Best boy in class
There's a big difference between an SUV and just any other car. One buys an SUV to distinguish from the masses. It's not chosen for rational but rather for emotional reasons. An SUV ought to be big, tall and, of course, very tough.
Next to all the bullies and jocks in this segment, the CX-3 looks elegant and streamlined. With a length of 4.28 metres the CX-3 is as long as its competitors, but the height of 1.54 metres is lower than average. That's why the CX-3 is a "crossover" rather than an SUV. When seen straight from the front, this could be any other Mazda.
The cabin is also typical Mazda: that means it is sleek and neat, but again the excitement of an SUV is lacking. Despite the modest height, the cabin is at least as spacious as that of the competition. That's because the seating position isn't as high as in other SUVs. In fact the CX-3 driver sits only 3 cm further from the asphalt than in a Mazda3.
As the first in its kind, the CX-3 offers all the luxury and safety features available today. For example, the CX-3 can automatically maintain a safe distance from the car in front (radar controlled cruise-control), brake for obstacles, warn about vehicles in the dead spot of the wing mirrors and warn about crossing traffic when reversing.
The infotainment system is state of the art as well. It can be controlled by a centrally located push/turn knob, by touching the screen or by voice commands. The user is in control and that's the way it should be!
The CX-3 even offers technologies that cars from the higher segment don't offer (yet). For example, the CX-3 can be fitted with "head up display". This consists of a glass panel mounted on top of the steering column, right in the view of the driver. The head up display is so much more pleasant to read than traditional dials; this alone is a reason to opt for Mazda!
"Downsizing" is reducing the displacement of engines to make them more frugal. Most brands follow this strategy nowadays, because -at least on paper- it results in favourable consumption figures. However, Mazda takes a different approach. Mazda is convinced that small engines that have to work hard are less reliable and can only be efficient at low speeds.
That's why Mazda chooses "right sizing". That means refining existing technologies. And instead of just optimising the engine, Mazda designs every single part of the car for fuel efficiency. Examples are the aerodynamics (even underneath the car), lightweight parts and electrical components that consume less energy.
At the moment of writing, only one petrol engine is available. Depending on the chosen version, it develops either 120 or 150 PS (but always 204 Nm). For today's standards, the engine has a displacement of a whopping 2.0 litres. During the test drive, the difference with small turbo charged engines from other brands was very obvious. The Mazda engine is smoother at any engine speed and gives a more mature feeling.
Performance of the 120 PS engine is more than adequate. The 150 PS version is mainly aimed to deliver performance in combination with four-wheel drive. And for those who appreciate such a thing: at high revs the 2.0 sounds much more exciting than the small engines from other brands.
With a calm driving style, the test car used 5.6 litres per 100 km (50 mpg). A more demanding route with city traffic and mountain roads cost a maximum of 8.1 litres per 100 km (35 mpg) and that's the same real-life figure as similar cars with downsized engines.
The CX-3 also comes with a diesel engine, and in this case Mazda does opt for a small displacement in combination with a turbo charger. The "SkyActiv D" develops 105 PS and 270 Nm of torque. It's the strong torque that makes the diesel engine perform with ease. The test car used 5.4 litres per 100 km (52 mpg).
The good fuel figures are partly owed to the relatively low weight of the car. And the combination of a low weight with a low body gives the CX-3 an unusual dynamic handling. Underneath the CX-3 shares a lot of technology with the smaller Mazda2, but thanks to adjustments to the underpinning the car is still well balanced.
The CX-3 hardly tilts over in the corner and grip levels are excellent. However, when finally exceeding the limits, the CX-3 will slide over all four wheels. When this happens, the standard electronic stability programme (ESP) prevents any accidents but one might still be overwhelmed by this sudden phenomenon.
In most circumstances the CX-3 handles as well as the average family saloon. The CX-3 doesn't deliver any thrills and doesn't give the feeling of operating a mighty vehicle, but instead the CX-3 is the most rational choice in its segment.
Mazda introduces the CX-3. With this new compact SUV, Mazda follows exactly the same strategy as with the other models. This means that the CX-3 is at the upper limit of its segment. Compared to other compact SUVs and crossovers, the CX-3 offers more comfort, more technology, more quality and more safety.
Another Mazda trademark is "right sizing". Mazda didn't opt for small turbo engines which have to work (too) hard to perform. Instead, Mazda refined existing technologies. This doesn't just apply to the engines, but also for bodywork and electronics. A nice perk is that this approach results in a more dynamic handling.
In the end the CX-3 has only one big drawback: this car is so rational, that the privileged feeling of driving a special car is lacking. In every respect this makes the Mazda CX-3 the best boy in class.