Mazda introduced the CX-3 to cater for the demand for compact crossovers. You could dismiss it as a taller, chunkier version of the Mazda 2, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The neat exterior styling is matched by a simple yet smart interior, which is solid and well built.
With smart looks, a classy interior and grown-up driving dynamics, it’s a desirable choice. The Mazda is also very attractively priced, packed with standard kit and really cost-effective to run. It’s not quite as spacious as some rivals, but compensates with strong comfort and refinement.
But this car really stands out from behind the wheel, as it’s possibly the best small crossover to drive. Buyers have two terrific engines to pick from – one petrol and one diesel – plus a choice of front and all-wheel-drive transmissions. The trouble is, the CX-3 falls down on practicality: it simply doesn’t have enough space in the rear seats or boot for a growing family.
As it’s been for sale in UK dealers since 2015, the Mazda CX-3 had a bit of a head-start in the upmarket small SUV sector. It beat the likes of the Audi Q2, Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR to market, and offered something a bit more luxurious and with bigger dimensions than cars like the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008.
Now there are even more rivals in the sector, but the Mazda CX-3 has a breadth of ability that means it should be on anyone’s small SUV shortlist, while constant updates have given it a new lease of life that means it’s still very competitive. And one of its main attractions – just like the rest of the Mazda range – is that it’s one of the most enjoyable small SUVs to drive.
• Best crossovers and small SUVs
Under the skin, the Mazda CX-3 is based on the same platform as the Mazda 2 supermini, but it’s wider and longer to create more space, as well as being taller for that all-important SUV look. However, the CX-3 is still a pretty sporty looking thing thanks to its low roof and small glass area, while the driving position is lower than in most rivals. An update in 2018 saw the CX-3 get a slightly revised front end, while inside the manual handbrake was replaced by an electric one, which has allowed a redesign of the cockpit layout, while extra sound deadening material is designed to improve cabin refinement.
This facelift comes on the back of another update that took place in 2017. That time around, new suspension settings and the introduction of Mazda’s G-Vectoring torque control system helped to improve the car’s handling even further.
For engines, the CX-3 follows Mazda’s ‘right size’ approach, so instead of going for small capacity turbo units across the board, it features larger engines with modest power outputs. There are two petrols and one diesel, with a 2.0 Skyactiv-G in two power outputs (119bhp and 148bhp) and a 1.8 Skyactiv-D (up from 1.5 litres) diesel with 113bhp. All three cars come with a six-speed manual as standard, while a six-speed auto is offered with the petrol engines, and the more powerful 2.0-litre petrol also has 4WD.
• Mazda CX-3 vs Citroen C3 Aircross vs Hyundai Kona
The 2018 update saw the range revised so there are now only three trims, but all three are pretty well equipped. There’s SE Nav+, SE-L Nav+ and Sport Nav+. As the names suggest, all cars have sat-nav with a 7-inch touchscreen and rotary controller, while Bluetooth, a DAB radio, electric heated door mirrors and push-button starting are also included. Go for a Sport Nav+ model, and you won’t be wanting for kit, with luxuries such as leather, a Bose stereo and a head-up display all thrown in.
Prices for the CX-3 start from around £19,000, with the top-spec models coming in at about £25,000, although it’s worth noting that you can’t get every engine in all trims, with the most powerful petrol and the diesel only offered in high-spec Sport Nav+ trim.
Used and nearly new
Launched in 2015, the Mazda CX-3 joined the hoards of supermini-based SUVs battling for supremacy in a crowded market. Although never the most practical of options, the CX-3 impressed us with its excellent handling and upmarket interior. The CX-3 was quietly dropped at the end of 2019, although rumours persist that a Mk2 version with electrified powertrains might emerge in the future.
Mazda CX-3 history
Mazda CX-3 Mk1: 2015-2020
The 18-strong Mazda CX-3 range offered something for everyone when it launched in 2015, with manual or automatic transmissions, along with front or four-wheel drive. Suspension revisions arrived in 2017, before Mazda rolled out a facelift in 2018. The CX-3 was discontinued at the end of 2019, with the CX-30 taking on the role of Mazda’s most affordable SUV.