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Mazda CX-3 2021 review: Maxx Sport FWD


Daily driver score

3/5

Urban score

3.5/5

Nobody ever wants to feel their Mum’s knees in the small of their back. And I’d never experienced that before, not until I drove the CX-3 Maxx Sport. I’ll explain later, but let’s just say there’s nothing Maxx about the CX-3, nor Sport, but it’s still a pretty good choice for an urban car.

Allow me to explain.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The CX-3 is smaller than small, it’s tiny or ‘light’ as it’s officially categorised by the car industry. This could be ideal if you live in the city and need a car that will fit into tight spaces and be easy to pilot around car parks and narrow streets.

I know it seems like an obvious thing to say, but keep in mind that tiny cars tend to have not much space inside – you can read about that in the practicality section below.

For now, let’s look at the dimensions. The CX-3 is 4275mm long, 1765mm wide and 1535mm tall. 

The CX-3 is smaller than small. The CX-3 is smaller than small.

So, we’ve established that the CX-3 is little, but it doesn’t look cheap or flimsy. If anything, the CX-3, as with all Mazdas, looks well-made and has a premium feel to its styling inside and out.

There’s the long bonnet, which stretches down to meet the wide Mazda grille, while in profile the CX-3 looks sporty and coupe-like, particularly the way the window line lifts as though being pushed upwards by the rear wheel arches, which gives it athletic haunches.

The back of the CX-3 ends as abruptly as it starts – compact, cute, and refined.

Refined is the word. The exterior looks classy and so does the interior, even in this Maxx Sport, which sits just above the entry-grade Neo Sport (so it’s still quite low in the CX-3 range).

The CX-3 is 4275mm long, 1765mm wide and 1535mm tall.  The CX-3 is 4275mm long, 1765mm wide and 1535mm tall. 

Really the only way to tell the difference between the Maxx Sport and Neo Sport is the wheels. The Maxx Sport has alloys while the Neo Sport has steel wheels with hub caps. It’s not until you climb to the midpoint of the range; the S Touring, that chrome-looking trims are added to the side sills, but hey, you could put some on yourself if you’re that keen.

The cabin is stylish and simply laid out, with dark and high-quality materials, such as the leather wrapped steering wheel, contributing to a premium look and feel.

This CX-3 is more comfy to sit in than the previous one, and that’s because, as part of the January 2021 update, new seats have been fitted. They look a tad too large for the tiny interior but, as you’ll see in the practicality section, I don’t have a problem with that.

The cabin is stylish and simply laid out, with dark and high-quality materials. The cabin is stylish and simply laid out, with dark and high-quality materials.

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

I want to give you some advice – don’t get the top of the range CX-3, get this one – the Maxx Sport. The top grade CX-3 lists for almost $38K and you could get a CX-5 Maxx Sport for that money, with change.

The CX-3 Maxx Sport is good value at $26,890 and comes with a 7.0-inch screen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto (new with the 2021 update), there’s push-button start, a six-speaker stereo, auto headlights, climate control, sat nav and 16-inch alloy wheels. Those last four items are the features that separate it from the entry grade. Those and some great safety tech, which you can read about below.  

At $26,890, the CX-3 Maxx Sport is good value. At $26,890, the CX-3 Maxx Sport is good value.

How practical is the space inside?

Oh, it’s small inside. I mean, up front is fine, even for me at 191cm tall and a two-metre wingspan, and the new seats, which are bigger and wider, are so much better than the narrower ones in the previous version.

But think of the CX-3 as a two seater with three seats in the back for a rainy day – literally a rainy day, when it’s pouring so hard that you can’t let your friends walk home. Also, if you’re thinking about buying the CX-3 as an Uber I’m warning you now, I will cancel the trip before you arrive because sitting in the back for me is painful, given the limited rear legroom and my almost unlimited legs.

A test that almost broke both my will to live was a trip to the Royal Easter Show with my wife, our six year old and my parents. No, we didn’t all try to fit into the CX-3, that would have been be silly. Instead, we did something else silly and took two cars, with me picking up my parents in the CX-3. Thing is, Dad had to sit in the front because he’s fallen off too many motorbikes, so Mum sat in the back behind me, but her ancestors were Vikings, so she’s tall, with red hair, and yells a lot.

Oh, it’s small inside. Oh, it’s small inside.

Anyway, with her sitting behind me her knees were in my back. It wasn’t pleasant, I felt like we were in a clown car and we spent most of the time in traffic at a standstill, complaining.  

So, if you’re going to be using the CX-3 regularly with adults in the back or tall kids, then it’s not going to work out well. Or just don’t go to the Easter Show. Ok, enough over-sharing.

Still there are two cupholders up front and a clever centre-console storage bin, which isn’t completely covered, great door pockets in the front and decent-sized ones in the rear.

Think of the CX-3 as a two seater with three seats in the back for a rainy day. Think of the CX-3 as a two seater with three seats in the back for a rainy day.

There’s no wireless phone charging and one USB port in the dash.

The CX-3’s boot cargo capacity is small for the class, at 264 litres. That’s not big enough to fit the CarsGuide pram or my mother, but the large suitcase we use for testing will go in. If you have kids, and I know from experience, you’ll be asking too much from the CX-3’s boot to fit all of their stuff all of the time. So, if you will be using the boot to carry a lot, then the slightly larger Mazda CX-30 is a better choice.   

I live in the city, or eight kilometres from the CBD, and I can tell you that urban folk have kids and heaps of stuff, too. The CX-3 seems to be designed for people without kids or stuff.

  • The CX-3’s boot cargo capacity is small for the class, at 264 litres. The CX-3’s boot cargo capacity is small for the class, at 264 litres.
  • That’s not big enough to fit the CarsGuide pram, but the large suitcase we use for testing will go in. That’s not big enough to fit the CarsGuide pram, but the large suitcase we use for testing will go in.
  • If you have kids, you’ll be asking too much from the CX-3’s boot to fit all of their stuff all of the time. If you have kids, you’ll be asking too much from the CX-3’s boot to fit all of their stuff all of the time.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is in all CX-3s and it makes 110kW/195Nm.

It’s a pretty big engine for a tiny car and those output figures are nothing to laugh at. I’ve driven larger SUVs with less grunt.

The same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is in all CX-3s and it makes 110kW/195Nm. The same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is in all CX-3s and it makes 110kW/195Nm.

The transmission is a six-speed auto, which is becoming rarer these days as many car makers switch to CVTs or dual-clutch autos. The benefit of a regular auto like the one in the CX-3 is smother low speed driving. The negatives? Slower gear changes and higher fuel economy.

The Maxx Sport I tested was the front-wheel-drive version. There’s an all-wheel drive, too, but it’s not at all vital in the city.

How much fuel does it consume?

You’d think a tiny car’s fuel economy would be really good, but the CX-3 is thirstier than you might expect.

Mazda says that the CX-3’s mileage on a combination of open and urban roads is 6.3L/100km. City-only driving will use more fuel and Mazda says the urban fuel economy is 7.7L/100km, which is close to the 7.9L/100km the trip computer was reporting back to me after a week together.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

What were you doing in 2015? It’s a pretty long time ago now, especially if you’re a car, but the CX-3 was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating that year.

While the rules to get five stars have now become stricter, the CX-3 is still well equipped with advanced safety tech, and most of it has a strong urban focus.

All CX-3s have AEB with pedestrian detection and it works forwards at speeds from 4km/h to 80km/h and in reverse at 2km/h-8km/h, but stepping up to the Maxx Sport adds rear-cross traffic alert and blind-spot warning.

The CX-3 is still well equipped with advanced safety tech, and most of it has a strong urban focus. The CX-3 is still well equipped with advanced safety tech, and most of it has a strong urban focus.

The headlights are halogen, which is not good for dark country roads but fine for well-lit city streets.

Rear parking sensors are standard, but you’ll have to go a grade higher to score the front parking sensors, along with lane-departure warning and traffic-sign recognition.

For child seats there are three top-tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.

A space saver spare is under the boot floor.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The CX-3 is covered by Mazda’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended annually or every 10,000km, with the first service capped at $331, then $391, then back to $331, alternating like that all the way through to the fifth.

Every new Mazda is also covered by five years roadside assistance if you ever get a flat battery, run out of fuel, get a flat tyre, lock your keys in the car, or accidentally get married. Ok, maybe not the last one.

The CX-3 is covered by Mazda’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. The CX-3 is covered by Mazda’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

What's it like to drive around town?

The CX-3 is easy and fun to drive. This is thanks to an engine that has plenty of grunt, a torque-convertor transmission, which sends that drive well to the front wheels, good body control and dynamics, plus a fairly comfy ride.

Yes, the wing mirrors seems to be overly magnified, and the reversing camera’s picture isn’t great, but these are minor issues when weighed up with the upsides to the driving experience.

The CX-3’s tiny size makes it ideal for fitting into parking spots many cars can’t, piloting through laneways and conquering other urban challenges.

The CX-3 is easy and fun to drive. The CX-3 is easy and fun to drive.

The Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport FWD is an excellent car for the city, thanks to its small size, ease of driving and safety tech. New additions for the 2021 update, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, will also help drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands off their phones.

The petrol engine is thirsty and in 2021 it’s disappointing that there isn’t a hybrid or EV version of the CX-3.

Other downsides include limited interior space and a small boot.

$26,650

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3/5

Urban score

3.5/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.