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Mazda CX-3 2022 review: Maxx Sport FWD

The Mazda CX-3 is a popular choice for small families. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The Mazda CX-3 is a favourite in its category and for good reason, but does it still stack up against its rivals? From the outside, there’s no mistaking it’s a Mazda and the CX-3 has a sportier edge than the 2 and is definitely more fun than the 3.

The Mazda CX-3 competes with a range of cars including the Hyundai Venue, the Toyota Yaris Cross and the Kia Stonic. The Maxx Sport auto in this family review has two-wheel drive rather than the optional all-wheel drive.

It has a list price of $27,190 before on-road costs and it's five-year warranty and competitive capped price servicing plan ensures good value for money.

The Neo Sport is the more affordable version and can be as much as $4000 cheaper and the range goes all the way up to the Akari LE which will cost at least another $12,000. 

Compared to the Neo Sport, the extra money for the Maxx Sport version gives you blind spot monitoring, the in-built satellite navigation system, auto lights and wipers and 16-inch alloy wheels.

It has a list price of $27,190 before on-road costs and it's five-year warranty and competitive capped price servicing plan ensures good value for money. (Image: Dean McCartney) It has a list price of $27,190 before on-road costs and it's five-year warranty and competitive capped price servicing plan ensures good value for money. (Image: Dean McCartney)

For this week’s family review I drove the CX-3 two hours up the New South Wales coast and back in rainy conditions. I also drove my family and friends around the city and suburbs. It handles small city laneways easily and can fit into tight spots in crowded streets.

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What does it look like?

Inside and out it has the feel of a small city car, rather than an SUV, but it's smooth flowing lines make sure it still looks classy, despite the fact it's had roughly the same look for the last seven years.

This is the 'Snowflake White' paint option, but the 'Soul Red' and 'Machine Grey' are my favourites, although they do cost extra. The Maxx Sport also features nice chrome highlights.

Inside, there’s black cloth seats with grey trim detailing, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. (Image: Dean McCartney) Inside, there’s black cloth seats with grey trim detailing, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. (Image: Dean McCartney)

Inside, there’s black cloth seats with grey trim detailing, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. There’s also a range of materials across the dash which help soften some of the plastics. There's also a line of stitching across the centre that gives it a point of difference.

This is the 'Snowflake White' paint option. (Image: Dean McCartney) This is the 'Snowflake White' paint option. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The design up front does feel a bit dated and the multimedia screen is quite small but the design is clean and functional. The instruments are slightly digitised but the design is classic and a bit sporty, so it works. 

In the back, there is a centre fold-down armrest, but the CX-3 doesn’t have any USB points in the back like some of its rivals, or directional air conditioning vents.

16-inch alloy wheels. (Image: Dean McCartney) 16-inch alloy wheels. (Image: Dean McCartney)

How does it drive?

The CX-3 has a bit of zoom compared to other vehicles in the same class, and it's nice to drive on the highway. It has great steering and accelerates quickly on the straight. 

It has a decent 2.0-litre petrol engine, with a six speed auto transmission and front-wheel drive. I found the suspension quite firm, particularly over pot holes.

It has a decent 2.0-litre petrol engine. (Image: Dean McCartney) It has a decent 2.0-litre petrol engine. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The auto transmission is calibrated to save fuel, so it tends to pick the higher gear earlier and because of this I found it a little slow to react when I drove up any inclines at slow speeds around the suburbs. 

On the highway, when you’re travelling at higher speeds, it responds a lot better in similar situations. It does have a sports mode that makes it a bit more lively, and you can switch it over to manual mode, too, if you like.

The steering is accurate and predictable and I found it easy to park in tight spots, better than some of its competitors in the light SUV category. (Image: Dean McCartney) The steering is accurate and predictable and I found it easy to park in tight spots, better than some of its competitors in the light SUV category. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The steering is accurate and predictable and I found it easy to park in tight spots, better than some of its competitors in the light SUV category. Surprisingly for an SUV, it can scrape its nose on steep driveways.

I found the visibility is okay, but not particularly great for checking my blind spot due to the positioning of my seat and the pillar.

How spacious is it?

It's designed as a tiny SUV and built on the Mazda2 base, so it's quite a small car, but it does have two cupholders in the centre console that fold back so it becomes a general storage space in addition to the small glove box.

I’m 177cm (5'10") and when I sit in the back seat, behind my driving position, I have a decent amount of headroom, and a small amount of legroom, which is fine for short trips.

  • 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Seats 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Seats
  • 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Seats 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Seats
  • 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Seats 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Seats
  • 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Seats 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Seats

The boot is small for its class at 264 litres but you can fold the seats down in full to give you 1164 litres of space. If you’re using it as a family car, with people in the back seat, the boot is quite limited and doesn't fit a large pram.

Another option is to fold the seats 60/40 to put bulky items in the back, or you can lower the floor of the boot for a little bit more space for your groceries. 

  • 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Boot 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Boot
  • 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Boot 2022 Mazda CX-3 I Maxx Sport FWD I Boot

How easy is it to use every day?

Overall, the Mazda CX-3 is more practical than it’s small size might suggest. There are multiple storage areas included, particularly in the back, and features have been designed thoughtfully so as not to take attention away from your driving.

As the driver or front passenger there’s quite a bit of room up front, particularly headroom, but it does feel a little cramped in terms of leg space and the manual levers for the front seats are a bit clunky. 

Overall, the Mazda CX-3 is more practical than it’s small size might suggest. (Image: Dean McCartney) Overall, the Mazda CX-3 is more practical than it’s small size might suggest. (Image: Dean McCartney)

This model doesn’t come with heated seats, which I find disappointing, but it does have climate controlled air conditioning, which some rivals of the Maxx Sport don’t have.

How safe is it?

Despite the car’s small size it feels solid and safe on the road and it has a decent kit of safety features, if you spend most of your time around town.  It also has rear parking sensors, but none for the front. 

The Maxx Sport has forward auto emergency braking but only at city speeds, and impressively, it has rear AEB as well, to stop you from reversing into objects or cars.

The Maxx Sport has forward auto emergency braking at city speeds, and impressively, it has rear AEB. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Maxx Sport has forward auto emergency braking at city speeds, and impressively, it has rear AEB. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The CX-3 has the bare minimum airbag coverage with six airbags including two up the front, front side chest and side head (curtain) airbags.

The car received a maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2016, but the standards for achieving that maximum score have changed a lot since then. 

There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether attachments, but if you have a rear facing child seat in the back it eats up quite a bit of space in the back and the front.  

What’s the tech like?

It’s not as teched out as some of the other cars in this category, the multimedia screen is 7.0 inches and comes with Bluetooth plus wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The small storage space and wireless charging pad has two USB points, but only the top one connects your phone to the multimedia system. The tech is partially controlled by a manual dial.

At first I wasn’t a fan as it seems a little dated and I automatically go to touch the screen, but as a safety feature the touchscreen doesn't work while you're driving and I quickly found I liked the functionality of the dial.

The in-built satellite navigation system is easy to program if you manually type in your address before you start driving. While the options are clear it does take a little while to input a destination.

The voice command is clunky and struggled to interpret my address requests. You also need a full address which means you can't say a landmark or shopping centre for example; Warringah Mall, Pittwater Road, Brookvale won't show up in the address list.

I found the voice command for my phone integrated well, so I used Google maps instead and it was a much more intuitive process, plus the audio system automatically throws your music to the left speaker and plays the navigation instructions through the right, so you don't miss any guidance.

How much does it cost to own?

The Mazda CX-3 is fiercely popular and it's good value-for-money at just over $27,000, as long as you’re looking for a hatchback with a little extra, rather than a real SUV. 

If you're a small family and don't need to cart around a big pram, you can fit what you need and the running costs are fairly low. Mazda provides good value in terms of maintenance, parts and ownership costs.

If you're comparing it to some of the European models in the same class, you might not get the same refinement as the higher end brands, but you get a great drive for the price and it's worth considering.

The Mazda CX-3 is fiercely popular and it's good value-for-money at just over $27,000. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Mazda CX-3 is fiercely popular and it's good value-for-money at just over $27,000. (Image: Dean McCartney)

For a weekend trip up the coast to see the extended family and a bit of city and suburban driving, my petrol usage was 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres. The official combined cycle figure is 6.3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres. 

The CX-3 comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre factory warranty which is standard for its class, plus roadside assist for five years. It needs a service every 12 months or 10,000 kilometres.

The capped price servicing averages out at $350 a year over the first five years.


The Wrap

I’m giving the car 3.5/5 because it’s a good buy and it delivers where it needs to, but it loses family points for its tiny boot and the very tight squeeze in the back, particularly if you need to fit a car seat.

Likes

Classic shape
Decent drive
Fuel efficient

Dislikes

Inside dated
Small boot
Tight squeeze in the back

Scores

Helen:

3.5

The Kids:

3.5

$27,940

Based on new car retail price

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