Mazda CX-3

Australia's best micro-SUV

Australia's best micro-SUV

Need to know

The Mazda CX-3 is one of the smallest SUVs on the market. (Funny thing is, it looks bigger in the photos - so you might get a shock the first time you see it in the flesh. It's tiny.)

Skip down to the full review & video >>
Save thousands on CX-3 now >>

Mazda CX-3 is actually a development of the Mazda2 >> platform, with the 2.0-litre engine from the Mazda3 (and CX-5) for motivation. So it goes quite well. There is also a great little 1.5 diesel with astonishing fuel economy.

Typically Mazda - which means built really well, but with a few quirks - the CX-3 looks great but probably isn't as good value as a Mazda3 in the context of overall practicality, for most buyers.

If you have your heart set on an SUV but you really don't want to - literally - step up into the larger SUV league then the Mazda CX-3 certainly is worth a look.

Check out the CX-3's bigger brother, the Mazda CX-5 >> 

LOVE

  • Great alternative to a) a car, and b) a big SUV for anyone with a mobility issue who is sick of climbing a) down, or b) up (respectively) to get into their current vehicle
  • CX-3 is a real point of difference from other, larger SUVs - and more polished than any direct competitor
  • Both engines do a great job in this small package
  • 1.5 diesel is amazingly efficient (hybrid-like fuel economy)
  • 12-month service interval (or 10,000km, which ever occurs first) is a real plus for shorter-mileage drivers
  • Great packaging and ergonomics
  • Excellent dynamics
  • CX-3 Atari packs a ton of standard equipment for about the same price as a Mazda3 SP25 Astina

HATE

  • Space saver spare tyre is unsuitable for long-distance Australian driving
  • CX-3's i-Stop system (automatic engine shutdown and re-start) is badly implemented (especially on diesel) and can't be permanently switched off by the owner
  • Warranty and service package can't match Hyundai or Kia
  • It's only 265mm shorter than a CX-5, and much less practical as an SUV
  • In the context of carrying four people and anything more than vestigial luggage, it's too small
  • Great styling, but hardly any luggage room with all seats occupied, and rear-seat vision for passengers is very limited
  • Lower spec 2WD models are merely pumped-up Mazda2s - and the Mazda2 is unbelievably better value - provided you don't need the slightly greater elevation
  • 2WD diesel isn't a happy combination - even though one is available. Too much low-rpm power overwhelms the front end too easily, and the wheels start to spin

SPECIFICATIONS

2.0 PETROL
Power: 109 kW @ 6000 rpm
Torque 192 Nm @ 2800 rpm
Economy: 6.7 L/100km

1.5 DIESEL
Power: 77 kW @ 4000 rpm
Torque 270 Nm @ 1600-2500 rpm
Economy: 5.1 L/100km

Transmission: 6 sp auto
(or 6 sp manual on 2WD Neo)
Preferred models: Maxx or sTouring (but not the 2WD diesel)
Manufactured: Japan
Length: 4275 mm
Width: 1765 mm
Height: 1550 mm
Kerb weight: 1193-1368 kg
(model dependent)
Maximum tow capacity: 1200 kg
Seating Capacity: Five
Warranty: 3 years / 100,000 kilometres
Service interval: 12 months or 10,000 km

(whichever comes first)
Roadside assist: N/A
Spare wheel: Space-saver

Keep up to date with current specs and recommended drive-away pricing at Mazda Australia >> 

MAZDA CX-3 SAFETY

Mazda CX-3 scored 36.44 out of a possible 37 points in 2015 when it was independently crash tested by ANCAP

Mazda CX-3 scored 36.44 out of a possible 37 points in 2015 when it was independently crash tested by ANCAP

Mazda CX-3 is very safe. ANCAP's tests awarded it five stars and a cracking good score of 36.44 out of a possible 37 (98.5%) when it was tested in 2015. All regions on the dummies were awarded 'good' or 'acceptable', and the whiplash rating was also 'good'.

Mazda CX-3 is not perfect, however: There are no chest-protecting side airbags for the second row (but there are head-protecting curtains). Nor are there knee-protecting airbags for the front occupants. There's no adaptive cruise control, and features like auto headlamps, auto-dipping high beam, daytime running lights and lane departure warning system are not available on the base model but are available higher up in the range.

See more on CX-3 safety testing >> by ANCAP or download the full ANCAP CX-3 crash test technical report >>

MAZDA CX-3 REVIEW & VIDEO

The Mazda CX-3 is a thermobaric bomb - in so far as its competitors in the SUV segment are concerned. Suzuki, Holden, Subaru and Nissan must have been so thrilled to see such a strong new entrant enter the market. With the CX-3, Mazda is hoping to seduce 12,000 buyers every year away from the the S-Cross, the Trax, the XV and the Qashqai. So, prepare yourself for Mazda CX-3 small SUV seduction, or at least, docking procedures. Let’s jump into bed with the diminutive new Mazda CX-3.

SKYACTIV is the buzzword Mazda uses for all the fuel-efficiency technology - including lowering internal friction plus direct injection and (on diesels and CX-9) turbocharging

SKYACTIV is the buzzword Mazda uses for all the fuel-efficiency technology - including lowering internal friction plus direct injection and (on diesels and CX-9) turbocharging

MAZDA SKYACTIV TECH

The Mazda CX-3 CX-3 features all the SKYACTIV fuel-saving stuff from Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda6 and Mazda CX-5. Mazda has done an outstanding job on technology and fuel efficiency since the Global Financial Crisis, and they’ve done it while many other leading carmakers have been asleep at the wheel.

Fuel economy of the Mazda CX-3 is excellent - officially rated at 6.1-6.7 litres/100km for the petrol and 4.8-5.1 litres/100km for the diesel. But this obsession with fuel-saving is not all good news. See my comments on i-Stop, below.

More on the official fuel numbers - and why cars don't generally manage to deliver them in this report on official fuel consumption figures >>


Mazda CX-3 is one very sexy looking small SUV - there's no doubt, cosmetically, it's a real winner

Mazda CX-3 is one very sexy looking small SUV - there's no doubt, cosmetically, it's a real winner

MAZDA CX-3 DESIGN

CX-3 features Mazda's so-called KODO ‘soul of motion’ design. Mazda says KODO promotes - quote - “a sense of oneness between the car and driver”. Like most forms of corporate masturbation, this something best left in the boardroom. Doing in public, expecting outsiders to understand, is undignified. Soul of Motion… Sense of oneness… It's just a car. Quite a nice looking one, as it happens. But still: it's just a car.

The Mazda CX-3 is what happens when you put the Mazda CX-5 in a tumble drier without reading the instructions. Or else it’s a kind of automotive attempt at fois gras, from force-feeding a Mazda2… The Mazda CX-3 is only slightly taller and longer than Mazda2. So it’s a tiny SUV. (Below: Click to enlarge.)

Predictably, the Mazda CX-3 is shorter and lower than a Mazda CX-5 - but this really is splitting hairs. The dimensional differences are not that great. The biggest difference between the Mazda2, Mazda CX-3 and Mazda CX-5 is the filthy lucre you’ll need to acquire one.

If you can squeeze into a Mazda CX-3 instead of a Mazda CX-5 you’ll save between $7000 and $13,000. If you step up from a Mazda2, that will cost you between $5000 and $16,000 more. The Mazda CX-3 is pretty much line-ball on pricing against Mazda3, even though it’s actually the Mazda CX-5 that shares more common ground mechanically with the Mazda3.

MAZDA CX-3 IMAGE GALLERY

MAZDA CX-3 ENGINES

In the Mazda CX-3 range there are two engines: a 2.0-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel. As you’d expect, more peak power from the petrol, but more low-rpm power from the diesel. No surprises there.

A Mazda CX-3 with a 2.0-litre petrol engine is going to be quicker in a straight line than a Mazda CX-5 - even with the 2.5-litre engine. The Mazda CX-3 a better peak power-to-weight ratio. But the diesel domain is different - 56 per cent more low-rpm power for the Mazda CX-5's 2.2, in line with its additional displacement.

Diesel Mazda CX-5 is clearly in front of the diesel Mazda CX-3.

If you buy the diesel Mazda CX-3 you’ll need a run on the highway every fortnight or so to prevent its exhaust particle filter from making like a 30-year smoker’s lungs. So if you are locked in to urban-only operation, buy the petrol Mazda CX-3. Otherwise, the diesel does feel stronger in the mid-rpm range. More on petrol versus diesel here >>

MAZDA CX-3 MODEL RANGE

Mazda has a pretty straightforward desktop app to build and price your CX-3 >>

Car companies make model ranges notoriously complex, so let’s crack the kooky code of what you can and can’t have in your new Mazda CX-3. There are four model grades. From poverty to opulence: Mazda CX-3 Neo, Mazda CX-3 Maxx, Mazda CX-3 sTouring and Mazda CX-3 Akari. (Akari means ‘light’ or ‘glimmer’ in Japanese.)

There are front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive Mazda CX-3s. The fine print in the Mazda CX-3 KODO ‘Soul of Motion’ spirit of oneness corporate wanking pre-nup agreement says: No all-wheel drive in the entry-level Mazda CX-3 Neo, and no diesel in the Mazda CX-3 Neo.

You can have front drive across the whole range in petrol, but front drive is only available with diesel in the Mazda CX-3 Maxx. All-wheel drive petrol is on offer in Mazda CX-3 Maxx, Mazda CX-3 sTouring and Mazda CX-3 Akari, but all-wheel drive diesel is in Mazda CX-3 sTouring and Mazda CX-3 Akari only.

The Mazda CX-3 petrol comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto, but the Mazda CX-3 manual is front-drive only. The Mazda CX-3 auto costs $2000 - and the Mazda CX-3 diesel is a $2400 extra. Mazda CX-3 diesels are all automatic. And the Mazda CX-3 auto is a conventional planetary gearbox - not a CVT or the even more hateful and potentially problematic dual-clutch transmission.


Mazda CX-3 badge.jpg

MAZDA CX-3 NEO

Nasty, bulimic, and gutted - that’s Neo. Great news if you buy fleet cars for the likes of Hertz or Avis. But not so hot if you've got taste, or style. The only residually pleasant things about the Mazda CX-3 Neo are features that would have been far more expensive to remove.

Furthermore, it’s morally outrageous, in my view, that Mazda CX-3 Neo is the only model in the range lacking a reversing camera. This turns bottom-end buyers into third-class citizens on safety. Driveway run-overs are the second most common cause of accidental death in children, after drowning in the backyard pool.

So forget about the steel wheels and the dud entertainment features on Mazda CX-3 Neo: If you have even vestigial respect for the safety of young children, step up and buy at least the Mazda CX-3 Maxx. Remember: if Mazda is The Matrix, Morpheus is wrong. Neo is not ‘the one’.

MAZDA CX-3 MAXX

Mazda CX-3 Maxx costs only a bit more than Mazda CX-3 Neo, and it comes packed with excellent features - 16-inch alloys, plus leather on the wheel, handbrake lever and transmission selector knob. Mazda CX-3 Maxx also delivers the very cool seven-inch LCD infotainment system Mazda calls MZD Connect. And it comes with a rather nice rotating doo-hickey that drives the on-screen menus, same as the recently upgraded Mazda CX-5.

The rotating dial is kinda like BMW’s i-Drive, only Mazda’s one is based on actual logic. So that’s different. You also get two more speakers, plus sat-nav and the all-important kid-saving reversing camera. Sensational value. Maxx is certainly is the ‘sweet spot’ model in the Mazda CX-3 lineup.


MAZDA CX-3 sTouring

You get 18-inch alloys, plus all-you-can-eat LED lighting at both ends. You also get rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps, climate air, a proximity key and, sadly, the world’s stupidest head-up display, which Mazda calls the Active Driving Display.

Mazda's Active Driving Display projects digital speed and turn-by-turn navigation instructions onto a flimsy little piece of plastic above the instruments - and it comes with an even more stupid instrument cluster. There’s no analogue speedo on Mazda CX-3 sTouring, and instead you get the world’s hugest tacho.

These instruments are a bit ‘Star Trek’, but practically, they’re a monumental ‘fail’. Here, a bunch of engineers just got too clever for their own good. It seems to me the driver should be able to turn off the active driving display, and optionally revert to a conventional instrument cluster with an analogue speedo. Instead, you get this half-baked sci-fi travesty, which I was sincerely hoping would not metastasise into the Mazda CX-3. Unfortunately, Mazda CX-3 sTouring has delivered the Leyland P76 of instrument clusters...


SAFETY PACK

On the three models so far - Mazda CX-3 Neo, Mazda CX-3 Maxx and Mazda CX-3 sTouring - you can add a safety pack for about $1000. You get blind spot monitoring (which is redundant if you just learn how to adjust the rear-vision mirrors).

It also includes rear cross-traffic alert (which is redundant if you just reverse-in to 90-degree parking spaces). And there’s autonomous braking up to 30km/h (which is redundant if you just pay attention - there’s a revolutionary concept).

MAZDA CX-3 AKARI

The range-topping Mazda CX-3 Akari gets all of that above safety stuff standard, plus an electric sunroof, leather and suede combo seats and a lane-departure warning system (which is redundant if you just manage not to fall asleep while you drive).

MAZDA CX-3 SPECIFICATIONS

CONCLUSION

The Mazda CX-3 is not perfect, and while it's my job to jab its flaws mercilessly with a pointy stick (and also having a bit of fun with the ludicrous marketing concepts getting awfully lost in translation) you should be aware that this is a very impressive compact SUV. Whatever other vehicles you might be considering purchasing, make sure you test drive the Mazda CX-3.

Mazda is way ahead of most competing brands, and if I were you, I would be looking very hard at the all-wheel-drive, petrol Mazda CX-3 Maxx. That vehicle is just sensational value, for under $30,000 - and it has proper, intuitively understood instruments, the MZD Connect seven-inch screen, plus a potentially life-saving reversing camera.

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