What's Hot: Classy leather-trimmed interior, smooth 1.5 litre diesel, ‘zingy' 2.0 litre petrol.
What's Not: No rear air-vents, no centre armrest, limited rear-seat legroom.
X-FACTOR: Small, fun and stylish, the CX-3 is confirmation from Mazda that quality does not have to wear a German badge.
Vehicle style: Small AWD SUV
Price: $35,290 (petrol), $37,690 (diesel)
109kW/192Nm 2.0 litre DOHC petrol
77kW/270Nm 1.5 litre turbo-diesel
petrol claim: 6.7 l/100km | tested: 7.3 l/100km
diesel claim: 5.1 l/100km | tested: 6.2 l/100km
Memo to the twenty or so brands now playing in the burgeoning small-SUV ballpark: “Be afraid, be very afraid”.
The reason? Mazda's first-ever CX-3. You've read about it, you might have looked it over, but this car is something special.
The baby brother to the CX-5 and CX-9 comes in four models, with two engine and two transmission choices and with both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive.
In all, you've got no less than 14 choices.
Ok, so you're looking at the top-spec CX-3 Akari, with a choice of 2.0 litre petrol engine, or a lusty 1.5 litre diesel. Both are mated with a sports-shifting six-speed automatic transmission.
Which, then, do you choose? We've looked at both, here is our report.
Key interior features (for top-spec Akari models) include:
- Seven-inch full-colour touch screen with Mazda's MZD Connect system
- Satellite navigation
- Bluetooth phone connectivity
- Six-speaker audio with MP3/CD/AM/FM tuner and Pandora, Stitcher and Aha Internet-radio integration
- Leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, gear-shift knob and handbrake lever
- Tilt-and-slide glass sunroof
- Cruise control, trip computer, active driving display
- climate-control air-conditioning ;
- 18-inch alloy wheels
Quality: Despite shortcomings with legroom, and the lack of air-vents for rear-seat passengers, the Akari's interior is a class act.
It has the style and finish to match anything from the prestige German brands.
The combination of black leather and suede (white leather/black suede is optional), well-shaped seats and a smart textured dash, has the Akari cabin oozing quality.
Plastic surfaces atop the dash the door trims have a ‘substantial' feel, and there are piano-black and metal highlights round the vents, screen and console.
There is also Mazda's quirky HUD screen (head-up-display), that sits above the instrument binnacle, adding a feature unique to the segment.
Comfort: The front seats provide nicely supportive hip-and-thigh bolstering and the outer two rear-seat passengers have reasonable door-side bolstering as well.
One nice touch in the front is soft knee-pads on either side of the centre stack.
If, however, driver or front-seat passenger are long in the leg, companions travelling in the rear-seats are rather short-changed for legroom. (But, let's face it, it's a small car.)
Also, the lack of an armrest between the front seats diminishes comfort somewhat for these two occupants.
Storage: At 264 litres with the rear seats occupied, the CX-3 has a smaller luggage space than several of its competitors, including Honda's new HR-V (437 litres) and Renault's equally-new Captur (377 litres).
Drop the 60/40 split-fold rear seat-backs down, and this rises to a pretty respectable 1174 litres.
The luggage area also has a flexible and practical two-position floor board that can be raised or lowered to suit the cargo being carried.
Other storage cubby holes include a roof-mounted sunglasses holder, bottle-friendly pockets in each of the four doors, a good-sized glovebox and a map pocket behind the front-passenger's seat (why not the driver's seat as well we ask).
There's also a small open tray at the base of the centre stack, two front cup-holders and another small open bin at the rear of the centre console.
ON THE ROAD
- 109kW/192Nm 2.0 petrol | 77kW/270Nm 1.5 turbo-diesel
- 6-spd automatic
- Fuel consumption:
petrol claim: 6.7 l/100km | tested: 7.3 l/100km
diesel claim: 5.1 l/100km | tested: 6.2 l/100km
- Suspension: McPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Driveability: The first measure of a car's driveability is whether you can quickly get ‘set' at the wheel.
Despite no electric adjustment, we found the pilot's seat has adequate lever-controlled adjustability.
Combined with good seat bolstering, a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel and a well-placed left-foot rest, even taller drivers (like this log) won't feel at all cramped at this wheel.
The electric power steering is beautifully weighted and it delivers precise turn-in and overall manoeuvrability.
Even pushed hard in tight corners, the new CX-3 sits nice and flat; this car's overall driving dynamics are certainly among the best in the class. Petrol or diesel, it feels alert at the wheel and quite sporty.
The turbo-diesel engine is an absolute gem. It is certainly as good as anything from Europe and has no trouble keeping the upright little Mazda hunting at the head of traffic.
Despite its relatively diminutive 1.5 litre capacity, at 110km/h on the freeway, it's ticking over at a relaxed 1800rpm.
A nice flat torque curve adds to the driving enjoyment and throttle response.
But the 2.0 litre SkyActiv petrol engine too is a willing unit and barely breaks into a sweat hauling the light little CX-3 around.
Remember that “zoom-zoom” thing? Well there is no shortage of it in either of these variants. The diesel though is a tad more responsive and effortless on-road, and is perhaps the pick if you do longer kilometres - but there is little in it.
(And neither has any trouble overtaking or dealing with hills.)
Refinement: Both petrol and diesel Akari variants rate highly for refinement. Interestingly, however - and perhaps unexpectedly - we feel the ‘oiler' shades its petrol-powered twin.
It spins so freely, that only when really stretching it out do you become aware that it's a diesel at work.
The petrol is a tad more intrusive when working hard at higher revs, but doesn't half mind singing at the top of its range.
While there is some transmission of road noise on coarse bitumen, on smoother ‘hot-mix', there is virtually none.
We put a professional dB meter to work: the CX-3 sat in the 68dB-74dB range when placed correctly reading ambient cabin noise at highway speeds.
That is quite acceptable on Australia's somewhat unique coarse-chip road surfaces.
As we've commented in an earlier review, from the wheel it is about on par with a BMW X1.
Ride and handling: Unlike Kia and Hyundai, and other Asian brands, Mazda does not do any handling and chassis testing in Australia.
That said, we find little to complain about with the ride and handling of any current model Mazdas. The ‘international' tuning of the underpinnings would seem to be correct.
The McPherson-strut front end and torsion-beam rear have no trouble dealing with surface imperfections, and, despite the somewhat short wheelbase, the CX-3 is pretty settled on-road.
It is also pretty grippy, thanks to the AWD down below and useful big rubber.
It is however no boulevard cruiser, you'll be aware of the big wheels and taut suspension, but it soaks up nearly everything our poor roads can throw at it, and is free of jarring or ‘crashing' over bigger jolts.
Braking: Stopping power comes from ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear.
The pedal feel is good, right from the ‘top' of the pedal, and we experienced no fade or other ‘moments' when driving.
ANCAP Rating: Untested. Mazda expects a 5-Star rating.
CX-3 Akari safety features:
- Driver-and-passenger front-and-side airbags
- ABS brakes; electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist
- Emergency stop signal
- Blind-spot monitoring; lane-departure warning
- Rear parking sensors and reverse camera
- Traction and stability control
- side-impact door beams; whiplash-minimising front seats and an intrusion-minimising brake pedal
- Child-proof rear door locks and ISOFIX anchor points
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years unlimited kilometres, but you can buy an extended warranty that adds another 12 months.
Service costs: The service regime for the Akari petrol and diesel covers 16 services ranging from the first 10,000 km to 160,000km.
Base prices excluding maintenance items such as filters, oil and fluids range from $319 to $387 for the diesel and $280 to $307 for the petrol version.
Additional scheduled maintenance items such as brake-fluid filter replacement are also set.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Honda HR-V VTi-L ADAS FWD ($33,990) - The new Honda is a front-wheel-drive-only model and there is no diesel.
Its 105kW/172Nm SOHC engine has slightly less power and torque than the petrol CX-3 and it is thirstier (6.9 l/100km versus 6.1 l/100km.) Where the Honda does shine is in cabin flexibility and its ‘magic seats' system is the best in class.
Also, with 437 litres of cargo space, it can handle more luggage than the Mazda's 264 litres. (see HR-V reviews)
Holden Trax LTZ 1.4 litre turbo petrol ($29,990) - The little front-wheel-drive Holden SUV has a tad less power and a tad more torque than the CX-3, but it is thirstier than the Mazda.
It is also no match for the sense of class and style of the Mazda interior. (see Trax reviews)
Nissan Juke Ti-S 1.6 litre turbo petrol AWD ($33,490) - The quirky Nissan has more power and torque (140kW/240Nm) than the CX-3 but at 7.4 litres/100km it is significantly thirstier.
Like the Trax, the interior of the Juke is well-behind the presentation of the CX-3. The Juke also has less rear-seats-up luggage space (251 litres). (see Juke reviews)
Note all prices are Manufacturers' List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Make no mistake, Mazda's CX-3 range is set for stardom.
The Japanese brand might have dragged its feet in joining in with the fun at the smaller end of the SUV market, but it was clearly worth the wait.
With this car, Mazda Australia is shooting for monthly sales of 1000 units - a figure that will rocket it to the top of the segment sales chart. It is now well on the way.
This car is hard to fault. We've got no doubt that it will attract new buyers to the Mazda brand. And, such is buyer interest around the world, supply may down the track become something of an issue for Mazda Australia.
So, as to that threshold question: which is it to be, the petrol or diesel Akari?
We lean to the diesel Akari, even though it costs $2400 more than the petrol version. Its better fuel consumption, stout little engine and slightly more lively feel on the road, tips the scales the diesel's way.
But you won't be disappointed with the 2.0 litre petrol. Neither with the way it drives, nor its real-world petrol consumption. (And maybe you can think of a lot you can do with the extra two-grand in your pocket).
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
2.0L Petrol FWD
- Neo - 6spd manual - $19,990
- Neo - 6spd auto - $21,990
- Neo Safety - 6spd manual - $21,020
- Neo Safety - 6spd auto - $23,020
- Maxx - 6spd manual - $22,390
- Maxx - 6spd auto - $24,390
- Maxx Safety - 6spd manual - $23,420
- Maxx Safety - 6spd auto - $25,420
- sTouring - 6spd manual - $26,990
- sTouring - 6spd auto - $28,990
- sTouring Safety - 6spd manual - $28,020
- sTouring Safety - 6spd auto - $30,020
- Akari - 6spd manual - $31,290
- Akari - 6spd auto - $33,290
1.5L Diesel FWD
- Maxx - 6spd auto - $26,790
- Maxx Safety - 6spd auto - $27,820
2.0L Petrol AWD
- Maxx - 6spd auto - $26,390
- Maxx Safety - 6spd auto - $27,420
- sTouring - 6spd auto - $30,990
- sTouring Safety - 6spd auto - $32,020
- Akari - 6spd auto - $35,290
1.5L Diesel AWD
- sTouring - 6spd auto - $33,390
- sTouring Safety - 6spd auto - $34,420
- Akari - 6spd auto - $37,690