‘Baby’ Mazda CX-3 crossover ticks right boxes

Mazda enters the fast-growing compact crossover sector with its stylish CX-3 which has a quality fee

Mazda enters the fast-growing compact crossover sector with its stylish CX-3 which has a quality feel and a fine drive. - Credit: Mazda

With new models sending Mazda's UK annual sales back around the record 50,000 mark, motoring editor finds out why it has high hopes for its new CX-3 compact crossover.

Where it fits in

Mazda's new CX-3 compact crossover complements the bigger CX-5 and shares the Kodo Soul of Motion design that has created some real head-turners in the Japanese car-maker's new line-up.

Like the CX-5, the CX-3 sets its sector alight with its bold, dynamic lines shown off to the best effect in bright, strong colours. And that's good news for the CX-3 with the baby sport utility vehicle sector blossoming and set to continue to do so with a growing number of small, stylish rivals joining the fray. But competition is healthy and the CX-3 is well positioned to make its presence felt against wide range of competition.

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Under the bonnet

Featuring Mazda's highly-efficient Skyactiv engines, it's petrol to the fore in this trendy 'soft-roader'. The front-wheel drive 120PS 2.0-litre petrol will be the big seller – there's also a 150PS version offered only in range-topping Sport Nav with all-wheel drive – while the 105PS 1.5-litre turbo diesel, with the option of all-wheel drive in the top spec, will take about a third of sales.

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If you do the miles, the diesel doesn't disappoint, pulling eagerly from low revs and feeling strong in the mid-range. It's relaxing to drive, so quiet that you forget it's a diesel and very frugal with a real-world 60mpg on the twisty, hilly launch drive won't disappoint either.

The 120PS needs revs to feel lively – not a hardship with the delightfully snappy, short-throw manual gear lever and the engine's refined nature yet it still returned MPG in the high 30s. And the brisker 150PS version is even more entertaining.

How it drives

As compact crossovers go, the CX-3 is as good as they come with ride and roadholding to rival many superminis and family hatchbacks – also good news as it will win sales from those owners.

Mazda has cracked its chassis dynamics with its latest range and the CX-3 sticks to the successful set-up. The suspension is on the firm side – not helped by 18in alloys on Sport Nav – but supple enough to cushion passengers from big bumps. The slightly heavier diesel feels better planted on uneven roads which can leave front-wheel drive petrol models a mite fidgety.

When it comes to handling, the CX-3 corners with verve and precision – the steering is well-weighted and accurate, it feels stable and composed through twists and turns with good body control. Even front-wheel drive models inspire confidence with intelligent all-wheel drive models boasting limpet-like grip.

Space and accommodation

Compact on the outside doesn't mean cramped inside. The CX-3 will seat four large adults, provided those up front don't hog all the legroom, and the tall body creates decent headroom.

And you also get a family hatchback-rivalling 350-litre boot although Sport Nav models fitted with the Bose subwoofer sacrifice some load space. The boot is made all the more practical by having a removable sill-level cargo board floor panel to divide up the space.

Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold flat to create a long floor with the cargo board in place and a maximum 1,260 litres of load space.

At the wheel

Developed alongside the Mazda2 hatchback, their fascias have a lot in common. That's no bad thing – it's tastefully functional rather than fussy with sensible controls that fall readily to hand with many functions operated via a central controller between the front seats and the touchscreen.

Value and equipment

The CX-3 does not come cheap, with prices from £17,595, but it has a premium look and feel to cabin materials, while high levels of standard creature comforts and safety, infotainment and connectivity kit and strong residuals make the price more appealing against less expensive and equipped rivals.

Entry-level SE comes with a seven-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, 16in alloy wheels, air-con, cruise control and speed limiter, trip computer, four electric window and power-folding door mirrors, multi-function steering wheel, hill-hold assist and tyre pressure monitoring.

SE-L gains front fog lights, rear parking sensors, heated front seats climate control, auto wipers and headlights and lane departure warning and smart city brake support.

Sport Nav has 18in alloys, upgraded seats trim, LED headlamps, daytime running lights and adaptive front lighting, Bose sound system, reversing camera, keyless entry, head-up display, digital speedo and navigation.

Final say

With the compact crossover market increasingly driving sales and set to go on growing, especially as people downsize, Mazda has pitched the CX-3 towards the top end of the market. Fortunately it has the quality, style and talent to live up to those aspirations.

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