Mazda CX-3 – the car you don’t need but want

Mazda is taking a more frequent than usual approach to rejuvenating its models. These are more or less visible changes in design, technology or the gradual addition of equipment already offered in other models of the brand. The popular CX-3 has also recently received such an upgrade. We test it in top Revolution Top trim, with the Skyactiv-G 150 engine and four-wheel drive.

Outside

Because I have private experience with this model before the facelift, I’ll be able to compare how much Mazda has managed to improve this crossover.There was no reason for major modifications on the outside, so only the grille and lower bumper have been changed up front. The taillights have new graphics and new 18-inch wheels (with 215/50R18 tyres) have been added. The CX-3’s design has been met with nothing but positive reactions and I agree with them. Although it’s a small car based on the Mazda 2, its slightly taller chassis, flared bumpers and overall more powerful shapes manage to evoke the feeling of a car at least half a class bigger. Personally, I like the undulating shape of the bottom edge of the side windows the most. I also like the overall look of the car, which on the one hand is sweet, but on the other it also exudes a certain amount of aggression. However, I don’t like the complicated C-pillar and the thick fender cladding. Red – the promotional colour has suited the car in the past. The current “Soul Red Crystal” paintwork is a little darker, and Mazda can be justly proud of it.

Inside

Inside, the interior hasn’t just been left to cosmetic tweaks. The overall look of the dashboard hasn’t changed, only the details have been tweaked. The three circular ventilation vents have remained in place, but the chrome trim running across another – rectangular vent has been shortened. The centre console has not undergone any changes, but no stone has been left unturned on the tunnel. I find the layout of the handbrake, infotainment and automatic selector buttons visually perfect. I like the leather trim on part of the tunnel and its connection to the small but functional armrest.

The interior door trim is a combination of hard plastics, faux leather and a suede-like alcantara. This material is also found on the dashboard in front of the passenger and visually takes the interior to the next level. If soft-touch materials were used on the dashboard, the interior would be on par with vehicles of a similar class in the premium segment. This is already matched by electrically adjustable seats covered in perforated leather.

Behind the Wheel

Getting in is comfortable thanks to the car’s taller build. The seating position is low with legs stretched forward in a sporty manner. The range of steering wheel adjustment is sufficient, the pedals are ideally spaced, but the left footrest lacks “plating”. The steering wheel fits nicely in the hand, but deserves a slightly thicker wreath.

The seats are more comfortable after the facelift, but are still better suited to shorter figures. Shoulder room matches the car’s external dimensions. Headroom and legroom were fine for me. As did the subtle armrest, despite not being sliding or reclining.The small width of the front window makes it difficult to see around a left-hand bend, despite the A-pillar not being too wide. However, I appreciate the large rear-view mirrors and the overall side vision.

The ergonomics of the individual controls are fine, they’re handy and logically spaced. However, you need to get used to turning on the automatic climate control function with two rotary dials. I think an extra button wouldn’t hurt. Automatic window range on all sides should already be standard in the top trim.

Infotainment is the same as in other models of the brand. It certainly doesn’t offend, but it’s slowly becoming time for its generational replacement. The addition of Android Auto and Apple Car Play support will definitely please, but for now at a significant premium. I didn’t have a chance to try it in the model I tested, though.

On the Road

The CX-3 was already driving great before the facelift. It provided above-average driveability for its class and could be relied upon. The current version has made them even better. While the chassis is just as firm as before, the lateral roll is less pronounced in my opinion. The car holds its line well even in aggressive driving, where the attachable rear-wheel drive helps noticeably in corners. The chassis behaves neutrally for a very long time and is not thrown off balance even by the slight bounce of the rear wheels on bumps. The ride can be a lot of fun, especially on wet surfaces. A switchable stabilisation system would certainly help the car enjoy itself even more. While it doesn’t intervene too early, it doesn’t intervene late enough either, thus thwarting the ability to get the car to its limit naturally.

The chassis’ sporting qualities are redeemed by its overly firmness. A long drive on, say, a concrete road with regular fine joints starts to get a bit annoying after a while. Bigger bumps can be heard and felt, especially in the rear seats.

The steering is very direct, properly stiff and without a hint of play around the centre position. However, the steering wheel speed between the extreme 2.7 positions could be less. I appreciate the feedback from the front wheels, something not often seen in cars in this category today.

The car is powered by a traditionally atmospherically charged 1998cc3 four-cylinder engine with a maximum output of 110 kW at 6,000 rpm and 206 Nm of torque at 2,800 rpm. It has a dignified delivery and a nice raw sound. It delivers power gradually and, although it is a typical high-revving engine, it becomes more pronounced from the middle revs onwards. It responds instantly to throttle pedal inputs, which is a rarity in today’s turbo era. However, it also takes some time to reach higher revs, so it ultimately comes out flat. But the gradation of power as the rev counter needle rises is, in my opinion, more pleasing and natural.

I was expecting similar explosiveness from the engine as in the Mazda 6 with the 2.5 Skyactiv-G. It is, after all, almost 2 classes smaller car, but with the same automatic and only 31kW less power. The dynamics are adequate, but it doesn’t reach the level of the Mazda 6. Maybe it’s due to the four-wheel drive and the not-quite-low weight of the car (1415 kg). The CX-3’s ride is more reminiscent of its larger sibling, the CX-5, with the aforementioned 2.5-litre engine.

The 6-speed automatic gearbox gets along great with the engine and makes perfect use of its wide usable rev range. It responds quickly and very smoothly to accelerator commands. A brief hesitation is felt only when trying to accelerate hard from low revs, when it is necessary to downshift by 3 gears.

I returned the car with an average consumption of 7.8 litres. To be honest, I was expecting less. In fact, I achieved the same consumption on the same routes with the Mazda 6 with the aforementioned “two and a half”. Moreover, the small tank of only 44 litres forces the driver to visit the petrol station quite often.

In the city, depending on traffic, I’ve driven on 7 or even 11 litres. The car is agile and handles well thanks to its dimensions, but I found the 11.6m turning diameter to be too large. Parking is aided by parking sensors at the front, plus camera support at the rear. Driving in traffic is made easier by adaptive cruise control with stop & go function. Similarly, I appreciated the electronic parking brake with AutoHold.

I was able to thoroughly enjoy the ride on the ring roads. Very enjoyable is the driving in tight corners, when the car literally pulls you into the action and lets you feel the chassis work. For quick engine reactions and to keep the engine at the right speed (e.g. when exiting a corner quickly), it is advisable to use the sport mode. I kept consumption at 7.6 l/100 km in brisk driving.

In highway driving, I was surprised by the above-average soundproof interior in this category. Progress has been made not only in reducing aerodynamic noise, but also chassis noise. At higher speeds, the car is stable and there is no need to make steering corrections. I was surprised by the use of a simpler lane-keeping assistant that does not interfere with the steering. Engine noise is decently suppressed at highway speeds despite the higher revs. Consumption at 130-140 km/h gently exceeded 8, settling at a steady 100 km/h in the low sixes.

The following table shows the engine revs at each speed in sixth gear.

Speed in km/hRPM
1002100
1102250
1202500
1302750
140less than 3000

Practicalities, features, price

From a car like the CX-3, you can’t expect an overabundance of space in the back, a cavernous boot or a large number of storage compartments in the interior. I can’t sit behind me comfortably with my height of 185cm, but a short journey is survivable. Unless there’s a too-long person sitting in front, the kid in the back won’t complain. A smaller bottle can be stowed in the door, and a cell phone finds a place in the new compartments in the center tunnel. The space for sunglasses is too small and the cubby in front of the passenger compartment doesn’t overflow with space either. However, I appreciate the placement of the IsoFix anchors in an easily accessible location.

In the highest – tested – trim, the Revolution Top steals the subwoofer of the BOSE audio system from the boot. This reduces its volume to 287 litres. Honestly? Never mind. It’s enough for a regular or larger purchase, and the rear seats can be folded down to create a flat area if needed.

The price of the tested model is €26,690 + €770 for the red metallic + €500 for the navigation. Is the final price of €27,960 high? On the face of it, yes, but for a car with a reasonably strong engine, 4×4 drive, an automatic and full equipment it’s hard to expect a low price. However, at lower standards, a decently equipped version can be bought for around €22,000.

 

Verdict

For a similar price, the Mazda 3 offers more space, a more powerful engine, better drivability and better fuel economy too. But if you still choose the CX-3, you won’t regret it. But you may not need it, you have to want it.