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Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport 2019 review


The Mazda CX-3 is a small SUV, that category of cars which look little but are actually classified SUVs because of their height. It's in competition with cars like the Hyundai Kona, the Toyota C-HR and the Honda HR-V. A fine bunch of cars for people who want the practicality of an SUV but don't want to drive a large vehicle.

The CX-3 is particularly cute and very good looking, but the reason I drove it was to see if it's a practical car for a family, as well as being pretty. I was in the Maxx Sport petrol which is second from the bottom of the range. Here's how it did over my week of driving.

How does it drive?

Jump into the CX-3 and it feels like you can immediately zip around town with a 2.0-litre engine. That's plenty to get up hills quickly and move in and out of lanes with relative ease. There's no heaviness that you'd get in a larger SUV, it takes off quickly, turns corners instantly and has a small turning circle so you fit in u-turns much more often than you would in a larger car.

I found the whole experience a lot faster to get used to than in other cars. I found the whole experience a lot faster to get used to than in other cars.

Everything is smooth and cruisy - there are no tricky electric gearsticks which make you pause in annoyance - it all works intuitively and it works every single time. I found the whole experience a lot faster to get used to than in other cars. This model I drove doesn't have all-wheel drive, but there is AWD on offer in the range.

Given the size, parking is quite easy and you're able to fit into most parking spaces without thinking too hard about it. There's a high resolution reverse parking camera that shows where you are, but no 360 degree camera which you'll find on a Nissan Qashqai.

Jump into the CX-3 and it feels like you can immediately zip around town with a 2.0-litre engine. Jump into the CX-3 and it feels like you can immediately zip around town with a 2.0-litre engine.

How spacious is it?

The thing with a CX-3 is that you're expecting it to be larger than an average small car because it's an SUV. And by all rights, it should be. But it's not markedly bigger. The boot is quite compact at 264 litres and you'll have difficulty fitting a pram inside, depending on your pram.

That said, I would always recommend testing the pram you have fits inside the boot of the car you are planning to buy anyway - but with this car in particular. The space was limited and if you want to go away for longer than a weekend, you'd have trouble fitting multiple large suitcases in. You'll find larger boots in a Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V.

The boot is quite compact at 264 litres and you'll have difficulty fitting a pram inside. The boot is quite compact at 264 litres and you'll have difficulty fitting a pram inside.

The back seats were good for my two children aged five and seven. Yes, they were close together but they fit in perfectly fine and were comfortable. I also fit quite well - I'm 161cm and didn't have any trouble easing into the back seat. Gangly teenagers though may find squeezing knees in a bit more difficult. You'll be hard pressed getting three children's seats in the back, but fine if kids are out of car seats.

Sitting in the front is compact. We weren't squished, but as soon as my 185cm husband got in he felt… cosy. It doesn't squash front seat passengers but room is limited if you are a larger-than-average unit.

The space in a CX-3's interior is average for the category, and you won't find much difference between it and it's main competitors, apart from the boot.

The seats are fabric in the Maxx Sport with a nice feel to them, no nasty cheap cloth here. The seats are fabric in the Maxx Sport with a nice feel to them, no nasty cheap cloth here.

What does it look like?

It looks kind of like a chunked up version of a Mazda 2, all slick yet compact, with elegant curves and sleek lines on the exterior curving up the back to give it a sporty, fun feel. It turns heads and you feel good driving it on the road.

Elegant curves and sleek lines on the exterior curving up the back to give it a sporty, fun feel. Elegant curves and sleek lines on the exterior curving up the back to give it a sporty, fun feel.

Inside is well designed. There's nothing too flash or fancy, but it has a chic look that is also functional - everything works well and is where you'd expect it to be, there's a good amount of design symmetry and just the right balance of matt and gloss. Of particular note are the circular air vents which give a premium finish.

The seats are fabric in the Maxx Sport with a nice feel to them, no nasty cheap cloth here. They were also really comfortable to sit on and I'd be happy over long distances, too. The steering wheel is leather which always leaves a good impression on a driver.

It looks kind of like a chunked up version of a Mazda 2, all slick yet compact. It looks kind of like a chunked up version of a Mazda 2, all slick yet compact.

How easy is it to use every day?

Smaller cars are much easier to manage than bigger cars. Kids can open doors and climb in themselves without any help, and if you're at the children-in-car seats stage, the height of the CX-3 is certainly better than a regular Mazda2 or 3 to buckle seat belts up. Driving the CX-3 takes very little effort, which is how cars should be.

There are two cupholders in the front though it took me a few days to find them (entirely my fault, not Mazda's!). Lift the centre console storage cover and the two empty squares actually double as regular storage when you're not using the pull-out plastic to keep your cup in place. Nifty.

The thing with a CX-3 is that you're expecting it to be larger than an average small car because it's an SUV. The thing with a CX-3 is that you're expecting it to be larger than an average small car because it's an SUV.

There's also a spot in front to throw your phone and keys, an easy push-start button (some are not so easy) and a decent sized glove box. There are also two cupholders in the centre armrest at the back and a bottle holder in each door.

The boot is light to pull up or down and is a good height off the ground. Everything is very user-friendly.

There are no rear air vents, but I found the front vents quite strong, and there are three of them, so I think kids in the back will be fine in summer.

The steering wheel is leather which always leaves a good impression on a driver. The steering wheel is leather which always leaves a good impression on a driver.

How safe is it?

The CX-3 is fitted with airbags covering driver and front passenger, plus side curtain airbags extending to the back row. You'll also get all the latest safety technology as standard, including auto emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, which totally saved me coming out of my driveway every morning. It has two ISOFIX points and three top tether points for children's car seats.

What's the tech like?

Mazda has relied on its own system for years, which is adequate and includes a sat nav and Bluetooth connectivity, but soon Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available.

CarPlay and Auto let you sync your phone with the multimedia system, you can use voice control to make phone calls and dictate text messages and it's a great system to have in the car. It will also be available to retrofit on your CX-3 if you've bought it before CarPlay and Auto are available. There's a 7.0-inch touchscreen which is easy to use and in reaching distance.

How much does it cost to own?

The CX-3 Maxx Sport comes in at $25,490 (before on-road costs) which is pretty good value for all those safety features to come as standard and the well-functioning design. Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.3L/100km which could be lower given there is no AWD on this model.

It comes with Mazda's five year/unlimited km warranty but no roadside service assistance, and servicing is due every 12 months.

The CX-3 is particularly cute and very good looking, but the reason I drove it was to see if it's a practical car for a family. The CX-3 is particularly cute and very good looking, but the reason I drove it was to see if it's a practical car for a family.


The Wrap

Look, I like driving small cars and if this is the price bracket you're looking in, you are getting an SUV in the mid-20K range, which is good news. But really, there's not a whole lot of extra space in here for a family that isn't in a Mazda3 or a Hyundai i30. The CX-3 is higher, which puts it in the SUV bracket, but the boot is small and you might not fit a pram in there.

It drives really nicely, looks stylish and you feel great in it, which all count for a lot though. I gave it a family rating of seven out of 10, as it's quite dependent on what size family you have and how old they are as to whether you can fit. My children also gave it a seven, I think that was mainly for the colour.

Likes

Smooth driving
Safety features
Design

Dislikes

Lack of boot space

Scores

Nedahl:

3.5

The Kids:

3.5

$24,650 - $29,050

Based on new car retail price

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