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Mazda CX-3 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
9
Any all-new entry into the fastest growing of all sales areas is sure to grab attention. None more so than the stylish new Mazda CX-3 when we drove it on an extended introductory drive program from Canberra to Sydney. Many along the way, on foot or in other vehicles noticed us as we passed by or stopped at traffic

Any all-new entry into the fastest growing of all sales areas is sure to grab attention. None more so than the stylish new Mazda CX-3 when we drove it on an extended introductory drive program from Canberra to Sydney. Many along the way, on foot or in other vehicles noticed us as we passed by or stopped at traffic lights.

Australia is one of Mazda’s biggest markets and we have been given the honour of being the first country outside Japan to receive the new CX-3. Mazda’s general manager of the product division, Hitoshi Takeshita, attended the media launch of the vehicle, he has a strong engineering background and understands the minutest detail of his products - which include the Mazda2 on which CX-3 is based.

Little brother to the big-selling Mazda CX-5, the CX-3 is instantly recognisable thanks to the Japanese maker’s big-grille styling theme. The so-called Kodo shape has been around for some time and has certainly played its part in the sales race in Australia, lifting Mazda onto strong podium positions for several years now.

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  • 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring
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  • 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring
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  • 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring
  • 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring
  • 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring 2015 Mazda CX-3 sTouring

Design

Inside is the latest Mazda instrument layout of a large central dial with rectangular pods on either side of it. It’s neat and compact and works well from a safety as well as styling point of view. A basic design of head-up display is fitted to some models and works reasonably well, but isn’t as good as the full-on HUD systems being used by others. Having said that, the Mazda readout doesn’t disappear as soon as you put on polarising sunglasses. A big plus from my point of view.

Seats are well shaped and there’s a fair amount of space in the back. Children rather than adults will be the more sensible travellers in the rear. Keep in mind this is a smallish SUV and something has to be compromised in interior space.

Luggage space is good for a car of this size and the two-level-floor option is clever.

Mazda is taking the European route in that power comes from either a petrol or diesel engine.

Mazda is taking the European route in that power comes from either a petrol or diesel engine. The petrol is relatively conventional in displacing 2.0 litres, the turbo-diesel is interesting in that its capacity is just 1.5 litres. Power outputs are 109kW and 77kW respectively.

Torque talks and the diesel has an impressive 270Nm between 1600-2500 revs; whereas the petrol only manages 192 Nm. However this is balanced out by the petrol giving its best figure at a very usable 2800 rpm.

Mazda Australia anticipates only about 10 per cent of buyers will opt for the turbo-diesel, our feeling is the percentage is likely to be significantly higher.

Mazda is importing both 2WD (front-drive) and 4WD CX-3s to Australia. This is increasingly unusual in this SUV class as many are now coming with drive only to two wheels. However, Mazda Australia feels that some owners will still want the added traction of all-wheel-drive for use in slippery conditions, such as in snowfields. Perhaps even in mild off-road areas such as dirt tracks and forestry trails. But don’t get too ambitious…

Six-speed manual or automatic transmissions are offered, but the manual only comes with the front-wheel-drive petrol-engine combination.

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  • 2015 Mazda CX-3 Akari 2015 Mazda CX-3 Akari

Pricing

Prices start at an impressively low $19,990 (plus on-roads) for the 2WD petrol manual and go up to $37,690 for the topline Akari with AWD diesel with auto.

The familiar Mazda model names of Neo and Maxx are used for the CX-3, but are joined by two new ones. The upper-middle CX-3 sTouring (note the fashionable use of a lower case first letter) and topline Akari complete the range.

Crash testing has yet to be carried out, but Mazda is confident its new CX-3 will have no trouble in getting the maximum rating of five stars.

Driving

Our initial drive program covered over 300km, mainly on country roads and motorways, though there were some traffic clogged stretches in Sydney just to get us back to reality.

Mazda CX-3 is particularly quiet and smooth on good surfaces, especially on motorways. On typical Aussie backroads it still has a degree of comfort that’s not always the norm in this class.

The high(ish) seating position makes for easy ingress and egress as well as a better view of the traffic ahead. These factors are the major factors in the huge climb in sales of vehicles in this class. In an odd way this is a return to the past; in the days before cars got lower and sleeker most were of this height, just look at the huge-selling FJ Holden and the like.

The petrol engine is responsive and is never intrusive. The little turbo-diesel is woefully slow off the line until the turbocharger gets itself up and spinning. You can learn to drive around this problem but try for yourself during your private road test.

Once the diesel is operating ‘on song’ it’s much better and the strong torque and quick action automatic transmission make for easy hillclimbing and safe overtaking.

Verdict

The small SUV market segment is becoming increasingly crowded, with something like 20 direct or semi-direct competitors to the Mazda CX-3. Strong styling, good pricing and Mazda’s longterm record in Australia seem sure to help it to the front few in the sales race, possibly even to number one. Time will tell … and we reckon it will tell pretty soon.

Pricing guides

$21,990
Based on 296 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,754
Highest Price
$29,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Akari (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,900 – 21,010 2015 Mazda CX-3 2015 Akari (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Akari (FWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $12,800 – 18,590 2015 Mazda CX-3 2015 Akari (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Maxx (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,300 – 16,610 2015 Mazda CX-3 2015 Maxx (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Maxx (FWD) 1.5L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $11,500 – 16,830 2015 Mazda CX-3 2015 Maxx (FWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9
Pricing Guide

$14,754

Lowest price, based on 285 car listings in the last 6 months

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.