser crossovers. The precise helm helps to place the car where I want it. And the suspension does a good job of keeping the car's body on even keel and, in turn, mine.

It will be interesting to pit the CX-30 against rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Karoq. That will be feasible when the car arrives in the first quarter of next year.