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Mazda's 2020 CX-30 is presented by Jeffrey Guyton, president of Mazda's North American Operations, at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, Nov. 20, 2019.

ANDREW CULLEN/Reuters

North America’s first auto show of the season opened here this week, but amid all the hype of electric and electrified vehicles, it’s still the new gas-powered compact SUVs that are expected to be the bestsellers.

Mazda’s not-quite-compact SUV, the CX-30, is finally ready for production, and debuted here alongside its much bigger sibling, the slightly refreshed CX-9.

The CX-30 is a size larger than the sub-compact CX-3 and a size below the compact CX-5. Mazda expects it will appeal to young families that need a little more space in the back seats without taking up the room that teenagers would want.

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Mazda has been working hard to offer an improved driving experience in its less costly vehicles, and the CX-30 is no different. “Customers come to the sub-compact SUV segment looking for a quality vehicle with a sporty vibe and all-wheel-drive capability,” said Jeffrey Guyton, president of Mazda’s North American operations, but he said they also need to be comfortable while driving.

“Our engineers have designed the seats to offer all the occupants proper posture, and this allows the human body to react to the motion of the vehicle in a very natural and balanced way. But (we) also created a peaceful, calming environment by reducing noise and vibration.”

He said every aspect of the SUV from the tires up was designed to create a quiet ride, so that occupants can have easy conversations, or appreciate the sound system.

The CX-30 follows the same “Soul of Motion” design concept as the Mazda3 and shares the same four-cylinder engines: three different trim levels will be offered in Canada, with a choice of either the 2.0-litre 155hp Skyactiv-G engine in the base trim, or the 2.5-litre 186 hp Skyactiv-G engine in the upper trims.

The least expensive CX-30 will start at $23,950 (plus taxes and $1,950 Freight and PDI) when it comes on sale in January, rising to $33,850 (plus taxes and Freight and PDI). AWD will cost an extra $2,000 and is available on all but the base trims.

Mazda will see some stiff competition from Kia, which introduced its Seltos compact SUV here. The Seltos (named after Celtos, the son of Hercules in Greek mythology) is built on the same platform as the best-selling Hyundai Kona, and it fits between the Soul and the Sportage in the Korean maker’s lineup. It will come to dealerships in February.

Kia claims it will have one of the largest cargo areas in the segment, and it will also offer the Kona’s two engines (2.0-litre with 146 hp and 1.6-litre turbo with 175 hp), and both FWD and AWD.

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“No matter which way you fold it, split it, or lift it,” said Bill Peffer, vice-president of sales operations for Kia Motors America, referring to the SUV’s five-passenger seating configuration, “Seltos has more interior room and greater cargo capacity than most of the entry SUV competitors.”

Here at the show, Kia also introduced a pair of more rugged Seltos concepts, which it called X-Line. They’re just concepts however, built to draw attention to the vehicle and its possibilities in such a crowded segment.

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