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Mazda CX-3 Photo: Supplied
Mazda CX-3 Photo: Supplied
Mazda CX-3 Photo: Supplied
Mazda CX-3 Photo: Supplied
Mazda CX-3 Photo: Supplied
 
 
David McCowen | Aug, 30 2018 | 0 Comments

Now in its fourth year on sale Mazda's compact city SUV is one of the most popular options in its segment. But it's not without close competition keeping it on its toes, having its second facelift in as many years and with pricing putting it into a realm where potentially more practical options come into play. 

Vehicle Style: Compact crossover
On test: CX-3 Akari
Engine/trans: 110kW/195Nm, 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol | 6spd automatic, front or all-wheel drive
 
 

OVERVIEW

The Mazda CX-3 first arrived back in 2015, when carmakers were scrambling to build high-riding hatchback alternatives to city cars such as the Mazda2 and Honda Jazz.

A close relative of the Mazda2, the CX-3 shares its wheelbase with its compact cousin, meaning it isn’t ideal for families. Aimed at young folks and empty-nesters, the Mazda CX-3 offers a broad variety of options catering to customer requirements.

Priced from $23,990 drive-away, the CX-3 costs $7000 than a basic Mazda2 and around $1000 more than the outgoing model.

Fitted with a six-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels as standard, you can option a six-speed auto for an extra $2000. All-wheel-drive traction brings the same premium, while a switch from petrol to diesel power will set you back $2500 to $3000.

Mazda offers a choice of four model grades. The entry-level Neo Sport brings cheap touches such as 16-inch steel wheels and halogen headlamps, though it does bring pleasant features in an electronic parking brake, reversing camera, rear parking sensors and 7-inch touchscreen.

Mid-range Maxx Sport models priced from $25,490 drive-away add 16-inch alloys, sat nav, climate control and other touches including a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob.

The CX-3 sTouring available from $28,740 drive-away adds 18-inch alloys, LED headlamps, taillamp and daytime running lights, faux leather trim, front parking sensors and smart keys.

At the top of the range, the all-wheel-drive, auto-only CX-3 Akari is available in petrol form for $37,490 drive-away, adding a sunroof, power front seats, leather trim, a 360-degree camera, adaptive LED headlamps and more. Buyers looking for even more could hold out for a special-edition CX-3 Akari LE due in the near future. 

Unlike some of its rivals, the CX-3 comes with autonomous emergency braking - effective in forward and reverse travel - along with a back-up camera and rear parking sensors across the range. Other features such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and traffic sign recognition are available in mid-grade models, while the top-end Akari is loaded up with active cruise control and lane departure warning systems usually found in larger, more expensive models.

 

THE INTERIOR

Though the broad variety of models is not unique to Mazda, it does represent a change of thinking for affordable cars. If you tally up model grades, transmission options and engine choices, there are 14 variants in the CX-3 line-up. The top-end Akari can be had with a choice of black or white leather offset by red cabin highlights further differentiating it from the crowd.

Whichever way you go, the CX-3 stands out by failing to offer Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity on any model grade, though Mazda promises to address that with a running change coming soon that will be available through dealers for a few hundred dollars.

Long drives in the country aren’t a strong point for the Mazda, which has more than a dash of road noise on coarse surfaces. Engineers continue to work to address that for the CX-3 and other models, adding new sound deadening, changing its tyre specifications and fine-tuning suspension elements to minimise harsh elements which can intrude into the cabin.

New seats with revised foam offer a decent amount of support for long days in the saddle - at least in the top-end Akari variant tested here - helped by seat heaters that stop your back from becoming stiff. Helpfully, the Mazda offers a good degree of steering wheel adjustment, and the remote control system for its infotainment screen means you can access key features without stretching to reach the dashboard.

A high hip height is central to the CX-3’s appeal for older buyers, who may appreciate the ease of access afforded by a compact car which doesn’t require gymnastics on entry and exit.

But it loses points for a lack of room in the rear seat. Compromised in both head and leg-room compared with key alternatives, the CX-3 is one of the cosier options in its class. The same goes for a compact cargo area with less space than Ford EcoSport or Renault Captur rivals.

 

ON THE ROAD

We tested the CX-3 in auto, all-wheel-drive Akari form with a 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet.

Capable of producing 110kW of power and 195Nm of torque, the subtly revised motor makes 1kW and 3Nm more than before. While we won’t pretend to notice the impact of a solitary kiloWatt, it is fair to say the CX-3 offers a reasonable amount of go for a car in this class. Slightly smoother than before, the naturally aspirated engine sounds a little boisterous when delivering peak power, working harder than the quiet hum of turbo rivals.

The motor has a fine partner in Mazda’s conventional six-speed automatic transmission, which treads the line beautifully between doughy CVT automatics and jerky dual-clutch alternatives which lack the finesse of Mazda’s gearbox.

We’re still waiting to try a new 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel motor which replaces an outgoing 1.5-litre model. Offering 85kW and 270Nm outputs, Mazda says the new diesel’s main selling point is a reduction in real-world fuel consumption.

Minor suspension changes have had a positive effect on the CX-3, which now feels more stable and less floaty than before. Fresh shock absorbers and a new front anti-roll bar tune out what the brand describes as “choppiness” from oscillating bumps on the open road, working with softer tyre sidewalls and retuned steering to improve the car’s behaviour.

Quieter and more refined than its predecessor - yet still short of segment leaders - the CX-3’s cross country composure has improved. It’s still one of the best cars to drive in its class, with impressive agility fitting the brand’s somewhat sporty image.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

The updated CX-3 brings no surprises. It remains an attractive, well-rounded machine with strong safety features and dynamic ability let down by compromised space and questionable value for high-end variants.

Given half the range costs more than $30,000 on the road, we would be tempted to look at something like the Mazda3 or CX-5 instead - or hold out for a new Mazda3 likely to debut soon.

 
Filed under compact suv cx-3 Mazda suv
 
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