Mazda CX-3 review – crossover with substance to back up its style

Mazda CX-3 review – crossover with substance to back up its style
Mazda CX-3 review – crossover with substance to back up its style

The Mazda CX-3 sits in a segment that has long been one of the most competitive in the market and, in 2019, it only got more so with the launch of cars like the Skoda Kamiq and the all-new (but still bug-eyed) Nissan Juke.

Despite the exterior only receiving a minor facelift since its launch in 2015, the Mazda CX-3 can still put in a decent claim for being one of the best looking cars, and having one of the strongest interiors, in the small SUV segment.

Following on from that 2018 refresh, Mazda has launched a limited run, 2019 special edition of just 500 cars. The GT Sport Nav+ is fully loaded, based on the top-spec Sport Nav + trim which makes up over 75 per cent of CX-3 sales in the UK.

Mazda has now ceased manufacturing the CX-3 following the launch of the similarly classy, but more modern CX-30. Here’s what you can expect from the retiree as dealers look to clear their remaining stock.

Overview and Vital statistics

Mazda CX-3
(Photo: Mazda)

Distinguishing the GT Sport Nav + model from the car it’s based on are a range of exclusive metallic paints, silver trim around the bumpers and wing mirrors, Red Nappa leather seats with a power-adjustable driver’s seat and new soft-touch dashboard and door inserts.

The car is exclusively offered with the 2.0-litre 120bhp Skyactiv-G engine in two-wheel drive configuration and can be paired with either the six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Driving the Mazda CX-3

That 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated engine is something of an anomaly in a segment filled with small capacity turbocharged units, but the nine-second nought to 60 time is quick enough that the CX-3 performs respectably on the motorway and country roads. 

I tested the manual version and, at higher revs, it feels as responsive as any of the turbocharged competition, but let it drop below the sweet spot and you’ll be faced with a long slog back to peak performance without a downchange.

Mazda CX-3 2.0 121ps 2WD GT Sport Nav+

Price  £24,095
Engine:  2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power:  120bhp
Torque:  152lb/ft
Transmission:  Six-speed manual
Top speed 119mph
0-62mph:  9 seconds
Combined fuel consumption 42.8mpg
CO2 emissions 141g/km

The 2018 updates to the CX-3 were focused primarily on enhancing the car’s handling and ride comfort. New coil springs and dampers were fitted and changes were made to the front anti-roll bar and electric power steering to improve balance and shock absorption.

It feels incredibly well-balanced for an SUV, with minimal body roll and a composure that’s reminiscent of the Mazda 3 hatchback. Steering is light at low speeds through the town and stiffens up just enough at pace to be rewarding.

(Photo: Mazda)

The 18-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tyres mean there is a little too much feedback on the state of the roads via the suspension than I would like, but that’s par for the course when the majority of the competition will also be tottering about on oversized chrome with painted-on rubber at the top of the trim tree. Otherwise, the ride is pretty good and again, feels more like a standard hatch than an SUV.

Interior and technology

The current crop of Mazdas all have pretty great interiors, falling into the “not quite premium, but not run of the mill”space you’ll also find occupied by Volkswagen.

A thick, soft-touch, leather-wrapped beam dominates the width of the dashboard while matching inserts adorn the door panels. The switch gear all feels high quality and satisfyingly chunky and the seats are extremely comfortable thanks to improved cushioning. 

The cabin feels more refined than it did at launch thanks to thicker sound isolation in the door, thicker rear window and thicker cabin headliner to absorb sound.

The entertainment and sat nav system is controlled by a rotary dial on the centre console and it’s a pretty intuitive system, once you get used to it, requiring – I think – less concentration than the now ubiquitous touchscreen set-up.

The centre console has been slightly rearranged after Mazda ditched the traditional handbrake in favour of an electric one and the monitor has been moved forward on the dashboard so it’s closer to the driver too.

Verdict

When I drove the Mazda CX-3 back in 2015, it was the first small SUV that convinced me that compact crossovers could be decent cars as well as fashion statements

With a big 2.0-litre engine it’s a bit of an oddity that will likely sit in a higher tax bracket than many alternatives but, four and a bit years on, I think the CX-3 is still very much a good driver’s car in a segment where style often trumps substance.

In GT Sport Nav + guise, it’s more stylish than ever and, as the model is retired following the launch of its replacement, it takes a high specification final bow.

(Photo: Mazda)

Hyundai Santa Fe review - Seven-up in spacious SUV

Big 4x4 offers lots of space and kit for relatively little money

Hyundai Santa Fe review - Seven-up in spacious SUV

Fiat 500 Hybrid review

Testing the first electrified version of the iconic city car