Mazda’s fashionable challenger to the Juke.
Mazda has used its latest 2 supermini as the basis for its first small crossover, a car which has to compete against some very strong rivals including the sector-leading Nissan Juke. Its five-door body has similar styling features to other Mazdas, making it quite distinctive in appearance.
The less powerful but more economical engine in the range is a 104bhp 1.5-litre diesel. There's also a surprisingly large petrol engine - Mazda is not keen on the idea of downsizing, and has instead given this one a 2.0-litre capacity as part of a policy it terms "right-sizing". It's available with 118bhp or, for the range-topping model, 148bhp.
Most CX-3s are front-wheel drive and have manual transmission, but some are four-wheel drive, and there's the option of an automatic gearbox.
With the manual gearbox and all the drive going to the front axle, the diesel CX-3 performs acceptably well. The key performance figures are 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds and a top speed of 110mph. Both the automatic transmission and especially the four-wheel drive system dull it down considerably, the combined effect of both being 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds and an inability to exceed 107mph.
Equivalent figures for the 118bhp petrol car (front-wheel drive only) are 9.0 seconds and 119mph for the manual and 9.9 seconds and 116mph for the automatic. The manual version feels brisk enough, but if you've come from a turbocharged car, you'll need to get used to using most of its available revs, as it produces peak power higher up the rev range. Do this, and the generally quiet engine emits quite a racket, although it does at least sound quite sporty. The 148bhp version, despite being available only with four-wheel drive, is still the quickest of the bunch on 8.7 seconds and 124mph. The automatic gearbox is very eager to change down even at half throttle but is otherwise fine, with very smooth shifts.
Ride and Handling
When you're going faster, everything comes together, and while the soft suspension means there's a lot of body movement the car also grips the road superbly.
The CX-3 feels a little out of its comfort zone when being driven at moderate speeds over bumpy surfaces, feeling rather uncomfortable on the 18-inch wheels fitted to the Sport Nav – and also on the smaller 16s.
When you're going faster, everything comes together, and while the soft suspension means there's a lot of body movement, the car also grips the road superbly. It's also very easy to drive in town, though you'll need to be careful because the large door pillars restrict visibility a bit.
The steering is exceptionally smooth and very quick to react, which makes the CX-3 feel extremely agile, but it can also make it feel somewhat nervous on the motorway, so it's not as relaxing as something like the Skoda Yeti when it comes to long distance slogs.
Did you know?
A CX-3 Racing concept vehicle was displayed in Tokyo in January 2015, leading to speculation that a high-performance production model might be added to the range at some point.
Interior and Equipment
The interior, which bears a close resemblance to that of the Mazda 2, is attractive and has plenty of room for front passengers, though there is far less space in the back. Attempting to carry four six-foot tall adults at once may lead to complaints from the pair in the rear.
Luggage capacity in most models is 350 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,260 litres when they're folded down. This includes an underfloor compartment which can be used to store valuables in the SE and the SE-L, but in the Sport Nav it's filled by the subwoofer of the Bose sound system - which takes up nearly 70 litres.
All CX-3s have alloy wheels, powered folding door mirrors, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, internet connection and a multimedia system with a seven-inch colour touchscreen.
SE-Ls have climate control, rear parking sensors, LED front foglights, Smart City Brake Support and lane departure warning. The Sport Nav, in addition to the 18-inch wheels and Bose audio, has part-leather upholstery, a reversing camera and a head-up display. All trim levels have a Nav equivalent which includes satellite navigation with three years' worth of free European map updates.
Optional extras are limited metallic, mica or pearlescent paint and, in the case of the Sport Nav only, part-leather, part-suede upholstery.
All the diesels, but none of the petrol cars, have official fuel economy of more than 50mpg.
The high level of standard equipment makes the CX-3 quite pricey at first glance, but in fact it is quite competitive against other compact crossovers with similar specification. Pricing ranges between just over £17,500 and just under £25,000.
For the best running costs you'll want the front-wheel drive diesel manual. It has by far the best fuel economy and CO2 emissions in the range at 70.6mpg and 105g/km, the latter figure keeping Vehicle Excise Duty payments down to £20 per year. No other version will cost less than £110 to tax, as the second best CO2 figure (for the four-wheel drive diesel) is 123g/km.
All the diesels, but none of the petrol cars, have official fuel economy of more than 50mpg. The 148bhp car, which has four-wheel drive as standard, has the worst economy and CO2 figures of 44.1mpg and 150g/km respectively.
Although the diesels are cheaper to run, they cost about £1,400 more than otherwise identical petrol models. The latter are therefore likely to be the better choice if you don't plan on making a lot of long journeys.
Of all the compact crossovers on the market, the CX-3 is surely the sharpest-looking, and it also benefits from the SKYACTIV technology which Mazda has been introducing to its models over the past few years.
We'd prefer more attention to have been paid to visibility, ride quality and rear passenger space. Otherwise this is a good little crossover which should not be overlooked if you want a car of this type and have no particular loyalty to any other brand.