From £17,6107
We've driven the CX-3 abroad, now it's time to see how Mazda's new small SUV responds to the unique demands of the UK's roads

Our Verdict

Mazda CX-3
Mazda CX-3 shares much with its Mazda 2 baby brother

Mazda goes Juke hunting, with its Skyactiv-generation baby SUV

  • First Drive

    2015 Mazda CX-3 Skyactiv-G 120 UK review

    We've driven the CX-3 abroad, now it's time to see how Mazda's new small SUV responds to the unique demands of the UK's roads
  • First Drive

    2015 Mazda CX-3 review

    The Mazda CX-3 has style and substance, and deserves consideration for anyone wanting a compact urban SUV.

What is it?

A hugely important model for Mazda. The CX-3 enters a class brimming with contenders, but many of them are comparatively average, so a healthy slice of the market is there for the taking should the price be right. 

We've already had the chance to try both the diesel and petrol versions of the CX-3 abroad. Now comes the time to try petrol power at home in the UK. We're covering the entry-level 118bhp version of Mazda's 2.0 Skyactiv-G unit for you here.

Okay, so the clean, frugal diesel has running costs on its side, but this lower-powered two-wheel-drive-only petrol model is the cheapest way into a CX-3 and is the predicted best seller. So in a class whose order is determined largely by cost, there's still plenty to get excited about.

The list of rivals is long, including everything from Citroën's C4 Cactus to Nissan's Juke, via the Renault Captur and Suzuki's new Vitara. Honda also has its HR-V on the way, which will be of interest.

What's it like?

Mazda's decision to keep capacity high and go in search of cleanliness and frugality elsewhere has paid dividends again. Its Skyactiv engine suits the CX-3 extremely well; an entry-level option this petrol engine may be, but it certainly doesn't feel it.

You'll find yourself changing down a gear on particularly steep hills or when executing a countryside overtake, but most of the time the 2.0-litre unit is willing to pull from low revs. It has to be coaxed if you want a real turn of speed, but that's no hardship considering it remains so smooth. It's not particularly noisy near the redline, either.

The gearshifts is typically sweet for a Mazda, so when you do need to work the manual gearbox, there's no issue. It has a lovely throw and the precision with which it finds each gear is something rivals such as the Captur and Cactus could learn from.

With less weight over its front wheels than the diesel, this petrol feels slightly more agile at the front axle. You'll want to exploit that, too; the steering is a little vague off centre but weights up nicely by a quarter turn, and once settled the body stays upright and there's a good amount of grip to explore.

More of a problem is the ride. Our Sport Nav test car wore 18in alloy wheels, which picked up on sharp-edged imperfections too readily, and our experience of 16in wheels on the same route tells us they're the more comfortable option. Vertical body movements over harsh bumps and undulations is noticeable no matter which CX-3 you buy.

With its 18in alloy wheels, our car also kicked up quite a bit of tyre roar, particularly over the coarser roads of our route. The engine settles down at a cruise, though, and there's very little wind noise to report.

Inside there's a decent amount of room, and steering wheel and seat adjustment for the driver is generous, although tall rear passengers will find the top and side of their head resting on the ceiling and their knees against the front seatbacks. 

The boot is a useful 350 litres in size (reduced to 287 for Sport Nav models thanks to a Bose subwoofer) and all cars come with an adjustable boot floor. With the rear seats split 60/40 and folded, you get a flat load bay front to back. However, the relatively small opening means access to the boot isn't class-leading. 

Cabin quality isn't game-changing, but the classy trim inserts, soft, dense plastics and leather details certainly help the CX-3 surpass much of the current small SUV competition. Its standard 7.0in touchscreen system, which can also be operated using rotary dial and shortcut buttons between the front seats, is also one of the best on the market.

Standard equipment on SE includes 16in alloy wheels, air-con, electric front and rear windows electric mirrors, cruise control, Bluetooth, two USB ports and DAB radio. SE-L adds rear privacy glass, rear parking sensors and automatic headlights and wipers. Both these trims can have sat-nav added as an option to become SE Nav and SE-L Nav.

Range-topping Sport Nav gets navigation as standard as well as further luxuries such as larger 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and a reversing camera. 

Should I buy one?

The CX-3 has a lot going for it. Its strong engine, comparatively plush cabin and decent handling should be praised in a class that often fails in these areas. The fact that it doesn't ride brilliantly and is cramped in the back is disappointing but not uncommon among its peers.

The bigger issue is the fact that this CX-3 can't compete with smaller turbocharged petrol-engined rivals on CO2 emissions or fuel economy. And the elephant in the room? Just look at the price.

Mazda says it has priced the CX-3 in anticipation of more premium B-SUV competition from the likes of Audi, Seat and Skoda. However, while it's certainly more upmarket, the CX-3 doesn't feel distinctly more civilised than the Nissans, Renaults and Citroëns of this class. In reality, it's priced against larger cars such as Nissan's Qashqai and Skoda's Yeti, both of which are far more spacious. 

The fact that the bigger, more practical, no less refined, cleaner and more frugal Suzuki Vitara's prices end almost where the CX-3's start is perhaps the best illustration of the problem. The CX-3 is nicer inside and better to drive, yes, but in a class ruled by cost and with little brand loyalty, we wonder how much that will matter.

Mazda CX-3 Skyactiv-G 120 

Location Newcastle; On sale Now; Price (from) £17,595; Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, petrol; Power 118bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 150lb ft at 2800rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1230kg; 0-62mph 9.0sec; Top speed 119mph; Economy 47.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 137g/km, 22%

Join the debate

Comments
13

9 June 2015
Should I buy one ? No, if you want to go off road buy a proper off roader, if not buy the Mazda 2, its the same car underneath, it handles better, its more economical, has lower CO2 levels, is faster and is cheaper to buy and tax. Plus you wont look like a big t*t driving around in a pretend off roader.

9 June 2015
typos1 wrote:

Should I buy one ? No, if you want to go off road buy a proper off roader, if not buy the Mazda 2, its the same car underneath, it handles better, its more economical, has lower CO2 levels, is faster and is cheaper to buy and tax. Plus you wont look like a big t*t driving around in a pretend off roader.

The people who actually buy cars like this don't feel like t*ts, they do however, look like sheep following the herd.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

9 June 2015
In a world where official economy figures are ridiculed for being so unrealistic, and real-world test figures are the therefore the holy grail, why are these test figures conspicuous by their absence on all recent Autocar tests? Why are they no longer quoted???

 

 

You're not stuck in traffic - you are traffic!!

9 June 2015

How can you state that the MPG figures are lower than rivals when there's no indication you've actually tested them?

48mpg is even low enough that it could even conceivably achieve that, The mazda 3 gets 44-45mpg from the same engine variant so if they've made the taller car a more relaxed drive it could potentially do 48mpg in practice.

9 June 2015
In a world where official economy figures are ridiculed for being so unrealistic, and real-world test figures are the therefore the holy grail, why are these test figures conspicuous by their absence on all recent Autocar tests? Why are they no longer quoted???

 

 

You're not stuck in traffic - you are traffic!!

9 June 2015
Autocar wrote:

Mazda says it has priced the CX-3 in anticipation of more premium B-SUV competition from the likes of Audi, Seat and Skoda

premium Seat and Skoda?

A34

9 June 2015
Citytiger wrote:
Autocar wrote:

Mazda says it has priced the CX-3 in anticipation of more premium B-SUV competition from the likes of Audi, Seat and Skoda

premium Seat and Skoda?

I guess they mean premium car, not badge!
I also guess street prices for this will be more Juke and Captur rather than Qashqai. Which rules out the company car market due to BIK rates...

9 June 2015
Price, emissions, power, size, space, 2wd, in all I am totally underwhelmed.

9 June 2015
"The fact that the bigger, more practical, no less refined, cleaner and more frugal Suzuki Vitara's prices end almost where the CX-3's start is perhaps the best illustration of the problem. "

Pah...the Vitara is a clown's shoe by comparison. I saw one this morning, black, poverty-spec, looked like 13" wheels. Absolutely horrendous. Like stepping back into the early 90's..Why you'd buy one over a Dacia Duster is beyond me. etc etc. There's always a reason to buy something else, but the Mazda has style. It'll do well.

jer

9 June 2015
Is well built and comparatively innovative so why not try to charge more God knows everyone else does.

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