Mazda CX-3 road test

Posted on August 21st, 2015 by James Luckhurst

Great to drive and look at, but some rivals are more practical.


Mazda CX-3 road test

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What is it?

The Mazda CX-3 is a small SUV to rival the likes of the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka. There’s a choice of petrol and diesel versions.

How safe is it?

There’s no Euro NCAP rating for the CX-3 yet, but every version has a long list of safety kit including driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags.

Who should buy one?

If you want a small SUV that’s great to drive, the CX-3 is very appealing. However, it’s not the roomiest car of it’s kind, so think twice if practicality is your priority.

Road test by David Motton published 21 August 2015



Mazda CX-3 road test

If you enjoy driving, you’ll love the CX-3. When the road twists and turns, you’ll have more fun in the Mazda than just about any other small SUV.
The steering is direct and precise, and the car has a real appetite for corners. There’s plenty of grip and very little lean.
Dips and crests are dealt with securely. This firm control means the ride can feel a little hard but it’s not uncomfortable. SE and SE-L models, which are equipped with 16-inch alloys, ride bumps more smoothly than range-topping Sport Nav cars on 18-inch wheels.
Mazda expects most buyers to choose the 120PS (118bhp) 2.0-litre petrol engine. It’s a perky enough engine, and delivers brisk performance. Mazda claims a 0-62mph time of around 9.0 seconds.
There’s noticeably more top-end punch from the 150PS (148bhp) version of the same engine. However, the more powerful petrol is only available in the most expensive specification level with four-wheel drive, so it’s rather pricey.
Although the diesel is noisier than either petrol engine, we found it the pick of the bunch. It might have just 105PS (104bhp), but it feels much stronger. There’s plenty of pulling power from low revs, so despite being 1.1 seconds slower to 62mph than the entry-level petrol it feels quicker most of the time.
The six-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to use, with a slick and snappy action. A six-speed automatic is available. It changes gear promptly and smoothly, with paddles behind the steering wheel for manual control. However, it adds £1200 to the price of the petrol and £1300 to the price of the diesel.
Most versions of the CX-3 are front-wheel drive, but three 4×4 models are available. Don’t expect to go chasing proper off-roaders through the mud, but for staying mobile through the winter the four-wheel-drive cars are a good bet.
Our only real complaint is that there’s too much road noise at speed. Otherwise we’re thoroughly impressed.

Mazda CX-3 road test

The CX-3 is based on the 2 supermini. Although it’s longer, taller and wider than the 2, the distance between the front and rear axles is identical. That means the cabin isn’t especially roomy.
Those in the front have enough space, but the rear seats are cramped for adults. The way the window line rises while the roof curves downwards creates a rather claustrophobic feel.
How the CX-3 shapes up next to its rivals compares which one you compare it with. The Nissan Juke is very small in the back, but the Renault Captur offers a more family-friendly cabin.
Likewise luggage space is more or less on a par with the Juke’s: think weekly shop rather than family holiday. A Captur’s boot will accommodate more bags.
The CX-3’s boot floor can be set to two levels, giving one large space or hidden storage under the floor. However, top-spec versions lose this facility and gain a powerful speaker under the floor instead.

Mazda CX-3 road test

There’s no Euro NCAP rating for the CX-3 yet, but the car has a long list of safety equipment. All models have front, side and curtain airbags, as well as stability control, Hill Hold Assist to stop the car from rolling backwards on a slope, and a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System. SE-L and Sport Nav cars also have Smart City Brake Support, which slows the car at low speeds if it detects a collision is likely.

Mazda CX-3 road test

Mazda is usually generous with standard equipment, and that’s true of the CX-3. Even the most basic SE cars have air conditioning, a touchscreen multimedia system, a digital radio, cruise control and all-round electric windows. SE-L cars have extra kit including rear parking sensors, heated front seats and climate control. As you can guess from the name, Sport Nav cars have satellite navigation, along with LED headlights, a reversing camera and an uprated stereo.


Mazda CX-3 road test

Prices start from £17,595 rising to £24,695. That’s a lot when the cheapest Nissan Juke is £13,930. However, the Mazda is more powerful and better equipped. It should be cheap to run, too. The 120PS petrol achieves 47.9mpg on the combined cycle, while the two-wheel-drive 105PS diesel achieves 70.6mpg. It’s worth knowing that SE-L spec is cheaper to insure SE trim because of the extra standard safety equipment.


Great to drive and look at, but some rivals are more practical.

Price: £20,395
Performance: 0-60mph in 10.1 seconds
Economy: 70.6mpg combined
Insurance: Group 13E
Tax: Band B (£0 first year)

Figures for the Skyactiv-D diesel SE-L