Mazda CX-3 1.5D Sport Nav
Handsome CX-3 is one of Mazda's best-looking offerings
- Smart exterior has big appeal
- Impressive interior quality throughout
- Good standard specification
- Driving experience is well above the class average
- Boot space is modest, particularly on some models
- No turbocharged petrol engine available
- Four-wheel-drive limited to Sport Nav trim
- Models with bigger wheels suffer from a firm ride
Japanese manufacturer Mazda is in the middle of a renaissance, with its SkyActiv architecture running though its entire range and key models like the MX-5 being reborn to much acclaim. The CX-3 is a logical next step, building on the popularity of the bigger CX-5 but in a more compact form and a smaller price tag.
The CX-3 is a very important car for Mazda as it gives the firm a competitor in the booming compact crossover segment, one which has expanded dramatically in recent years. The CX-3 is the first offering from Mazda in this class and like many of its rivals it uses an existing supermini - in this case the Mazda 2 - as the basis of its design.
Visually the CX-3 mixes elements from the Mazda 2 and the CX-5 crossover to create arguably its most stylish offering bar the drop-top MX-5. In Sport trim with standard alloy wheels and finished in red metallic paint it is distinctive and attractive, and is likely to win over potential buyers on looks alone.
Mechanically the CX-3 is a mix of new elements and those inherited from the Mazda 2 supermini. Although similar in terms of length and width, the CX-3 is considerably taller than the 2 in both the height of the body and the ride height, giving the high driving position that is a key feature for many buyers in this segment.
Also like the Mazda 2 the CX-3 comes with a choice of one petrol and one diesel engine, mated as standard to a six-speed manual gearbox. Most models are front-wheel-drive, helping to cut fuel consumption in normal driving however Sport Nav models can also be specified with four-whee-drive, in petrol or diesel guise.
Our verdict on the Mazda CX-3 1.5D Sport Nav
The CX-3 provides a stylish alternative to conventional small cars and stands up very well against key competition. It has a stylish exterior, a good quality interior and also delivers an excellent driving experience. Interior space is not the class best, but unless this is of paramount importance buyers will find the CX-3 to be an excellent choice.
With the diesel engine up front the CX-3 should prove to be a relatively cheap car to run. Insurance costs will be at the lower end of the scale too, so it is only the purchase price itself that potentially may be an issue.
Space and practicality
The SUV-like exterior can lead you to believe the cabin will be cavernous, but in truth the CX-3 is on a par with its key rivals in this respect. In the front there is reasonable space for adults with sufficient head and leg room. In the rear things are a little more cramped, and although adults will fit those at the taller end of the scale will find headroom something of an issue. Boot space is actually model dependent; Sport Nav models fitted with the Bose audio system have a subwoofer beneath the boot floor cover, reducing overall space.
Controls and display
The CX-3 sets a high standard in respect of its control layout, with a very simple but informative arrangement. The dials are clear and illuminated in white which is easy on the eye, while the touchscreen uses uncomplicated graphics that are easy to understand. Crucially the rotary selector which can also operate the touchscreen system is a real advantage and a sensible addition for driver comfort.
The CX-3 offers a good standard of comfort, with impressive general refinement. Engine, wind and tyre noise are well controlled, while the seats both front and rear are comfortable and supportive. The only significant issue is ride quality, which is somewhat hampered by the firm suspension and exacerbated by the larger wheels on Sport Nav models.
The entire CX-3 range comes with features such as remote central locking, an engine immobiliser and approved alarm system. Moving up to the SE-L grade adds privacy glass while the range-topping Sport Nav also has keyless entry and start.
All Mazda CX-3s have a high safety specification, with ESP and traction control, six airbags, hill hold assist and tyre pressure monitoring as standard. SE-L and Sport Nav models also benefit from land departure warning system and Smart City Brake Support which can mitigate low speed accidents.
It is not uncommon for crossover models to drive in a less accomplished fashion than the conventional cars on which they are based, but with the CX-3 it is arguable that the reverse is true. In 105PS diesel form the CX-3 has generous torque providing brisk acceleration as well as steady, comfortable cruising. The steering is pleasingly accurate and although the suspension is quite firm, the trade-off is very little body roll and a keen attitude which will please drivers.
Family car appeal
Smaller families will find the CX-3 is suitable for their needs with Isofix mounting points on the outside rear seats, and with leather as standard on Sport Nav models it has the right level of sturdiness to withstand the demands of small children. However the boot's limited height may make it too small for larger pushchairs.
First car appeal
New but relatively-affluent buyers would do well to choose the CX-3 as a first car. It's undemanding to drive, although parking requires a little care, and should prove to be inexpensive to run. However the closely-related Mazda 2 is probably a more likely first choice.
Quality and image
Already respected for producing quality cars, Mazda's most recent models have improved still further with a higher standard of finish and better materials. The CX-3 is arguably the best-finished car in the class and sets a high standard for the segment. The same can be said for Mazda's image, which has been considerably boosted by the improved design of its more recent models.
While the CX-3 is a small car the design contributes to easy access, in particular the raised ride height which puts the front and rear seats in an ideal position for gaining entry. The door apertures are also of a decent size. The ride height also means the boot is at a good height - in fact the double boot floor means the owner can adjust the partition as they see fit.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The Sport Nav trim includes satellite navigation as standard and is accessed through the centrally-mounted screen. It offers both touchscreen operation and via a rotary controller mounted down by the handbrake - a useful feature which gives the passenger the operation to operate it with the alternative means giving the driver safer operation on the move.
Colours and trim
The CX-3 is an impressive piece of design that mixes body coloured elements with black plastic cladding around the lower section. The popular metallic red colour suits it exceptionally well. On the inside the CX-3 follows the common trend of largely black plastics, although this is mitigated by chrome details and some body colour elements which help to lift the overall impression.
The CX-3's compact exterior dimensions are a boon here, making it possible to squeeze into relatively small spaces. However, over the shoulder visibility is a little compromised due to its broad rear pillars. Rear parking sensors are fitted to SE-L models and above while the Sport Nav trim adds a reversing camera as standard for ultimate peace of mind.
Emergency tyre repair kit supplied as standard.
Petrol engine options - 2.0-litre (118bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.5-litre (104bhp). Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels: SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport Nav.
Nissan Juke One of the most popular offerings in the market, divisive looks
Renault Kadjar Sister car to the Juke is good looking with frugal engines
Peugeot 2008 Closer in execution to the 208 on which it is based, less ground clearance
Vauxhall Mokka Corsa-based offering from Vauxhall looks smart, average driving experience