While those crossovers tend to have Marmite looks, the CX-3 is less controversial and consists of slim headlights, a large chrome-effect grille, cladding on the wheel arches and sills, smart alloy wheels, and a neatly-executed rear end. It’s very smart, and unusually, looks attractive in every colour.
The CX-3 was replaced by the CX-30 in 2020 but proved popular as a new buy, and you’ll usually find a selection of used CX-3s to buy on cinch.
The Mazda CX-3 looked terrific when it first arrived in 2016
What’s it like to drive?
When new, the Mazda CX-3 came with a choice of a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a couple of power outputs, and 1.5- and 1.8-litre diesels. The more powerful petrol engine and Sport Nav trim on the diesel engines give the CX-3 four-wheel drive. The rest of the models power the front wheels.
All engines have enough power to keep the Mazda up with traffic in town and on the motorway. The petrol versions handle slightly better than the diesel. The body rolls a little in the bends, but the suspension can deal with most bumps effectively so you can take it down country lanes without getting seasick.
All engines have enough power to keep the Mazda up with traffic in town and on the motorway.
Take a seat in the Mazda CX-3 and you can’t fail to be impressed – first with the driving position, which is a couple of inches higher than the Mazda 2 and is easy to adjust, and second with the look of the dashboard, which is also borrowed from its supermini sibling.
Sure, there’s no shortage of grey plastic or leather on the dash, depending on trim level, but it’s neatly designed with a high-mounted seven-inch entertainment screen that’s controlled by a dial behind the gear lever.
Below the screen, you’ll find neat, round air vents and controls for ventilation, a slot for CDs, a couple of USB ports and a 12V socket. One analogue dial sits behind the multi-function steering wheel, with digital screens on either side.
The lowest-trim level (SE) brings air-con, cruise control, Bluetooth, DAB radio and sat-nav. SE-L Nav adds rear parking sensors, climate control and heated front seats. Sport Nav upgrades the sound system to a Bose unit, adds a head-up display (which projects driving data on to a transparent screen on top of the driver’s instrument cluster), and adds leather trim to the interior. All cars from late 2018 have an electronic handbrake instead of a manual lever.
There’s no shortage of space for those in the front seats, which are especially comfortable on Sport Nav trim. Legroom is a little tight in the rear, so those seats are best saved for children – two will be happy here while the middle passenger has to sit on a rather narrow raised perch like a parrot.
With an interior that’s largely lifted from the Mazda 2 supermini, the CX-3 is never going to be the most practical car available. There’s a little storage cubby ahead of the gearstick and under the central armrest, plus door bins and a glovebox. The rear passengers also benefit from door bins – enough to fit a few guidebooks or bags of nuts. If you’re looking for places to hide kids’ toys, however, you might not find them.
The boot’s capacity is about par for the class, which means there’s enough room for a couple of normal-sized suitcases or a week’s shopping. The floor height is adjustable. Be aware, the subwoofer that Sport Nav trim brings impinges on boot space. The rear seatbacks are split 60/40 – they almost fold flat to create a decent load space.
Running costs and reliability
The most economical engine is the 1.5-litre diesel, which is likely to average around 55mpg in the real world. The 1.8-litre diesel won’t be far behind, but even the petrol models don’t disappoint thanks to Mazda’s fuel-saving SkyActiv technology – expect to be able to get close to 40mpg.
What we love
We love the Mazda CX-3’s sleek styling – it’s not a proper off-roader yet it has the purposeful looks of an SUV. We also love the nicely crafted and solid-feeling dashboard – it’s an ergonomic dream. Mazda’s clever engine tech means you won’t have to visit the petrol station that often either, so those who are on a tight budget would be wise to consider a CX-3.
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Compact crossovers give you the desirable raised driving position and styling of a full-size SUV while making life easier when parking or negotiating Britain’s congested roads. The CX-3 is one of the best-looking crossovers you’ll find, both inside and out, and is well equipped – there’s also a good amount of safety kit (six airbags, stability control and tyre pressure monitoring) on all versions.
This review was