Great Escapes: New Zealand in the Mazda CX-30

Posted: 18/03/2021
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New Zealand is a dream destination offering thrilling activities, astonishing scenery and fantastic mountain roads. Our writer and her friend hit the road in a Mazda CX-30 in search of an adventure.

Words Naomi Arnold / Images Amber Jones

Anke and I are driving out of Christchurch, away from the city and into the wild. It’s the first days of summer in Canterbury, a couple of weeks before Christmas, and the region’s infamous hot, dry, vexing Nor’wester wind is blowing strong. It’s been a tough year, and we’re both feeling the pull of an open road and the crisp air of New Zealand’s mountainous southern lakes district.

With the keys to the Mazda CX-30 in hand, I grab hot tea and a toasted cheese scone from the Caffeine Laboratory in Christchurch’s historic New Regent Street, then stop to pick up Anke. She’s delighted to be hitting the road at last.

“God, I can’t wait for this,” she says as she puts her bags in the boot, settles herself into the front seat, and begins to regale me with her latest work dramas.

It’s been a long time since Anke and I have spent this much time together. Both independent writers running our own businesses, we might message daily on WhatsApp, but with her living in Lyttelton and me in Nelson (some five and a half hours away on a good day), we don’t often meet. A road trip through our beloved South Island is the perfect opportunity for us to catch up on each other’s lives.

We’re quickly out of the city and cruising the Canterbury Plains. As fields and trees whip by, we get familiar with the CX-30, playing music, admiring the classic, minimalist lines of its leather dash, and calling up our friends for a three-way chat on the seamless smartphone integration.

In Geraldine, we stop at Verde and sit down with drinks at the last picnic table in the cafe’s colourful, cottagey rose garden. “It really feels like summer now, eh?” Anke says, and I agree. Though it’s barely noon on a Wednesday, there’s a holiday atmosphere here already.

Anke and I settle back in for the two-hour drive to the start of our hiking spot at Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, home of New Zealand’s tallest peak, and I begin to test out the CX-30’s safety features.

 

Safety first

The compact Mazda CX-30 navigated the South Island’s uneven rural gravel roads soundly, and the rain-sensing windscreen wipers quickly dealt with the first glimpse of a shower. Throughout our 600km trip, we constantly felt in safe hands with the SUV’s superb suite of i-Activsense Advanced driver-assistance technologies always at work. Headlights automatically searched and tracked down the road ahead after dark. I appreciated that each side mirror featured blind-spot monitoring, a small orange triangle that alerted me when a car was approaching in my blind spot. The car’s head-up display projected the car’s speed and other info such as the speed limit (via Traffic Sign Recognition) onto the windscreen, so I didn’t have to keep glancing down at the dash.

But the most game-changing feature for me as a driver is Mazda Radar Cruise Control. I have driven these long southern roads countless times, but this was the most relaxed trip I’ve ever taken. The CX-30’s millimetre wave radar judges the relative speed of the car in front and automatically regulates its own. I found it particularly impressive when a car in front of me unexpectedly slowed down. The CX-30’s radar gave itself enough time and space to execute a smooth, safe, yet decisive drop from 100km/h to 30km/h in a few seconds. 

We make it to Aoraki/Mount Cook in the afternoon and set up our campsite before venturing out onto the Hooker Valley Track, one of New Zealand’s best day hikes. The 10km track winds through glacial moraine ridges and humps in this sacred Tōpuni area of the Hooker Valley, which has special significance to the South Island’s Ngāi Tahu iwi (Maori tribe). It ends in a lake thick with icebergs, offering more spectacular views of Aoraki’s peak.

Back at the campsite, we enjoy a cup of hot tea, and then eat dinner, watching the sun fade slowly from the snowcap. This far south, darkness comes late, and we’re still enjoying mellow pink skies until close to 10pm. But sleep calls. We’re planning to be up at 4.45am to catch the alpine dawn before we get back on the road.


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