Mazda CX-3 (2015-2020) Review
The Mazda CX-3 is a fun-to-drive and reliable small SUV that’s well equipped but a little cramped
Strengths & weaknesses
- Distinctive design
- Agility in corners makes it fun to drive
- Well-made and reliable
- Fuel economy disappointing in normal driving
- Petrol engines lack performance
- Cramped rear seats and small boot
Mazda CX-3 prices from £8,950 Finance from £229.56 per month
Once upon a time, there was the Mazda CX-3. You could call it the Goldilocks of cars: designed so it’s not too long that parking is tough, and not too short that it’s cramped inside.
It’s not too low to restrict visibility and not too tall that it wobbles in corners. In Mazda’s eyes, you could live happily ever after with the CX-3.
The chances are that many buyers will do so because the Mazda does deliver on much of what it promises - even if it’s not a fairy tale from cover to cover.
Underneath its angular styling are the mechanical parts from the small Mazda 2. This makes the CX-3 a crossover, which is meant to combine the nimble, stable and economical performance of the smaller car, with the higher driving position and extra space of a taller off-road car.
It works well too: the CX-3's extra height isn’t obvious in corners, where the Mazda changes direction with agility, while remaining stable and flat - it's quite fun to drive.
Making tall cars stable often means that they struggle on bumpy roads, but the Mazda soaks up the impact of potholes and speed bumps to provide a smooth ride. There’s plenty of power from the engines too.
Fuel economy is reasonably good - if you choose the right diesel or petrol engines, but you will need to put up with more wind and tyre noise than most alternatives, particularly at motorway speeds.
The Mazda CX-3’s "Goldilocks" size makes it larger than small crossovers, such as the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Hyundai Kona and Ford EcoSport, but the extra space won’t be enough if you’re regularly carrying teenagers or adults.
There’s just not enough legroom or headroom for taller passengers to get comfortable on long journeys, and it’s the main area where the CX-3 shows its limitations against larger crossover cars, such as the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Skoda Karoq, which also have larger boots (There are 350 litres in the CX-3, compared with 430 to 530 litres for most family crossovers).
It’s not that the Mazda is much cheaper either. New car prices are little cheaper than the Qashqai or similarly-sized Honda HR-V and Volkswagen T-Roc. Strong demand on the used market means that the CX-3 holds onto its value
where 2016 cars cost from £8,950 on BuyaCar.
Cars that hold on to their value are often more affordable to finance, though. Monthly prices for 2016 models start at £229.56, which is competitive.
Many families will find it hard to overlook the cheaper Citroen C3 Aircross, which provides more space, at a cheaper price, even though these are less nimble to drive than the CX-3.
The Mazda does feel like a premium car thanks to a high level of fit and finish inside. It was updated in August 2018 with better noise insulation and improved seats, which are more comfortable than the firm versions fitted to earlier models.
The display isn't as impressive as the glossy touchscreen of cars such as the Skoda Karoq and Volkswagen T-Roc. Standard equipment is generous, though, with all versions having sat-nav, air-conditioning, cruise control and a digital radio. At the top of the range, Sport Nav+ models come with a head-up display.
An earlier revision, in August 2017, added a technology called G-Vectoring Control to the CX-3 that's meant to make cornering more precise, but the difference is barely noticeable. Four wheel drive is available, providing more grip when accelerating in slippery conditions.
The CX-3 is the only car of its size that you can specify with a petrol engine, four-wheel drive and manual gearbox. So if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve found your car.
Two sets of Isofix mounts in the back for child seats are fairly standard for a family car and the four stars out of five awarded for safety after independent testing by Euro NCAP are respectable, if not quite at the five-star level of the Honda HR-V and Audi Q2.
|3 years / 60,000 miles
|£205 to £515 in first year, £140 thereafter
Best Mazda CX-3 for...
Best for Economy – Mazda CX-3 Skyactiv-D 1.8
The only diesel option in the CX-3 range is economical (64.2mpg) and emits low levels of CO2 (114g/km), and also incorporates the latest cleaner diesel technology.
Best for Families – Mazda CX-3 Skyactiv-G 2.0 121PS
The lower-powered petrol car is the most popular choice among buyers, offering reasonable fuel economy and enough performance for families.
Best for Performance – Mazda CX-3 Skyactiv-G 2.0 150PS
Although not exactly sporty, the most powerful petrol engine will go from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds
- June 2015: Mazda CX-3 goes on sale in UK.
- April 2017: Mazda introduces improved pedestrian collision avoidance tech and adds GT-Sport limited edition trim.
- September 2018 Revised CX-3 with new 1.8-litre diesel alongside updates to exterior and interior, technology and safety features.
- October 2018 Mazda CX-3 Sport Black+ special edition includes a black leather interior and metallic paint.
Understanding Mazda CX-3 names
Engine Skyactiv 2.0 121PS
All the engines are named Skyactiv, with the diesel engines having a D after the word. Both petrol engines are 2.0-litre units, with 121PS and 150PS power rating, while the diesel is a 1.8-litre (1.5 before the 2018 revisions) producing 115PS.
Trim SE-L Nav +
There are just three trim levels – SE Nav +, SE-L Nav + and Sport Nav + – with the amount of equipment included increasing as the price increases.
All engines are available with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearboxes, while the more powerful petrol unit is also only available with all-wheel drive.
Mazda CX-3 Engines
Skyactiv 2.0 121PS, Skyactiv 2.0 150PS, Skyactiv-D 1.8 115PS
There are two petrol engines and one diesel engine to choose from.
Both petrol options are 2.0-litre Skyactiv engines with different power outputs.
The base 121PS (roughly 121 horsepower) version is available with front-wheel drive. Official fuel economy is 46.3mpg but this drops to around 36mpg in real-world driving, which isn't particularly economical. It also feels feeble when you're accelerating up hills, where it lacks the shove to overtake with any confidence.
Extra power is available with the 150PS petrol engine, although it's just 0.2 seconds faster to accelerate from 0-62mph. Economy does suffer - expect just 33mpg when driving normally, according to the Equa Index, which carries out real-world fuel consumption tests.
Carbon dioxide emissions are also high at 160g/km CO2, or 125g/km with an automatic gearbox, which will result in expensive company car tax. This engine is only available with the range-topping Sport Nav + trim level.
Mazda replaced the previous 1.5-litre diesel with a new Skyactiv-D 1.8-litre diesel engine when it revised the model in 2018. It's one of the latest generation of cleaner diesels and is also smooth and quiet, with plenty of power without needing to rev the engine. Official fuel consumption is an economical 64.2 mpg (57.6mpg with an automatic) and CO2 emissions are 114g/km (129g/km).
Figures below are shown for cars with a manual gearbox.
Official fuel economy
Skyactiv-G 2.0 121PS
Skyactiv-G 2.0 150PS
Skyactiv-D 1.8 115PS
Mazda CX-3 Trims
SE Nav +, SE-L Nav +, Sport Nav +
Mazda keeps it simple with three, reasonably well-specified trim levels for the CX-3.
The base SE Nav + features 16-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and gearknob, electronic parking brake, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, air conditioning, electric windows all round, digital radio, 7-inch colour touchscreen, Bluetooth, satellite navigation, USB inputs, tyre pressure monitoring and hill hold assist.
SE-L Nav + adds LED fog lights, rear parking sensors, automatic lights, privacy glass, heated front seats, climate control air con, rain-sensing wipers, lane departure warning and Mazda’s advanced smart city brake support, which uses a forward-facing camera to detect vehicles and pedestrians ahead, in an attempt to help avoid collisions.
Additional features on the range-topping Sport Nav + include 18-inch alloys, LED headlights and daytime running lights, adaptive front lights, front parking sensors, reversing camera, half-leatherette seat trim, heated steering wheel, keyless entry, colour head-up display, traffic sign recognition and a premium seven-speaker Bose sound system.
Mazda CX-3 Reliability and warranty
The Mazda CX-3 makes a respectable appearance in the latest Auto Express Driver Power survey, placed 50th out of 75 cars. The company is also placed ninth in the list of most reliable manufacturers.
Mazda’s three-year/60,000-mile warranty is fairly typical for the industry, but can’t compare to those for the Hyundai Kona (five-year, triple-care package) or the Kia Stonic (seven years).
Used Mazda CX-3
As the CX-3 has been on sale since 2015, there are a number of used examples that are available to buyers.
Older diesels have a 1.5-litre engine, instead of the 1.8 found in newer CX-3s. If your budget stretches to it, it's worth seeking out the newer, larger, cleaner, and more economical 1.8.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can also be retrofitted my Mazda dealers. It should cost around £250, and is a cheap and easy way of bringing a used CX-3 up to date.
|Mazda CX-3: latest used car prices
1 year old
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Best for performance
Best for families
Best for economy