The firm’s downsized crossover has arrived at the ideal time; not only is the closely related supermini very good and new but there’s also likely to be a lot of customer goodwill and footfall flowing Mazda’s way following the launch of the much-anticipated new Mazda MX-5 roadster.
The brand’s now-mature Kodo design language ties all its recent offerings together rather neatly, and the fruits of its Skyactiv engineering philosophy continue to land – not least in the CX-3’s engine line-up, which includes two 2.0-litre petrol units and the 104bhp 1.5-litre diesel on test.
A new all-wheel drive system has also been introduced, but the CX-3 – like most of its rivals – will mostly ship in front-drive format and a mid-level SE-L or SE-L Nav spec, the latter as tested here.
Mazda CX-3 design & styling
The CX-3’s design is coherent and smart. Its shape seems to have sprouted upwards from that of the related 2 supermini like a well-watered rose bush, and yet the car, which shares the 2’s 2570mm wheelbase, doesn’t spread out to cover much more ground.
The 40mm difference in ride height, however, produces a more substantial presence and offers Mazda’s designers a larger canvas onto which they can apply the intricate creases and surfaces of the Kodo theme.
Mazda insists that the CX-3’s underbody, with a 29% ultra-high-tensile steel content, has the same torsional rigidity as that of a Mazda 3 hatch.
The suspension – MacPherson struts and a rear twist beam – is largely carried over from the 2, albeit in overhauled form. Having created higher roll centres for each axle, the engineers fitted firmer bushes and retuned the spring/damper settings to suit.
The steering, too, has been adapted, with a beefed-up electric power assistance motor and a 7% slower ratio than the 2 to better suit its size and higher centre of gravity.
Our test car was a front-driver, but all-wheel-drive variants retain the torsion beam rear suspension, adapting it to make room for the rear differential. The rear diff itself is smaller than the one used in larger four-wheel-drive Mazdas and helps to make the CX-3’s adaptive, torque-splitting drivetrain 20% lighter than that of the CX-5.