Nissan Qashqai VS Mazda CX-3
- Impressive rear legroom
- Big boot
- Good to drive
- A bit pricey
- Acceleration feels sluggish
- Small display screen
- Design, inside and out
- Sharp handling
- Fun steering
- Small boot
- CarPlay still not fixed (it's coming)
- Engine can sound like it's working hard
It’s lucky cars aren’t as bad as the names they’re given because the Qashqai would be a shocker. Fortunately, the Qashqai is a good small SUV and this latest update has made it even better... and safer.
So, what’s so new about the 2020 Qashqai? What’s good about it and what could still be improved. Finally, there’s something else you should know, and it might make you want to wait longer before you do buy a Qashqai.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Some cars are just so desirable, so delectably tempting to look at, that they cause people to abandon all logical and practical concerns and buy them anyway. Fortunately, most vehicles in this category of dangerous desirability are stupidly expensive, but when you combine the cuter-than-a-puppy looks of a car like Mazda's CX-3 with a price range that starts in the low $20,000 range, anything can happen.
Throw in the fact that this diminutive darling of a thing is a small SUV - one of the most desirable categories in the Australian market, with sales in the segment doubling in the past five years - and Mazda may need to reinforce the doors in its showrooms with the launch of this new one.
I speak from experience here because my wife loves the look of the CX-3 so much she wanted to buy one. So I explained that it is built on the Mazda2 platform, which means its boot is too small for a family of four, and that the rest of it probably wasn't suitable for us either. But she was still keen.
I know of a young family who bought one because they were so taken with its prettiness, but when they got it home they remembered they had a small child and realised that their pram would never, ever fit in the back. Oh dear.
If you are a young single or a childless couple, of course you can enjoy its alluring looks all you like, and the tight rear seats and small boot volume probably won't bother you at all.
Mazda happily admits the way this car looks is the main reason people buy it, which is no doubt why the new one looks so much like the highly successful old one (more than 58,000 CX-3s have been sold in Australia since its launch in 2015).
So, what actually is new about this incorrigibly cute crossover? We went to the local launch drive to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Qashqai is one of Nissan’s best SUVs for the space it offers in such a small package. A good driving experience is short of being great thanks to the CVT auto, and the value could be better.
Now, here’s a spanner in the works for you. A new generation Qashqai isn’t far away, it’s probably about 12 months off and it will have a new look inside and out, have the latest technology, plus we’ll almost certainly see a hybrid version.
If you can hold on, do it, because what’s likely to be an even better Qashqai should be worth the wait. But if you are in market right now, the ST+ is definitely the pick of the bunch. The update has seen it pick up an excellent array of advanced safety equipment.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
If you liked the previous Mazda CX-3 - and just about everyone did - then you're going to love this one even more. It's got a tiny bit more presence, a less busy and more classy interior and marginally better engines with slightly improved fuel economy. Basically, it's a little bit more of the same for this little gem of a compact SUV.
Would you have a Mazda CX-3 over a Mitsubishi ASX, on looks alone? Tell us in the comments section.
Another strength of the Qashqai is its good looks – tough, yet pretty, with a rounded snub nose and muscular rear haunches.
No changes to the styling for this 2020 update inside or out, which is a shame because the cabin is beginning to date with the small screen and dash design. Still the interior is stylish with well laid out controls.
As you’d expect, the Ti’s interior is the plushest, with quilted leather seats and the huge sunroof, but even the entry grade ST with the leather clad steering wheel has a premium feel.
How big is the Qashqai? It’s a big-small SUV in that at 4394mm end-to-end it’s 10cm longer than a Honda HR-V and about 2.0cm longer that a Kia Seltos, but about the same width and height as both at 1806mm across and 1595mm tall.
All Qashqai’s come standard with alloy wheels, so no hubcaps here like you’ll see on the entry-grade Seltos.
Telling each Qashqai grade apart is easy once you know the ST doesn’t have foglights, while the ST+ does but doesn’t get the roof rails you’ll see on the ST-L or its 18-inch alloys. The TI can be spotted in the wild by its big 19-inch rims and the sunroof. See? Easy… sort of.
There are seven colours to choose from including 'Magnetic Red' and 'Pearl Black', but only the 'Vivid Blue' (the colour of my car in the video) is the only no-cost hue. The other premium paint colours are $595.
In the right light, in the right colour, (obviously the hugely popular red), the CX-3 can move beyond being just small and sweet looking and reach the point of genuinely striking. There's a lovely, criss-crossing line that swinges down the sides, crossing over at its mid point. It's what Mazda calls pure Kodo design - simple, sleek and slightly sexy.
The angle most people fall in love from, though, is front on, with the CX-3's toothy grin only slightly changed for this new version with a new "more assertive" grille, with a solid, detailed design featuring horizontal bars of different thicknesses.
The goal here, as CX-3 program manager Takata Minoru explained, was to make "no unnecessary changes" and only to "refine the beauty and enhance the quality feel".
The new grille is supposed to give the car a sharper look and a greater feeling of depth, but to us it just looked like a new grille. Mazda says the new car is defined by being "exquisite" and "edgy", but it's not clear what that means in terms of new-ness.
The sTouring and Akari grades get a new line of chrome along the front bumper and sides, which is pleasant enough, while there are also new fog light bezels in gloss black on Maxx Sport variants and above.
Oh, and the rear lights, in the top two grades, have adopted a cylindrical shape for the facelift version, because round things are classier than square ones. Apparently.
Colours, of course, in a car so pretty and feminine, are a big deal, and there are now eight to choose from - 'Soul Red Crystal Metallic' (as opposed to just Soul Red Metallic) and 'Machine Grey Metallic' are new and join 'Dynamic Blue Mica', 'Titanium Flash Mica', 'Jet Black Mica', 'Snow Flake White Pearl Mica', 'Ceramic Metallic' and 'Eternal Blue Mica'. Brown is not an option, happily.
In short, it's a good looking car, much like the old one, and it's hard to imagine a vehicle of this size and shape being any more attractive. It's surprising, then, to learn that the CX-3 is only the second-best seller in its segment, behind the Mitsubishi ASX.
Ground clearance for the CX-3 is 160mm unladen. So, no rock hopping then.
Space and usability are two of the Qashqai’s strengths. For an SUV that is only 4.4m long, and for me at 191cm tall to be able to sit behind my driving position with room to spare is excellent. Headroom back there is good, too, even in the Ti which has a sunroof which eats into the ceiling.
Cabin storage up front is pretty darn good with a large and deep centre console bin, big door pockets and two cup holders; while the rear seats have door bottle holders and a tray in the rear of the front console. The ST-L and Ti come with a fold-down centre armrest in the back with two cupholders.
The 430L boot is one of the largest in the class (Seltos has a 433L cargo capacity). There’s also another large storage level under the boot floor in the Ti.
Getting in and out of the Qashqai is helped by a raised ride height and large doors that open wide.
Considering the external dimensions of the car, the CX-3 does quite well. Allow me to illuminate you with my own example, which is that I recently spent 10 days driving one of these around Italy, with my wife and two young children on board, plus a significant amount of luggage.
I had sleepless nights before picking up the car, because I was sure we'd never get it all in, or be able to breathe if we did, but not only did we fit, we were quite comfortable and happy with the luggage capacity.
Rear leg room is just bearable for an adult, but no problem at all for small kids (although it wouldn't suit teens). The boot space, at 264 litres, is very small, and even calling it adequate seems generous. What it will not fit, though, due to its narrow dimensions, is a pram of any sort, so young families should look elsewhere. Although if they don't, there are two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points for child seats.
The biggest change for the new model in cabin terms is the inclusion of an electronic park brake, which has allowed Mazda to include a new centre console/armrest, with two handy cup holders of different sizes, there are also bottle holders in all four doors, and (for Maxx Sport spec and above) a rear armrest with two more cupholders).
Indeed, Mazda says the cupholders have had their depth and diameter revised so they can now fit giant, American-sized cups if required.
That centre console also offers useful, deep storage and there are two USB points handily located in front of the shift lever. The control buttons for the MZD media system are also more ergonomically positioned thanks to the electronic park brake.
The rear seat armrest, with built in storage box, is said to "embody the human-centred philosophy by increasing comfort and reducing fatigue". I know I always find that armrests make me less tired, but then I wouldn't volunteer to sit in the back of a CX-3 anyway.
The overall goal with the new interior was to make it more minimalist and Japanese, and when you compare it with photos of the old one it does look less busy and less cluttered, with classy touches here and there. That is only slightly offset by the cheaper, harder feeling plastics around the doors on their armrests.
Top-shelf Akari models come with genuine leather seats in black or white, sTouring gets grey with black leatherette and everything beneath that gets a black interior with black cloth seats.
A sunroof is available on the Akari models.
Price and features
The entry-point into the Qashqai range is now $27,990 (an increase of $500 over the previous car) and that will get you into the ST with a manual gearbox, while the auto (CVT) is $29,990.
That ST is the only grade which comes with a manual, the rest are all autos with the ST+ listing for $31,990, then the ST-L for $34,000 and at the top-of-the-range is the Ti for $38,490.
A limited-edition N-Sport version sits between the ST-L and Ti and lists for $35,000, but there are only 600 being made.
As for what’s new, that’s simple – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is now standard across the range. The ST+ also now has rain sensing wipers and auto headlights. The rest of the new features are safety items which we’ll cover in that section below.
Along with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, standard features on the ST include a 7.0-inch screen with rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, cruise control, cloth seats, push-button start, LED running lights, halogen headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Step up to the ST+ and you’ll gain all the ST’s features plus sat nav, privacy glass, fog lights, and power- folding heated wing mirrors.
The ST-L has all of this, but adds leather and cloth seats, heated front seats, roof rails, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
At the top-of-the-range is the Ti and this grade unlocks more features on top of the ST-L’s including 19-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable driver and front passenger seat, adaptive cruise control, and leather seats.
The 2020 update also saw a special edition N Sport Qashqai released for a list price of $35,000. The N Sport has all the ST-L's features and adds 19-inch alloys, body-coloured front and rear bumpers with a matt silver trim, side skirts, body-coloured wheelarches, silver mirror caps, black headliner and an N-Sport badge to make sure everybody knows.
Is it good value? Well you can get into an entry-grade Kia Seltos with all the advanced safety features in the Ti for $25,990 drive-away. A Honda HR-V is also more affordable with a start price of $24,990.
I’m afraid the answer to that initial question then is, no. The Qashqai is not good value in comparison to the Seltos or Honda HR-V.
Comparing the differences between the CX-3 range, there really is a variant for all budgets, with an entry price of $23,990 drive-away for the Neo Sport with a six-speed manual, cloth seats and steel wheels, rising all the way to $37,490 for the leather-filled, sunroof-topped Akari LE, which gets some impressive tech previously only seen in German cars, like a driver-attention monitor and radar cruise control with full stop and go functionality.
Prices have risen over the previous model, but Mazda says this pricing reflects the fact that you're getting more equipment in the new version.
You are also, undeniably, getting a less busy and more classy interior, although the changes to the exterior design are so small you wouldn't want to be paying for them. Nor would you want to change a look that is this pretty, and successful.
Standard kit for your $23,990 drive-away Neo Sport (that's manual, auto adds another $2000) includes 16-inch steel wheels, body-coloured powered mirrors, black cloth front seats with height adjustment, electric parking brake, Bluetooth functionality, a 7.0-inch full-colour 'MZD Connect' touchscreen to control your infotainment and sound system with DAB and six speakers (but no CD player and no GPS), and a multi-function 'Command Control', plus keyless start, rear parking sensors, a reversing carer and 'Smart City Brake Support', which works in both forward and reverse. It's a (very) good-looking package at a tempting price. Apple CarPlay, which would helpfully allow you to run navigation from your iPhone in the base model, is not yet available, but it's coming soon, and a kit to retrofit it will be available at Mazda dealers in the near future.
The Maxx Sport adds 16-inch alloys, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a fold down armrest with two cupholders for the rear passengers, leather-wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel, climate-control air con, sat nav, 'Blind Spot Monitoring' and 'Rear Cross Traffic Alert'.
Step up to the sTouring and win 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lights all round, slightly nicer black 'Maztek' and cloth seats, a handy head-up display, keyless entry and start, 'Driver Attention Alert', from parking sensors and 'Traffic Sign Recognition'.
The Akari does feel noticeably nicer inside with its softer dash material and leather seats in white or black, plus 'Mazda Radar Cruise Control' with start-stop function, a 360-degree view monitor and adaptive LED headlights and lane-departure warning.
Personally, I'd be quite happy with my value at $25,490 for a manual Maxx Sport. Indeed, it's a bit of a bargain.
The prices we've listed here are drive-away (no more to pay!), which is something new for Mazda and does provide wonderful clarity.
Engine & trans
All Qashqais have the same engine – it’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol which makes a reasonable 106kW of power and 200Nm of torque.
As I mentioned in the driving section the engine isn’t at all gutless, I’ve driven SUVs and cars with the same torque and less power with better acceleration. It’s the continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the Qashqai which causes the lackluster acceleration.
You’ll notice this lack of oomph particularly on hills and when you need to overtake. Some carmakers are now producing CVTs which do provide better acceleration, but Nissan’s isn’t one of them.
On the plus side CVTs are good for fuel economy, which is what we’re about to discuss.
Mazda is offering a new SKYACTIV-D turbo-diesel engine with the CX-3 - which has increased in capacity from 1.5 to 1.8 litres, which takes power from 77kW up to 85kW, while torque stays at 270Nm - but you have to wonder why. Mazda Australia predicts the diesel will make up a measly one per cent of sales, which probably explains why they didn't bring one along to the launch for us to drive.
Almost everyone, then, will be choosing the revised SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine, which makes 110kW at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 2800rpm, an increase of exactly one kilowatt and three newton metres from the previous model.
Changes to the engine have focused on improving fuel consumption, and variations in that consumption caused by seasonal changes and usage patterns. Apparently the new version offers improved combustion efficiency when under heavy load - climbing hills for example - and thermal-management tech to reduce excess fuel consumption when it's cold outside.
New high-pressure injectors also help to improve torque delivery, with the amount of torque on offer throughout the rev range increased by "one to two per cent". Fuel economy is also improved by the same percentages. Not huge improvements, then.
You can also choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic transmission, and between front-wheel or all-wheel drive (not on the base Neo Sport, though). Not surprisingly, for a city crossover like this, 92 per cent of CX-3s sold will be FWD, and 90 per cent will be automatics.
Having driven the manual version myself on holiday, I would highly recommend it, because it allows you to get the most out of the engine. With a weight of 1266kg it's useful to be able to get involved in shifting.
The CX-3's engine uses a timing chain rather than a belt and you should check our problems pages to see if there are any reports of problems with automatic transmissions.
Nissan says the Qashqai with its four-cylinder petrol engine and CVT auto will use 6.9L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. That’s pretty good and better than the ST with its manual gearbox which officially does a best of 7.7L/100km.
One of the aims of upgrading the CX-3's engine was better fuel economy, and yet the Mazda engineers admit they managed an improvement of just "one to two per cent" on the 2.0-litre petrol engine and 3 per cent with the diesel, which has grown from 1.5 to 1.8 litres and still manages to use slightly less fuel, at an impressive 4.7L/100km.
The 2.0 petrol has claimed figures of 6.6L/100km for the FWD manual, 6.3L/100km for the FWD auto and 6.7L/100km for the AWD automatic. People who are chasing better economy would go for the diesel, but customers for this car obviously aren't that bothered, or are happy with mid-sixes, because Mazda tips just one per cent of sales will be the diesel.
Here’s why. The ride is comfortable and composed, the steering is accurate and has good feel to it and the handling (for a small affordable SUV) is great.
You’ll like the extra security the height gives you along with the good visibility, and you’ll like the size in terms of ease of parking, too.
What you might notice is that acceleration feels a bit disappointing and you might think the engine is ‘gutless’ for want of a better word. It’s not the engine, it’s something else. Read on to find out.
All Qashqais are front-wheel drive, but a decent 188mm ground clearance means they’ll handle gravel roads without fear of damaging the underside.
The launch of this updated version had us driving on about 50km of gravel and dirt roads, and sure, if the Qashqai had all-wheel drive it would have kept the car from sliding around on the loose rocky surface a bit, but we had no problems with clearance.
The Qashqai's braked towing capacity is 1200kg.
In a world of constant downsizing, a 2.0-litre engine might sound brutish and bold in a car of this size, but 110 is certainly not an overpowering number of kilowatts. As a result, the petrol-powered CX-3 feels spry and sprightly, but certainly never sporty.
There is a Sport button you can press, but all it seems to do is hold the gear you're in for longer, causing the engine to drone on like a Peter Dutton speech, and not really making much happen in excitement terms.
A sports car this is not, obviously, so perhaps the words "more than adequate" are best for describing the car's performance. You're not going to fly up any hills, but you can zip off traffic lights with reasonable aplomb, and you're never genuinely found wanting for power. More torque would be nice for overtaking, but you could choose the diesel for that (if you're a ‘one percenter').
One of Mazda's goals with the new CX-3 was improving NVH and they've done a stellar job with that. While the old car was bit of a buzz box at times, the new one is far quieter and more refined in terms of road-noise intrusion, but if you are tempted to push on, the noise from the engine remains strident, and at times strained.
In most driving conditions, however, it's a pleasant cabin to be in, with negligible road noise (although it's more noticeable with the optional 18-inch wheels). And if you do enjoy a slightly lower driving position, you have the ability to drop your chair to a point where you feel more like you are sitting in the car rather on it.
The newly fettled electronic power steering is sharp and fun to use, falling at that point just before it becomes too light and wafty to give proper feedback. The engineers concentrated on "rolling plushness", which is the feel you get through the wheel, basically, and produced an 18 per cent reduction in buzziness through the steering wheel.
Ride control is good over most surfaces - and with ground clearance of 155mm you won't be going too far off road - but there's still a bit clatter over really sharp impacts. Overall, it's a very comfortable cruiser, even on our more brutal country roads. Mazda says it worked on "reducing choppiness", or vertical body movement, and it seems to have succeeded.
Cornering is something you can actually enjoy, if you care for that kind of thing, and this CX-3 benefits from Mazda's 'G-Vectoring Control' (GVC), which is meant to provide "neutral cornering" by minutely reducing torque output to the appropriate wheel to cancel out understeer, or oversteer moments.
It's all about giving the driver that sense of "oneness" with their vehicle that Mazda likes to call "Jinba-ittai" - horse and rider as one. In terms of horsepower and performance figures, they're not something CX-3 buyers are going to worry too much about, clearly, as Mazda makes no mention of the car's 0-100km/h time. A bit of research uncovered the fact that it ranges from 9.0sec for the manual to 9.5 for the auto. Not terrible, then.
Overall, much like the Mazda2 this vehicle is based on, the CX-3 is one of those cars that is genuinely as much fun as it looks, and slightly more fun than you expect it to be.
Throw in its good looks, economical engines and reasonably affordable pricing and it's a complete package. Up until the point where you have kids, and you're forced to upgrade to something that can actually carry a pram.
The Qashqai was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017.
The ST+ has come out well in this update, not only did it score Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the amount of standard advanced safety equipment increased, including blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
While all Qashqais come with AEB as standard the top-of-the-range Ti ALSO picked up AEB with pedestrian detection in the update.
Forward collision warning and lane departure warning ARE also standard on all Qashqais.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts.
A space saver spare wheel in under the boot floor.
Mazda says its new CX-3 is part of its "aim for a safe and accident-free automotive society", which means the company is living slightly in dream land, but at least you know it's thinking about safety.
The 360-degree view monitor is very handy, but you can only have it on the Akari, where you'll also get eight parking sensors, while the base model makes do with rear ones only.
Indeed, the base model goes without most of the safety goodies that are sprinkled across the more expensive variants - blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive LED headlamps, driver-attention alert (with a coffee cup popping up to remind you that you might be tired) and the very handy, almost autonomous radar cruise control with full stop and go function.
What you do get on the entry Neo Sport is 'Smart City Brake Support', which works when moving forwards or backwards and is basically Mazda's name for AEB. The system works with both cars and pedestrians at speeds of up to 80km/h. The previous CX-3 received a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
The Qashqai is covered by Nissan’s five-year,/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended annually or every 10,000km and is capped at $226 for the first service, $309 for the second, $236 for the third, $435 for the fourth and $245 for the fifth.
Surprisingly, Mazda claims its customers are completely unconcerned by the fact that it doesn't offer free roadside assistance as part of its new and improved five-year warranty, although it does occasionally offer it as a promotional thing. I'd be negotiating hard to have it included in the price.
The five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, from Mazda Motor Corporation itself, is a real selling point, however.
Servicing is due every 10,000km or 12 months and the first one will cost you $289, the second $317, third $289, fourth $317 and fifth $289. Seems to be a pattern there.