Mazda CX-3 2018 Review Interior Exterior.
Mazda’s fashionable-but-late crack at a ‘compact crossover’ – the jacked-up, bluff-faced supermini idea that’s been a runaway success for the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka. So, it’s far from an original idea then, but there’s plenty of reasons not consequently to write the CX-3 off.
First off, the crucial donor car is a good ’un – the CX-3 borrows the platform, engines and drivetrains from the terrific new Mazda 2 supermini. It’s also a handsome little tyke – much smarter-suited than the polarizing Juke or Ford’s dog-awful Ecosport rival. And in this sector, look count for everything. Big win from the off, Mazda – and the rest of it stands up to scrutiny too…
The CX-3 drives like a heavier Mazda 2. It’s not quite as agile, but the steering’s pleasing weightiness, the gearshift’s brilliantly slick action and the obedient turn-in have all survived the supermini-to-crossover growth spurt intact. It’s easily as entertaining as a Juke, but the Mazda’s superior seats and multi-adjustable steering column means more drivers will be more comfortable – more ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ the chassis.
The pay-off for genuinely gratifying dynamics is the firm ride. It’s well controlled and far from uncomfortable, but even on the smaller 16-inch alloys, the CX-3 will be too stiff for some. The non-turbo petrol engines are torque-lite too, so be prepared to rummage around that gearbox (or spec the duller but brawnier 103bhp) for traffic-dodging urgency.
Mazda’s weight-saving ‘SKYACTIV’ engineering template has worked wonders with streamlining its car build processes and guilt-edging their dynamics, but it’s exposed where Mazda does need to invest – interior perceived quality. The general ergonomics are spot on, the touchscreen infotainment a bit Fisher Price but usable, and there’s no doubt the initial sketches would’ve looked great. But to keep it under twenty grand, the finished car has too many varied plastics where the designers obviously desired carbonfibre and aluminium, resulting in a car that feels a little cheap ‘n’ nasty inside.
There’s adequate space for a big supermini (a Yeti rival this is not, after all) and the boot’s 100 litres up on the Mazda 2. Watch the rear visibility though – styling has won out over rear window real estate. Given how many are likely to be used in city centres, the parking sensors standard on SE-L and above may prove invaluable…
Prices start sub-£18k – which still seems like a lot against European competition. Mazda contends it’s worth it. It insists that instead of offering Spartan basic models that owners then spec up, kit levels are more generous than competitors across the CX-3 range. Even the entry-level cars get treats like cruise control, touchscreen infotainment and DAB.
The Mazda CX-3 is a fun, small crossover that is a bit pricey to buy, but cheap to run
Mazda introduced the CX-3 to cater for the demand for compact crossovers. You could dismiss it as a taller, chunkier version of the Mazda 2, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The neat exterior styling is matched by a simple yet smart interior, which is solid and well built.
With smart looks, a classy interior and grown-up driving dynamics, it’s a desirable choice. The Mazda is also very attractively priced, packed with standard kit and really cost-effective to run. It’s not quite as spacious as some rivals, but compensates with strong comfort and refinement.
But this car really stands out from behind the wheel, as it’s possibly the best small crossover to drive. Buyers have two terrific engines to pick from – one petrol and one diesel – plus a choice of front and all-wheel-drive transmissions. The trouble is, the CX-3 falls down on practicality: it simply doesn’t have enough space in the rear seats or boot for a growing family.
Under the skin, the Mazda CX-3 is based on the same platform as the Mazda 2 supermini, but it’s wider and longer to create more space, as well as being taller for that all-important SUV look. However, the CX-3 is still a pretty sporty looking thing thanks to its low roof and small glass area, while the driving position is lower than in most rivals. An update in 2018 saw the CX-3 get a slightly revised front end, while inside the manual handbrake was replaced by an electric one, which has allowed a redesign of the cockpit layout, while extra sound deadening material is designed to improve cabin refinement.
This facelift comes on the back of another update that took place in 2017. That time around, new suspension settings and the introduction of Mazda’s G-Vectoring torque control system helped to improve the car’s handling even further.
For engines, the CX-3 follows Mazda’s ‘right size’ approach, so instead of going for small capacity turbo units across the board, it features larger engines with modest power outputs.