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Mazda CX3 REVIEW – Is the SUV just style over substance?

Mazda CX3

Mazda CX3 (Image: MAZDA)

Every manufacturer has one, or is planning one, so every launch or revision deserves attention as chances are there’s a buyer out there looking for it.

Which leads us to this revised Mazda CX3, originally launched in 2015 and now tweaked to make it more appealing in a highly competitive segment of the car market, one that increasing numbers of young families are flocking to. One of the CX3’s strongest points is its design.

Mazda’s philosophy is evident in the relatively unfussy exterior: there are a few feature lines, but the surfaces are largely smooth and stylish, with the long nose and rearward cabin creating an air of sportiness.

There’s also a revised grille, along with changes to the fog lights at the front and the rear headlights, new alloy wheel designs and the addition of a new colour (Soul Red Crystal) to the palette.

Keeping it simple, there are three engine options, two of which are petrol, in keeping with the recent trend for moving back to the fuel in the wake of the concerns about diesel.

These two petrol units are both 2.0-litre engines, which offer two power ratings. The base 120bhp version is available with front-wheel drive and returns an average fuel economy of 46.3mpg (based on the latest economy tests), whereas emissions are 141g/km.

On the road, it’s perfectly acceptable in urban situations, but it really lacks power when faced with long uphill sections of road, lacking the grunt to overtake with confidence.

The 0 to 60mph time of 8.8 seconds (9.7 seconds with an automatic gearbox) seems about right – just not uphill. Despite its extra horses, the more powerful 148bhp engine doesn’t offer a great deal of extra shove.

Mazda CX3

Mazda CX3 (Image: MAZDA)

Mazda CX3

Mazda CX3 (Image: MAZDA)

With a 0 to 60mph time that is only 0.2 seconds faster than the 120bhp car, it doesn’t really represent a significant performance boost. A larger output and, more significantly, the mating of a four-wheel drive system reduce the average fuel economy to 40.3mpg (42.2mpg on the auto) and increases emissions to 160g/km (152g/ km).

This engine is also only available with the range-topping trim level, so it’s likely to be less popular. New to the CX3 is a Skyactiv-D 1.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, which replaces the previous 1.5-litre unit.

It’s been developed to meet the latest emissions regulations, so it’s one of the new generation of cleaner diesels.

It does feel like a modern diesel too, with a refined and quiet character, while the 114bhp is a usable amount of power, especially at low revs. Official fuel economy is a respectable 64.2mpg and emissions are 114g/km.

Mazda CX3

Mazda CX3 (Image: MAZDA)

Mazda CX3

Mazda CX3 (Image: MAZDA)

It will constitute a minority of CX3 sales, but for those still in the market for a diesel, it’ll do its job relatively efficiently and cleanly.

Mazda has a reputation for building cars that handle well and the CX3 makes a decent fist of upholding that reputation. The steering is pleasingly light around town (although the turning circle isn’t great), but show it a twisty road and it seems initially a little slow to start turning.

The ride works well though, doing a good job of soaking up bumps and lumps in the road, while the CX3 also lives up to its sporty looks with little body roll through the corners, while at the same time feeling composed and balanced.

The cabin has been revised slightly to make it more minimalistic, more Japanese – but in a good way. Japanese car interiors tend to be more functional and less engaging than those in European cars, but Mazda is heading in a more European direction while at the same time retaining a clean, uncluttered look.

Mazda CX3

Mazda CX3 (Image: MAZDA)

So, for example, Mazda has jettisoned the conventional manual handbrake in favour of an electronic version, which has helped facilitate the redesign of the centre console, making it neater and more functional. Also important for modern buyers is the inclusion of Apple Carplay and Android Auto, offering greater smartphone compatibility.

Safety features have been brought up to date too, with improvements to Mazda’s Advanced Smart City Brake Support, which uses a forward-facing camera to detect vehicles and pedestrians ahead.

There’s also an optional package of i-Activsense safety features (£650) that adds the likes of blind spot monitoring. The revised CX3 comes into a tough market, packed with a number of good cars like the Seat Arona, Kia Stonic, Skoda Karoq and Renault Captur.

The good news for Mazda is that while the CX3 doesn’t stand out, it is a serious contender, with looks on its side. And in a crowded market, that in itself will grab the attention of a lot of buyers who will find that there’s some substance behind the style.

Mazda CX3

Mazda CX3 (Image: MAZDA)


Price: £18,995 – £24,995

Engines: Petrol – 2.0, 2.0-litre 148bhp; Turbo-diesel – 1.8-litre

Power: 0 to 60mph in 8.6 seconds, 124mph top speed (2.0 148bhp)

Fuel economy: 64.2mpg (1.8TD)

CO2 emissions: 114 – 160g/km

Rivals: Kia Stonic, Renault Captur, Seat Arona, Skoda Karoq

Rating: 7/10

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I'm a 50 year old PLC programmer from Burnley, UK. I severed my time as an electrician in the baking industry and soon got involved with the up and coming technology of PLC's. Initially this was all based in the Uk but as the years went by I have gradually worked my way around the globe. At first it was mainly Mitsubishi with a bit of Modicon thrown in but these days the industry leaders seem to be the Allen Bradley range of PLC and HMI’s.

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