Mazda CX-3

A small, efficient SUV with good standard equipment

8.1
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 8 reviews
  • Looks fantastic
  • Efficient engines
  • Lots of standard kit
  • A little too much engine noise
  • Fairly expensive
  • Suspension stiffer than rivals
 

£17,595 - £24,695 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

44 - 70 MPG

Review

The Mazda CX-3 is a compact crossover that wades into battle against the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and the Fiat 500X. It’s the smaller brother of the CX-5 – a car that’s already impressed critics – so should be fun to drive.

It’s offered with three different engines, all of which come from Mazda’s SKYACTIV family so are among the most advanced units fitted to any production car. The 2.0-litre petrol comes with 118 or 148hp and the 1.5-litre diesel offers 104hp. All CX-3s are cheap to run thanks to their advanced engines and the car’s light weight.

Mazda has spent a lot of time honing the way the CX-3 drives and its effort was undoubtedly worth it. The CX-3 has a deftness of handling clearly inspired by the MX-5 sports car. The steering is true to your inputs and has a consistent weighting throughout its range. This is supplemented by peppy engines that are happy whether cruising or driving enthusiastically.

Inside, the CX-3 is smaller than some rivals but larger than the popular Nissan Juke. It’ll still fit four six-footers but passengers in the back might find their heads touch the roof or their knees rub the front seat back. The boot is respectable for the class with an even shape and almost no lip between the rear bumper and the load bay.

It’s more expensive than many of its rivals but comes with fantastic levels of standard equipment. Even basic cars get power folding mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning and an infotainment screen. Mid-range models get heated seats and top-spec versions get satellite-navigation and an upgraded sound system.

Why not check out the colours available using our Mazda CX-3 colours guide and see if it offers enough interior space with our Mazda CX-3 dimensions guide.

Cheapest to buy: 2.0-litre SE 120hp manual petrol

Cheapest to run: 1.5-litre SE manual 2WD diesel

Fastest model: 2.0-litre Sport Nav 150hp auto 4WD petrol

Most popular: 2.0-litre SE-L 120hp manual petrol

The interior of the Mazda CX-3 is pretty much lifted straight from the Mazda 2 supermini on which it’s based, which means this compact crossover has one of the smartest and most sensibly-styled cabins in this class. The analogue and digital displays are crisp and easy to read, the controls themselves are intuitive to operate – bar the centre screen that protrudes from the top of the centre console – giving a very classy look to the dashboard.

Disappointingly, it seems most of the materials used have also been pinched from the aforementioned Mazda 2. Though everything seems well screwed together, and overall quality is better than on rivals (such as the Nissan Juke), cheap-feeling plastics – in particular, the top of the door cards – are still there to be found.

Mazda CX-3 passenger space

Things start to get a bit better for the Mazda CX-3 when it comes to practicality. Whilst rear leg and headroom is a bit restrictive, with the small rear windows reinforcing this sense of hemmed-in space, everyone who’s tested the car so far reckons there is just about enough room for all but the tallest of drivers and passengers to get comfortable. 

Mazda CX-3 boot space

Likewise, the 350-litre boot in the Mazda CX-3 isn’t the largest you’ll find in this class (that accolade belongs to the 455-litre load bay in the Renault Captur), though the practical shape of the boot negates that issue slightly. The false floor that can be raised to provide a flat load bay is also a handy feature.

Mazda’s been on a roll when it comes to handling – there doesn’t seem to be a single car in its range that doesn’t drive well. Even its saloons and SUVs (such as the Mazda 6 and Mazda CX-5) are some of the best cars to drive in their respective classes.

A similar story can be said for the Mazda CX-3, it seems, many testers claim it’s one of the best compact crossovers to drive in its class. Though the firm suspension reduces body roll it means the ride can be bumpy on rougher surfaces (especially at lower speeds), the trade-off is the Mazda CX-3 being composed and surefooted when cornering. 

This emphasis on an enjoyable experience behind the wheel also manifests itself in the controls: the steering, for instance, is precise and well-weighted, while both the manual and automatic gearboxes are described by testers as being ‘pleasing’ and ‘intuitive’ to use.

The adjustability in the driver’s seat and steering column were also cited as being big plus points for getting comfy behind the wheel.

It’s just a shame, then, that overall refinement levels aren’t that impressive, with a recurring complaint in road tests being the amount of engine noise that enters the cabin, regardless of speed. Thankfully, it seems the Mazda CX-3 does a better job of suppressing wind and tyre roar, which – combined with the ride that seems to smooth out at speed – means it should be comfortable enough on long journeys.

See what carwow thought of the Mazda CX-3 when we got behind the wheel.

At time of writing, only two engines can be fitted to the Mazda CX-3: a 103hp 1.5-litre diesel, and a 2.0-litre petrol in either 118hp or 148hp guises. Both engines can be paired with manual and automatic gearboxes with six speeds. Four-wheel-drive petrol and front-wheel-drive diesel Mazda CX-3s can only be had in manual form.

Mazda CX-3 diesel engine

The diesel is taken straight from the Mazda 2 supermini, and – surprisingly – seems to fare quite well, given it has substantially more weight to shift in this application. Although it’s slower getting up to speed, it does seem to settle into a cruise quite nicely, and the decent amount of low-down torque means you shouldn’t need a big run up when overtaking on a motorway.

Fuel economy of 70.6mpg and road tax of just £20 annually makes the two-wheel drive manual model the cheapest to run in the range. Adding four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox drops fuel economy to 54.3mpg and road tax costs £130 a year.

Mazda CX-3 petrol engines

Surprisingly, both petrols are also pretty potent at low speeds, but don’t appear to have the high-end punch you’d expect. 

The most frugal petrol is the two-wheel drive automatic. It achieves fuel economy of 48.7mpg and costs £130 every 12 months to tax. Adding four-wheel drive drops fuel economy to 44.1mpg and increases your road tax bill to £145 every year.

The Mazda CX-3 was awarded four stars out of five by Euro NCAP in 2015 – it was docked marks for lacking some more high-tech crash avoidance systems and giving rear-seat passengers poor protection from whiplash.

Mostly, this is down to the Mazda CX-3’s strong array of standard safety features including front, side and curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes and stability control.

Furthermore, all Mazda CX-3 models from mid-range ‘SE-L’ trim upwards come fitted with lane departure warning and emergency braking systems, the latter of which automatically brakes the car if it detects a possible frontal collision at speeds of up to 18mph.

Initially, prices for the Mazda CX-3 look incredibly steep for a car of this size – the Mazda 3 small family hatchback, for instance, is larger, more practical and more affordable than its crossover cousin. Even in comparison with its rivals, the Mazda CX-3 is an expensive piece of kit, with some competitors (such as the Renault Captur, Citroen C4 Cactus and Vauxhall Mokka) all coming in at either similar or considerably lower price points.

What does soften the blow somewhat is a fairly impressive standard kit list. Regardless of which Mazda CX-3 you opt for, you’re guaranteed to have cruise control, DAB digital radio, air-conditioning, front and rear electric windows, plus a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Upgrade from entry-level SE to mid-range SE-L trim, and you add goodies like climate control and lane departure warning, whilst Sport Nav adds the sat-nav (an optional extra on the lower trims) with three year’s worth of free map updates. However, at these levels, the Mazda CX-3 isn’t much more affordable than some similarly-specified rivals, not to mention the more practical family hatchbacks you could pick up for the same amount of money.

Conclusion

The Mazda CX-3 is, by most counts, a pretty good all-round compact crossover. Yes, it can get pretty pricey if you go for the higher-spec models, and the engine’s aren’t the most refined in this class, but a combination of good standard equipment levels, decent practicality, as well as a well-judged ride and handling balance makes this one of the better cars in its class.

Put simply, the Mazda CX-3 is definitely worth considering if you’ll be looking for a new compact crossover when it goes on sale later this year.

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