Life Auto You’re spoiled for choice with the stylish Mazda CX-3

You’re spoiled for choice with the stylish Mazda CX-3

Mazda CX-3
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Expert rating: 80/100

Engine, drivetrain and chasis: 17/20
Price, packaging and practicality:  16/20
Safety and technology: 15/20
Behind the wheel: 16/20
X-factor: 16/20

Starting from $19,990 (plus on-road costs) it’s little wonder Mazda’s small crossover is kicking goals.

Spoilt for choice, the CX-3 offers petrol or diesel engines, automatic or manual transmissions, front or all-wheel drive and four model grades.

On trend and showing great form, the CX-3 has slipped into a jam-packed segment with the greatest of ease. But with 28 immediate rivals, the CX-3 has a tough road ahead if it’s to stay on top of Australia’s fastest growing automotive segment.

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The Maxx variant on test sits on the second rung of the CX-3 ladder, one above the entry grade Neo. Priced from $22,390 (plus ORCs), it’s powered by a gutsy 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine – the only petrol engine on offer in the CX-3 range – delivering 109kW and 192Nm.

As the numbers suggest, the CX-3 Maxx offers plenty of pace. It’s one of the most powerful petrol engines in its class, and with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission, offers linear power delivery to the front wheels. The six-speed manual is a fun unit for the enthusiastic driver, though an automatic transmission is also available optionally for $2000. During our time the CX-3 returned an average fuel consumption figure of 7.4L/100km.

On the go the CX-3 Maxx feels fun yet sure-footed. The steering is crisp and the suspension works to deliver an engaging if taut drive. It’s firmer than some, but not uncomfortable, though we did note a degree of tyre-noise intrusion, especially on coarse chip surfaces.

Mazda CX-3
One of the most powerful petrol engines in its class. Photo:

With only a slightly elevated ride height the CX-3 feels more hatch than SUV, though you do gain a slight increase in forward visibility. Its higher hip-point also improves entry and exit; though I found the elevated driving position meant the infotainment system’s rotary dial (set on the centre console) was a little far from reach.

The CX-3 uses the same underpinnings as the Mazda2, and as such the second-row seating is better suited to two passengers and not three. The packaging also compromises cargo space with just 264 litres on offer. It means the CX-3’s boot is smaller than many competitors, but can expand to 1174 litres by flipping the 60:40 split-fold rear seats.

On the plus side, the interior’s presentation is top notch. The cohesive design and quality of materials make the CX-3’s cabin a pleasant place to be – it really feels like you’re in a premium vehicle. Equipment levels are likewise generous and the technology is well ahead of expectations at this price.

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With flair and functionality to rival the usual European suspects the CX-3 provides a ‘floating’ 7.0-inch touchscreen to control the car’s various infotainment systems. The majority of must-have tech features appear as standard, including Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio streaming, internet radio integration, a reversing camera and satellite navigation.

The CX-3 Maxx is also equipped with cruise control as standard, and offers keyless entry and push-button start, as well as idle-stop to save fuel at the lights.

There’s a variety of small storage spots to keep important bits and pieces away from prying eyes, and a total of six cupholders for that all-important morning latte.

Like all Mazda passenger vehicles the CX-3 arrives with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and a capped-price servicing plan for 16 years or 160,000km (whichever comes first). Keep in mind, however, that Mazda does not include roadside assistance as part of the deal, instead charging an annual subscription ($68.10 p.a. at the time of publishing).

If you’re after a real SUV feel, you’re going to have to step up to a larger offering from Mazda. But if you’re hunting personality, rather than practically, the CX-3 has plenty.

Mazda CX-3
If you’re after a proper SUV-feel, the CX-3 may not be the car for you. Photo:

2015 Mazda CX-3 Maxx pricing and specifications:
Price: $22,390 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Output: 109kW/192Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel: 6.3L/100km (ADR Combined)
CO2: 160g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety Rating: N/A

What we liked: Not so much:
>> Gutsy petrol engine >> Tyre noise
>> Quality fit and finish >> Limited cargo space
>> Competitive price >> Ergonomic quibbles

Also consider:
>> Renault Captur (from $22,990 plus ORCs)
>> Honda HR-V (from $24,990 plus ORCs)
>> Ford EcoSport (from $20,790 plus ORCs)

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