Mazda CX-3 Diesel Review & Road Test

by under Review, SUV, family on 28 Dec 2015 02:08:46 PM28 Dec 2015

Looks terrific; top-notch interior style; excellent turbo-diesel; sharp driving dynamics


Tight rear seat room, starts to get expensive near the top

It must be a nice problem to have. You see such is the demand for the all-new CX-3 compact SUV, Mazda’s production team is working every shift and then some just to keep up.


The reason is simple – the Mazda CX-3 is the hottest car in the hottest sales segment. Mazda Australia was hoping to sell around 1,000 CX-3s per month and is easily surpassing that mark even though production is tight.

This is the fifth Mazda model (after CX-5, Mazda6, Mazda3 and Mazda2) under the umbrella of the Japanese giant’s ‘Kodo – Soul Of Motion’ design language. More importantly, the stylish compact SUV comes with the full suite of Mazda’s brilliant ‘Skyactiv’ technology which includes the engine, transmission and chassis.

Mazda CX-3 Overview

Mazda offers the CX-3 in both all-wheel-drive (AWD) and front-wheel-drive (FWD), diesel and petrol with prices starting from an astounding $19,990 (Neo petrol manual). For Mazda offered the only diesel CX-3 in FWD – the mid-grade Maxx which is priced at $26,790.


The Maxx model grade is the top-seller, accounting for around 55 per-cent of demand. Over the entry-level Neo grade, Maxx delivers extras such as 16-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, reversing camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear-lever and handbrake, seven-inch colour touchscreen display with MZD Connect, six-speaker audio with internet radio and the multi-function commander control.

Our test car was fitted with the $1,030 optional ‘safety pack’ which brings blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and smart city brake.


Mazda CX-3 Engine

The CX-3 debuts Mazda’s all-new 1.5-litre, four-cylinder ‘Skyactiv-D- turbo-diesel engine (a derivative of the larger 2.2-litre unit). It’s state-of-the-art with a single variable geometry turbocharger, stepped egg-shaped pistons, common-rail direct fuel injection, fuel-saving ‘i-Stop’ auto start-stop, electronic drive-by-wire throttle and ‘Skyactiv’ brings the intriguing 14.8:1 compression ratio.

Maximum power is 77kW at 4000rpm and peak torque of 270Nm arrives between 1600-2500rpm. And, as we discovered during our week behind the wheel, Mazda’s diesel is commendably refined and quiet in operation – easily a match for the best from Europe.


Drive is to the front wheels via Mazda’s 6-speed Skyactiv-drive automatic transmission.

Helped by its aerodynamic exterior design, the Mazda CX-3 diesel posts a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of just 4.8l/100kms.  


Mazda CX-3 The Interior

There’s a pleasing familiarity about the CX-3 which is evident as soon as you open the doors. This may be Mazda’s ground-breaking first compact SUV but it shares the style and sporty ambience of say the Mazda2, Mazda3 and CX-5.

Quality soft-touch items abound – nicely contrasted with metallic highlights. Deeply sculptured doors and smart design provide a surprisingly spacious feel (690mm of separation at shoulder height for the front seat occupants) and the relatively high beltline gives you a feeling of SUV-like security.


There’s drivers’ seat has height adjustment and tilt/telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel to ensure a nice driving environment and view of the compact three-gauge instrument panel which is sportily wrapped in a curved binnacle. And Mazda has followed others by giving the CX-3 some aircraft style round air-vents – very contemporary.

To the left of the driver is the seven-inch colour screen (free-standing in the modern way) with audio, navigation and climate control, information. The six-speaker audio system in the Maxx model we tested includes internet radio and Mazda’s ‘MZD Connect’ system.

The rear seat offers space equivalent to rivals and split-folds 60:40 for load carrying options.

With all seats in use you get a luggage compartment which is 1,000mm wide and 740mm long for a capacity of 264-litres (1,174-litres when folded). There’s a clever two-position cargo board for variable loads (when in its lowest setting the Mazda CX-3 can accommodate two large 67cm suitcases).

Mazda CX-3 Exterior & Styling

Chief Designer Youichi Matsuda has some impressive credentials – he was the lead designer for both the first generation Mazda3 and CX-7. Of course the CX-3 chartered a new course as Mazda’s first compact SUV and Matsuda-san reckons the flowing side view and the new interpretation of the ‘Kodo’ front-end are the standouts of his team’s work.

Really from any angle the Mazda CX-3 delivers a knockout look. We love the steeply raked side glasshouse (a three-window layout) which, with clever blacked-out D-pillars, seems to wrap into the curved rear hatch glass.


The high waistline delivers a solid look which exudes power. And the cleverly curved roofline plays its role in making the Mazda CX-3 looks fast even when standing still.

At the front the latest interpretation of Mazda’s corporate front-end with its signature wing looks very sharp in this compact form and blends nicely with the sculptured headlights and indicator lights.

Rear view sees that superbly shaped hatchback glass, high-mounted lights, large number plate cutout and nicely-shaped bumper.

All of this housed in a compact SUV which measures only 4,275mm in length, 1,765mm in width and stands 1,550mm high. Yep it’s compact all-right – but also very sophisticated in its styling. 

The Maxx model we tested rode on 16-inch alloy wheels.


Mazda CX-3 On The Road

So we have the high-strength Skyactiv body sitting on a chassis with MacPherson strut front/ torsion beam rear suspension. And the fly-by-wire electric steering system.

All very state-of-the-art and high-tech and, in the case of our test car, powered by a punchy 1.5-litre turbo-diesel. Sounds tasty and it proved to be just that when we tackled our high-speed mountain roads test loop.

Like other ‘Skyactiv’ Mazda’s the CX-5 is taut and sporty in its responses. Damn quick in fact with little body roll evident when we threw the CX-3 into a series of switchback corners.

The 1.5-litre turbo-diesel proved to be a jet with surprisingly strong torque in both low and mid-range engine speeds. But it never injected unpleasant noises inside even when approaching the red-line and was a relaxed freeway cruiser.

Around town the Mazda CX-3 did some of its best work – easy to park and maneuver thanks to a tiny 10.6-metre turning circle. Ideal then for mums or first-time SUV buyers.


Mazda CX-3 Issues

Mazda hasn’t equipped the CX-3 with the most spacious rear seat in this segment – although really no rivals can make a strong claim in this department.


Mazda CX-3 Verdict

Well it seems everyone loves the Mazda CX-3 diesel. And you can add to the list – this is without question the sub-$40K compact SUV benchmark.

That 1.5-litre turbo-diesel with Mazda’s SkyActiv technology is simply superb – powerful and refined - and, combined with the similarly SkyActiv enhanced chassis, the driving dynamics are right at the top of the totem pole. That’s impressive in a segment which isn’t lacking good cars.

But we’re sure most will fall in love with the styling of the Mazda CX-3. Inside and out this is a tremendous piece of design.

But in the rush to get your name on the list for a new Mazda CX-3, don’t overlook the turbo-diesel…4.8l/100kms fuel consumption will please your bank manager and you’ll have a terrific compact SUV to drive. 


Mazda CX-3 The Competition

Hyundai recently launched the Series II lineup of its excellent ix35 and it reminds just how good the Korean giant’s compact SUV really is. You’ll need more coin for the ix35 diesel ($38,590 for the Elite and $40,990 for the Highlander) but, in the Hyundai way, both are comprehensively equipped.

Nissan’s British-sourced Qashqai is a hot-seller. Fact is at $33,590 (ST model) and $38,390 you get a lot of car for your coin with the Qashqai (admittedly it is more expensive than the Mazda CX3). And while not everyone’s favourite in the looks department, Nissan’s excellent 1.6-litre diesel and a slick chassis make for sharp driving dynamics.

No better example than the Tiguan as to why Volkswagen is at the top of the game at the moment. Handsomely styled on the outside, classy German interior and European driving dynamics stamp the Tiguan as a beauty. But, compared to the Mazda CX-3, Volkswagen’s compact SUV in diesel form is getting pricey at $39,990.

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