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Mazda CX-3 2017 review

The CX-3 is the best selling small SUV in Australia
EXPERT RATING
7.6
One of Mazda's biggest successes of recent years is the diminutive CX-3, which launched to a rapturous reception in 2015. Will the 2017 update boost it further?

If ever a sporting analogy could be applied to a car company, you could take your pick with Mazda. Home run after home run. Hitting them for six. Straight between the sticks. However you phrase it, Mazda's current range of cars is absolutely doing the business, particularly in the SUV space.

One of its successes of recent years is the diminutive CX-3, which launched to a rapturous reception in 2015. More than 40,000 units have been sold in just two years, screaming into the number one spot against the likes of the Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Qashqai and the Subaru XV.

The Japanese company has taken the opportunity to align the small five-seat SUV's mechanical and safety credentials with its other successes like the CX-5 and the Mazda3… but it's also a case of 'steady as she goes' so as not to diminish its obvious appeal.

Mazda CX-3 2017: Maxx (FWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$17,950

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The CX-3's roadside presence is, for a vehicle developed on the same platform as the petite Mazda2, quite extraordinary. Photos show an aggressively sloped roof with a cab-back stance, with its high waistline and its liberal use of black highlights combining perfectly with a corporate-ID nose and subtle rear end treatment. Even two years on, it's still a genuine head turner.

Its dimensions still measure 4275mm long, 1765mm wide and 1550mm high, making it 215mm longer, 70mm wider and 55mm higher in size than its hatch donor, despite being on the same wheelbase.

Mazda has largely left the exterior design styling alone for this early-life update, save for the addition of adaptive LED headlights to the top-spec Akari and a change of shade for the 18-inch rim on the higher spec cars, and it's a similar story inside the car.

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A new steering wheel design is the most obvious change for the interior (and to the untrained eye, it's not that obvious!), and there are some new, simpler graphics for the dash instruments. But really, that's about it.

The CX-3 is available in eight colours: Snowflake White, Ceramic Metallic (a sort of eggshell grey, like a duck's egg), Dynamic Blue, Meteor Grey, Titanium Flash (gunmetal grey), Eternal Blue Mica (which replaces Deep Crystal Blue) and Jet Black Mica.

The only optional paint is Mazda's signature Soul Red, and it costs $250.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Seating arrangements for both driver and passenger are spacious, airy and comfortable, with the pilot's position comfortably able to accommodate even the largest of drivers – albeit at the expense of rear seat passengers.

Given the small footprint of the CX-3, it's obvious that the second row is intended for little humans; Mazda has actually mounted the rear seat 37mm higher than the front to bring them closer to the action.

There is plenty of well laid-out in-cabin storage too, especially for the front-seat passengers.

It's not exactly roomy back there for adults, though, and rear leg room is also restrictive when the front seats are slid rearwards.

A lack of an armrest in between the front seats is a minor annoyance, as is the lack of a digital speedo (it's available in the top two grades in conjunction with Mazda's head-up display system, which seems odd – you get then two). An armrest can be optioned, we're told.

Mazda claims that the CX-3's urban customer set doesn't look at luggage capacity as a buying factor; however, the small cargo area is a limitation to consider.

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At 264 litres VDA, the dimensions of the CX-3's rear space make it one of the smallest in the category – the storage of the Honda HR-V measures a voluminous 437 litres in comparison – but it extends out to a more reasonable 1174 litres with the 60/40 seats folded flat.

The CX-3 has a false floor in the boot space that can be used to deepen the load space and offer more luggage capacity, as well.

There is plenty of well laid-out in-cabin storage too, especially for the front-seat passengers. A pair of USB ports and a 12V socket means that your devices won't run flat, either, while ISOFIX baby seat brackets are fitted to the outside seats, a pair of cupholders live up front and bottle holders adorn all four doors.

A temporary spare tyre is offered as standard.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Along with the minor changes to the specs of the CX-3, the cost of the CX-3 has risen slightly across the board on some variants.

For example, the price on entry level Neo and the most popular Maxx have both risen $500, while pricing for the top spec Akari rises by $200. If you're wondering how much the sTouring line's pricing has risen, it actually stays the same as before.

The diesel, meanwhile, gets a thorough makeover to make it more responsive, smoother and quieter – though its outputs remain the same as before.

All Mazda CX-3 models in the range now get G Vectoring Control as standard, along with Mazda's Smart City Brake Support – or city AEB in layman's terms.

Mazda's AEB system has been updated for 2017, with a camera now supplementing the sensor to lift its operational speed from a range of 4-30km/h to 4-80km/h. It also works while in reverse gear to help lessen the impact of a potential bingle.

The diesel, meanwhile, gets a thorough makeover to make it more responsive, smoother and quieter – though its outputs remain the same as before.

Even new engine mounts for the petrol engine are also designed to help to reduce noise getting back into the cabin.

New front and rear suspension bushings, retuned shocks and tweaked steering, more under-carpet insulation, thicker glass and even new engine mounts for the petrol engine are also designed to help to reduce noise getting back into the cabin.

Looking at the specs, the Neo offers power mirrors and windows, Bluetooth phone connectivity, tilt- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, cruise control, wheel-mounted audio controls and rear parking sensors.

Sixteen-inch steel rims, push-button start, body-coloured bumpers and rear spoiler round out the Neo's spec. It's available in front-wheel-drive only, with the choice of a six-speed manual or automatic-equipped 2.0-litre petrol engine, or an auto-equipped 1.5-litre turbodiesel.

The Maxx adds 16-inch alloys, leather-trimmed driver controls, an MZD Connect Infotainment system with iPhone connectivity, six-speaker audio, smartphone-based internet radio, CD player, digital and AM/FM radio, sat nav GPS and a reversing camera. 

It also adds all-wheel-drive to the mix in both petrol and diesel auto form.

Mazda's Active Driving Display (or head-up display) is standard on the sTouring, while the entire lighting system – including fog lights, daytime running lamps, headlights and taillights – is LED.

The rims are upsized to 18 inches and are fitted with 215/50 R18 tyres, and auto wipers and climate-controlled air conditioning are also standard. 

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By way of comparison, the sTouring is available in the same powertrains as the Maxx.

The top of the range Akari gains a powered sunroof, keyless entry, adaptive LED headlights and leather seats with suede trimming, as well as all safety electronics as standard. It also shares the same engine and drivetrain options as the Maxx and sTouring.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

Mazda's SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine makes 109kW at 6000rpm and 195Nm at 2800Nm.

The 1.5-litre SkyActiv diesel, meanwhile, delivers 77kW at 4000 rpm, and 270Nm between 1600 and 2500 rpm.

Both the petrol and diesel Skyactiv engines resolve the 'timing belt or chain' argument in favour of the latter.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The auto-equipped petrol engine returns an official combined fuel economy figure of 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres, versus the manual's 6.3 litres per 100km number. The figure jumps to 6.7L/100km for the all-wheel-drive versions.

Fuel consumption for the auto-only diesel, meanwhile, is rated at 4.8L/100km for the sole Maxx FWD diesel, and 5.1 litres per 100km for the AWDs. 

Our testing stretch of just 85km in a front-wheel-drive Maxx diesel auto returned a dash-indicated figure of 6.1L/100km.

Fuel tank capacity is 48 litres, while the oil type of each engine is listed in the owner's manual.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

A short stint in the 1.5-litre diesel four-potter reveals a little peach of an engine that does a very respectable job under acceleration. Ignore the 77kW power figure and the small engine size; it's the 270Nm of torque that's doing the good work.

It does it in a very refined way, as well, with the revisions to reduce lag down low doing the job. It won't trouble any 0-100 speed records with its performance figures, but that's not what it's about.

It's steady at the helm and has no real vices other than a tendency to surf over rippled roads.

Mazda's efforts at noise reduction have worked pretty well, though being a small car, thumps, bumps and road noise are still more present than most larger vehicles.

The torque vectoring is a harder thing to quantify, especially on a smaller-engined car. It's steady at the helm and has no real vices other than a tendency to surf over rippled roads (it's a wheelbase thing, and the CX-3 doesn't have a big one).

It's not really designed for off-road work; with just 160mm of ground clearance at best, its road-biased suspension can tackle graded gravel but not much else.

A 10.6m turning circle is average for the class.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

Mazda claims the CX-3 is the only vehicle in the category to offer front and rear AEB as standard across the range. It also means that every Mazda passenger car has AEB, while every SUV has front and rear AEB.

Because the Neo is the only CX-3 variant not fitted with Mazda's MZD Connect infotainment multimedia system, a rear-view camera is not offered as standard. An aftermarket unit can be optioned in for $778.

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The Akari is the only variant to offer Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM)Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) as standard. Park assist isn't available.

The CX-3 is ranked at a maximum of five ANCAP stars from five, and has six airbags as standard.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

All Mazdas come with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a capped price servicing regime, with all service costs available on Mazda's website.

Unlike many of its rivals, roadside assistance is a not-unreasonable $68.10 extra per year.

Service intervals of 12 months or 10,000km are suggested.

A scan of the forums suggests there are no real problems yet reported for the CX-3. A recall was issued for some cars for a gas strut on the tailgate, while some cars were recalled to fix a front suspension issue.

Mazda regularly offers a drive away price as part of sales campaigns, which lops a good amount off the RRP sticker cost. 

There appear to be no common automatic transmission problems or indeed any particular drivetrain or reliability issues. If anything else crops up, there's a good chance you'll find it on our Mazda CX-3 problems page.

Resale value based on the RRP pricing is pretty astonishing. A 2015 Maxx automatic, for example, should return between 60 and 70 per cent at trade-in, or an above-average 85 per cent for a private sale.

Mazda regularly offers a drive away price as part of sales campaigns, which lops a good amount off the RRP sticker cost.

Verdict

With class-leading safety tech and clever torque vectoring as part of its standard features set, the popular CX-3 in likely to continue topping the small SUV popularity stakes for some time to come.

With a good balance of spec, safety and value, I reckon the two-wheel drive Maxx petrol is the sweet spot of the updated range.  

It's not a big car, and thus it will be a struggle to live with if your family needs to lug around prams and cots – but for young, single groovers or young-at-heart empty nesters, the CX-3 is a sound, safe and stylish choice.

Did Mazda get the updates to the CX-3 right, or are they underdone? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$23,990
Based on 230 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,200
Highest Price
$30,000

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Akari (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,880 – 29,980 2017 MAZDA CX-3 2017 Akari (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Akari (FWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,888 – 29,995 2017 MAZDA CX-3 2017 Akari (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Maxx (AWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $19,999 – 25,990 2017 MAZDA CX-3 2017 Maxx (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Maxx (FWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $17,950 – 22,500 2017 MAZDA CX-3 2017 Maxx (FWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Design8
Practicality7
Price and features8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety7
Ownership8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$14,980

Lowest price, based on 93 car listings in the last 6 months

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