Menu

Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

You are here

Mazda CX-3 Maxx 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.8
The five-seat, five-door small SUV starts at $22,890 for a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol-powered front-wheel-drive manual version, rising to $24,890 for a six-speed auto.

Technically, Mazda sells an entry-level CX-3 for around 20 grand, but it doesn't really sell it, if you know what we mean.

Sure, Mazda advertises a mighty-tempting Neo for that money, but nobody actually buys it, inevitably opting to part with a little more cash for a better-looking, better-equipped model once they actually venture into a dealership.

In fact, of the four-strong CX-3 lineup, 56 per cent of buyers opt for the more expensive Maxx - which is $24,890 for the auto model we've tested here - compared to the lower-spec Neo, which makes up just seven per cent of sales.

So the question now is, are they making the right choice?

Mazda CX-3 2017: Maxx (FWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$17,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

While some of the Japanese brands are in the habit of throwing the book at every possible part of a car's interior, Mazda goes exactly the other way, perfecting a kind of minimalist approach to interior design.

  • You'll find no button-festooned stereo or weird design elements in the cabin of the CX-3. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton) You'll find no button-festooned stereo or weird design elements in the cabin of the CX-3. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
  • Mazda is perfecting a kind of minimalist approach to interior design. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton) Mazda is perfecting a kind of minimalist approach to interior design. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
  • It's a clean and simple layout. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton) It's a clean and simple layout. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

And so you'll find no button-festooned stereo or weird design elements in the cabin of the CX-3. Instead, it's a clean and simple layout, with Mazda's 7.0-inch touchscreen perched above an entirely uncluttered dash, which scores a thoughtful soft-touch panel that helps disguise the hard plastics and lifts the general interior ambience.

Outside, there's a lot to like with Mazda's design, from the sporty and hunkered-down glasshouse - which appears to be perched on the wheelbase like a sprinter crouched on the starting block - to the clean lines of the bonnet and grille. It looks smaller than some of its competitors, sure, but it's more stylish than most, too.

Outside, there's a lot to like with Mazda's design. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton) Outside, there's a lot to like with Mazda's design. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

If the 4275mm long and 1765mm wide CX-3 looks small from the outside, it feels that way inside, too.

That said, up-front passengers get enough room to spread out a little, and it never feels dark or claustrophobic thanks to the bright and airy cabin feel. Front-seat riders will share two cupholders, along with two USB points, an SD card reader and power source, and there's room in each door for bottles, too.

  • Boot space is small but useable, especially for weekend trips. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton) Boot space is small but useable, especially for weekend trips. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
  • The 60/40 rear seats expand luggage space from 264 litres to 1174 litres when folded flat. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The 60/40 rear seats expand luggage space from 264 litres to 1174 litres when folded flat. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

Things are a little grim and cramped for backseat riders, though. You'll never get three adults in the back comfortably, and even a big baby seat will dominate the space back there, spreading across both the window and middle seat. Helpfully, legroom is good behind the front seats, but it's the shoulder room that feels tight, not helped by the fact that the rear door panels are thick and more than a little intrusive.

There are no cupholders, or air vents, or USB outlets in the backseat, either, but there are pockets in each door, along with two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat.

Boot space is small but useable, especially for weekend trips, and the 60/40 rear seats improve matters, expanding luggage space from 264 litres to 1174 litres when folded flat.

You'll never get three adults in the back comfortably. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton) You'll never get three adults in the back comfortably. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

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

The Maxx occupies the second rung on the CX-3 ladder, above the price-led Neo and below the sTouring and top-spec Akari.

That $24,890 - $2k less if you choose the manual, and $2k more if you want to add all-wheel drive - buys you 16-inch alloys (upgraded from the steel wheels on the Neo), a chrome exhaust tip and a rear spoiler outside, while inside, you'll find cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a nav-equipped, 7.0-inch touchscreen that pairs with an upgraded six-speaker stereo. Cruise control and push-button start round out the best of the standard features list.

16-inch alloys come as standard. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton) 16-inch alloys come as standard. (Image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

The CX-3 also gets Mazda's driveability updates - namely a focus on a reduction in NVH and the addition of the brand's 'Torque Vectoring Control' system - right across the range.

Crucially, you'll also score some key safety upgrades, but we'll drill down on those under the safety sub-heading.

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

There are just the two engines available across the CX-3 range, with a 1.5-litre diesel joining the 2.0-litre petrol four we've tested here.

The 1998cc petrol unit will produce 109kW at 6000rpm and 192Nm at 2800rpm, channeling its power through a six-speed conventional automatic and on to the front wheels. It's a perky little engine, and feels well suited to the CX-3 Maxx's 1282kg kerb weight.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Mazda claims fuel use of 6.1L/100km for the combined cycle, and the CX-3 Maxx will happily drink 91RON fuel, or E10, for that matter. Emissions are pegged at 146g/km of C02.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Its size might count against it on the practicality front, but it's a boon on the road, with the CX-3 feeling sharp and dynamic when you're on the move.

While the on-paper specs won't set pulses racing, the old school power delivery means you're never waiting for turbochargers or for tricky gearboxes to figure out what they're doing. Instead, it's a simple point-and-shoot set-up that suits the Maxx perfectly.

It ticks plenty of on-road boxes often ignored in the small SUV segment.

It's built for the city, and the Maxx disposes of paper-thin alleyways and too-small parking spaces with ease. It's bright and airy from the driver's seat, too, and the vision is terrific out of all windows expect the back one, which is weirdly angled and does hurt rear vision.

Even without engaging sport mode, which seems to do little but hang onto a lower gear just long enough to become annoying, the CX-3 feels plenty dynamic, even if you leave the city in search of a twisting road. The steering feels connected and responsive, while the firm-ish suspension lets you know what's happening underneath.

It's not always the most refined drive, though, and the gearbox can feel like it's surging - especially when you first get moving - and it's still not particularly quiet. But it ticks plenty of on-road boxes often ignored in the small SUV segment.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The CX-3's standard safety credentials are first class, with even the base-level Neo offering dual front, side and curtain airbags, along with rear parking sensors, hill start assist and an AEB system that works whether your travelling forwards or backwards. In fact, a reversing camera is the only notable exclusion.

Spring for the Maxx, though, and you'll add the camera, along with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. All of which help secure the CX-3 a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The CX-3 Maxx is covered by Mazda's standard three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, - which does now lag behind the industry leaders - with service intervals pegged at 12 months or 10,000km.

Capped-price servicing is thrown in, too, with Mazda's customers able to access all servicing costs on the brand's website.

Verdict

The words small but perfectly formed could have been written for the CX-3 Maxx, which offers a lot more bang for not many more bucks when compared to its cheaper Neo sibling. It's probably our favourite driving small SUV, too, even if it's not as great at carrying stuff (or more than two adults) as some of its competition.

Is Mazda's mid-range CX-3 the compact SUV for you? 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
7.8
Design8
Practicality7
Price and features8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership7
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

Share

Pricing Guide

$20,990

Lowest price, based on 21 car listings in the last 6 months

View cars for sale