Mazda CX-3 2.0 Skyactiv-G review

Mazda's CX-3 crossover is pricey compared to cars like the Renault Captur or the SsangYong Tivoli but it has stylish looks and feels a quality product. It is sportier to drive than rivals such as the Nissan Juke, though some people might find the ride too firm. Four-wheel drive versions are available for those who need extra traction. Rear seat space is tight and the boot small; even more so if you go for versions with a big bass speaker under the boot floor.

Review by Russell Bray

PERFORMANCE

Based mechanically on the Mazda 2 supermini, the CX-3 crossover is available either with a 2.0 litre petrol engine in two versions - developing 118bhp or 148bhp - or a 1.5 litre turbo diesel with 103bhp. The 118bhp petrol tested was reasonably brisk, with 0-62mph acceleration covered in nine seconds, but the car feels livelier overall because its impressive balance through corners lets you accelerate early. Top speed is 119mph. With maximum torque of 155 lb ft at 2,800rpm and maximum power at 6,000rpm you have to be prepared to rev it when you need to get a move on, but it is a willing unit and doesn't feel strained though it could be quieter and smoother.

HANDLING

With the exception of the extreme Nissan Juke Nismo RS, the Mazda CX-3 is the most fun to drive of the current crop of compact crossovers, with a reassuring and positive balance through corners and a measured response to the electronically assisted power steering. The Sport Nav trim test car benefited, on dry roads, from the extra grip of wider tyres on 18-inch alloy wheels, but narrower ones would have been better late one night on the M1 with snow falling. Four-wheel drive would have been welcome rather than the front-wheel drive set-up then too. The tyres added some weight to the electronically assisted power steering which, though precise, is not over endowed with sheer 'feel' for the road.

BODY STYLE

Most people we encountered thought the Mazda CX-3 a handsome looking car and it's available in some stunning pearlescent paint colours (for an extra £540). The Sport Nav trim test car comes with LED headlights, a first in class; LED rear lights, fancy gunmetal 18-inch machined alloy wheels and chrome-accented door sills. Even without these it's more graceful looking than the Nissan Juke and looks sportier too thanks to a lower roof line though you still get a high driving position. Wide windscreen pillars and big door mirrors mean care is needed to make sure another road user isn't hidden behind them on the left hand side. Rear seat space isn't great and the boot will be too small for many families. The extra space under the floor was taken up by a large bass speaker on the test car for the Bose sound system. Total boot volume was 297 litres increasing to 1,197 litres with the rear seats folded. Length 4275mm. Width 1765mm.

COMFORT & CONTROLS

Mazda CX-3 interior

Comfort is mainly good providing you are in the front but the driver's seat needs more lumbar support as I had backache after 120 miles. This can sometimes be a problem for taller people in Japanese cars. The CX-3 is easy and fun to drive with sharp steering and a lovely precise six-speed gear change if you go for the manual gearbox. Considering the car has disc brakes front and rear; and ventilated at the front, I was surprised the brake pedal started to go 'soft' after some brisk driving. The driver or front seat passenger can operate the large colour touch sensitive information screen and satellite navigation using the screen or with a rotary control between the seats. The sat nav was complicated and didn't want to take post codes. Despite a steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, some car control functions such as lane warning are relegated to the bottom of the dashboard ahead of your right knee.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

It took a tense run to a filling station and driving for maximum frugality to achieve my best economy figure for the Mazda CX-3 of 47.6 MPG according to the on-board computer which was pleasingly close to the official laboratory test figure of 47.9 MPG. Enjoy the car’s performance and this can drop to nearer 36 MPG. Carbon dioxide emissions of 137 g/km slot this lower powered petrol version of the CX-3 into road tax band E and an annual fee of £130. The diesel version reduces this to £20 after the first free year but the car costs £1,400 more than the petrol model. The official fuel figure for the diesel is 70.6 MPG but a real world figure nearer 55 MPG is likely. Main service intervals are every 12,500 miles or annually.

GREEN CREDENTIALS

Mazda applies its SkyActiv branded technologies to new engines, transmissions, body, and chassis to increase efficiency, reduce weight and maximise fuel consumption. Mazda began the approach in 2011. Engine compression ratios have been raised to a very high 14:1 and direct injection used. This means the pistons compress the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders to a greater amount, liberating more energy from the fuel. Torque is claimed to be 15 per cent more than equivalent engines allowing the driver to use fuel-saving higher gears sooner. Automatic engine stop-start to save fuel in traffic is also part of the 'ground up' thinking says Mazda. To help reduce gearbox weight, which is down by 16 per cent, the triple-shafted gear train is made with reverse and first gears on the same shaft. Body and chassis weight is down by 100 kg compared to previous construction methods.
According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 43.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Spend the money on pricey top spec models like the Sport Nav and you get big car luxury features such as LED headlights, Bose sound system, satellite navigation with three years free European map updates, keyless entry and engine start, three-setting heated front seats and even a head-up display which shows your speed and navigation directions on a see-through screen that rises out of the top of the dashboard. Entry level SE trim includes the clear, seven-inch colour touch-screen, DAB radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a sporty three-spoke steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons as standard. Curtain airbags, hill hold assist, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring and electronic dynamic stability control are standard across the range. A temporary spare wheel kit is available for £380.

MODEL SUMMARY

Mazda CX-3 details

Model tested: Mazda CX-3 Sport Nav
Body-style: Compact crossover
Engine / CO2: 118bhp 1,998cc, four-cylinder petrol engine / g/km
Trim grades: SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport Nav

On-road price: From £17,595. Price as tested £21,035
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars

Mazda CX-3 rear

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Russell Bray

Author:Russell Bray
Date Updated:21st Jan 2016

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