Mazda CX-3 1.5D review

The Mazda CX-3 is one of the best looking crossovers on the market, but in a crowded marketplace, it's not enough simply to look the part. Styling has to be backed up by talent, and the Mazda is no exception. We test the CX-3 1.5D 105PS Sport Nav to see if it's good enough to be a contender in the compact SUV sector.

Review by Chris Lilly


Mazda offers the CX-3 with a few examples of its Skyactiv-G and Skyactiv-D engines - or petrol and diesel for most of us. Having driven a number of variations before, there isn't going to be a bad pick among them, but here we test the 1.5 litre four cylinder unit. It produces 105hp and 270Nm of torque for a reasonable amount of punch, despite being the entry level diesel. The 0-62mph time is 10.1 seconds, but the mid-range torque from that diesel makes the CX-3 seem faster than the time suggests. It also settles down to a cruise nicely, only sounding a little raucous when pushing on hard. It's a pretty refined offering for a small crossover, and helps with the Mazda's impression of being a premium offering in the mass-market sector. Whether stretching its legs on a motorway run, or nipping about on twistier roads, the CX-3 performs well with its 1.5 litre diesel providing a willing unit and an easy one to drive.


Many crossovers simply can't compete with the conventional hatchbacks on which they're based in terms of driving dynamics. Basic physics comes into play here, since a taller car will have a higher centre of gravity, to the detriment of the car's handling. However, the CX-3 is a match for the Mazda 2 supermini, and that's saying something since the Mazda 2 is a fine car indeed. In my opinion, I reckon the CX-3 is the best handling car in its class. Body roll is kept to a minimum, and the CX-3 handles beautifully when aimed at a winding country road. The suspension is firm but not uncomfortable, and the CX-3 manages to brush off most road imperfections. It's an agile little car, and great in town or down a country road, where its compact footprint and wheels-pushed-into-the-corners stance make for a nimble nature. On faster roads, the CX-3 behaves nicely, but it's not as settled as a larger car - something to be expected. It's a fun and composed drive though, and one of the best crossovers for those that value smiles when driving.


The Mazda designers are on a real roll at the moment, and the CX-3 is just one of a range of stylish machines from the Japanese manufacturer. The crossover looks sporty and youthful, but with enough about its design to hint at Mazda's position, sitting between mass-market manufacturers such as Ford, and premium brands such as Audi. Space inside is reasonable for a small car, but not class leading. It's far from the worst in its class however, and the boot will take a decent amount of kit. The compact footprint means that rear seat space is limited, and although fine for a young family, you wouldn't want to cart around four averagely sized adults for too long. Stick with kids in the rear, and you won't have an issue, but the Mazda isn't the roomiest car around for rear occupants. Those up front have no such issues, and the driver can get a great seating position easily.


Mazda CX-3 1.5D interior

The design of the interior is a good one, and although it might look a little plain at first glance, it's refined when you really start to take everything in. The dashboard is reasonably clean, with a number of buttons sited down on the centre console, leaving just a few heating dials low down the main panel and the infotainment system atop the dash. That system is a good one to use, with a dial controlling most functions and short cut buttons available. It's not the most sophisticated or largest set-up, but it works nicely, which is more than can be said of some rival efforts. The materials used throughout aren't as good quality as you would expect from a car that aims towards the top end of its market, but on the whole the interior is a nice one in which to sit. The seats are good, particularly up front, where they are supportive and comfortable even over long trips, and the steering wheel is excellent. Combined with the seating position and instruments, there is a real driver focus to the CX-3, which appeals.


Mazda has a 'right sized' approach to engines, and has thus not downsized units for the sake of unrealistic emissions and fuel economy scores. As such, its efficiency figures can seem a little poor compared to some rival efforts, but you are more likely to get closer to the scores than in most models. That said, the CX-3 still posts some strong economy stats, with the official fuel figure at 70.6 MPG a high one. In the real world, I managed to average 60.6 MPG after more than 400 miles with the CX-3, which is more than respectable compared to its official figures, and very liveable with in terms of outright costs. To tax, the CX-3 will cost £165 for the first year (included in the car's OTR) and then the standard rate of £140 a year thereafter.


Skyactiv principles from Mazda focus on reducing weight and making lots of incremental improvements, which add up to for significant benefits. The Skyactiv-D unit for example has low compression ratios and low friction components, and the auto stop-start helps reduce emissions. Driver coaching is available from the infotainment system, including statistics showing how much range has been improved as the engine is shut down in stationary traffic. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 41.


Keeping things simple, Mazda offers just two trim levels, with good levels of kit available for both. SE-L Nav is fitted with 17-inch alloys, privacy glass, automatic wipers and headlights, LED auto-levelling headlights, front & rear parking sensors, leather trimmed wheel and gear knob, keyless entry and start, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, and 7-inch infotainment system with navigation, DAB, USB, and Bluetooth connectivity. Upgrading to Sport Nav adds 19-inch alloys, a powered tailgate, sunroof, reversing camera, leather seats, electric driver's seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, wiper de-icer, and Bose sound system.


The CX-3 sits in a highly competitive marketplace, but it is one of the best compact crossovers on the road. The design is right at the top of its class, and the Mazda’s easily practical enough for a young family. It’s a fun car to drive, and a frugal one with the 1.5 diesel installed under the bonnet; it should be considered by anyone looking at a compact crossover.

Mazda CX-3 1.5D rear

Model tested: Mazda CX-3 1.5D 105PS 2WD Sport Nav
Body-style: Crossover
Engine / CO2: 1.5 litre diesel / 123 g/km
Trim grades: SE-L Nav and Sport Nav

On-road price: From £25,595
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars

Click here for more info about this model range

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:8th Aug 2018

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