LEADER OF THE PACK: Mazda's box-ticking CX-3 small SIV is charging ahead in the sale race.
LEADER OF THE PACK: Mazda's box-ticking CX-3 small SIV is charging ahead in the sale race.

Baby SUVs trending now: Mazda CX-3 road test and review

THEY'RE the new black. Sports utility vehicles are entering a new stratosphere.  

Not so long ago, this segment didn't exist. But in the past few years there has been an explosion in this sub-compact SUV division.  

The Mazda CX-3 has jetted into this expanding galaxy, leading the Star Wars-style sales race at the midway point this year.  

What's all the fuss about? Well, we sampled the mid-spec Maxx diesel, which you can get on the road for less than $30,000.   

The 2016 Mazda CX-3.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3.

Comfort

The driver has a clear and concise instrument panel. Central is a large analogue speedo flanked by a digital tachometer and trip information cluster.  

Cloth seats are comfortable in a cabin that is compact and has a primarily black and grey colour scheme. The sculpted dash has a trimmed leather feature while there are soft touch materials throughout.  

The Maxx specification is relatively basic. Apart from the main computer screen, which is controlled by a central console dial surrounded by several shortcut buttons, it's old-school operations. The circular dials are simplistic and easy to understand, with nothing too technical.  

Finding your way through the main screen can be a little more challenging. It can be clunky and difficult to find your way on occasions, but once you get used to the various menus, everything from the stereo to sat nav becomes second nature.  

Among the inclusions is a CD player, which have become relatively rare in the latest vehicles with the big technological movement.  

The 2016 Mazda CX-3.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3.

Perched high to provide the position much-loved by SUV buyers, Mazda has implemented a raft of ergonomic research in terms of eyeline and operational positioning. The result is an unimpeded view of the road and easy viewing left and right when you're behind the wheel.   

For those in the back, the bench seat is cushy and supportive, but headroom is tight for anyone above 180cm. You get reasonable leg and knee room as long as those in the front don't take too much real estate. It's also best left to two passengers. You can carry three but those in the middle have to straddle the console, which extends into the back and the width is tight.  

On the road

Powered by a little diesel engine, the CX-3 is strong and honest. From standstill, the hefty torque characteristics really get you moving with swift accuracy when you call for acceleration.

Only available with a six-speed automatic, the partnership is well honed with timely shifts.  

The driving experience is actually quite rewarding. Well weighted steering provides the feeling of complete control, and it's only on occasions where you jump on the throttle too quickly when turning that you feel some torque steer as the front wheels battle for traction.  

Sport mode is available to provide more rapid throttle responses, although we'd expect most buyers not to bother after the initial excitement dissipates.   

The 2016 Mazda CX-3.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3.

What do you get?

Equipment includes 16-inch alloys, 17.7cm touch-screen with sat nav and reverse camera, CD stereo with embedded internet apps Pandora/Stitcher/Aha, leather-wrapped steering wheel as well as the handbrake and gear shifter, air con, cruise control, full phone and audio Bluetooth connectivity and a five-star safety rating.   

Other options

Among the diesel leaders in this segment are the Mitsubishi ASX LS ($31,990), Nissan Qashqai TS ($33,990), Skoda Yeti Outdoor ($34,390), Peugeot 3008 Outdoor ($32,990) and Suzuki Vitara Turbo GLX ($35,990).  

Running costs

Highway driving, some grocery shopping and sports duties saw us finish with an average of 5.5 litres/100km.   Dealer capped price servicing costs are no more than $400 a visit, but brake fluid will cost $116 every two years, cabin air filters are $69 and fuel filters are $141 every 40,000km, while the engine air filter replacement every 60,0000km is $61.  

Some manufacturers also throw in roadside assist, but it's an optional extra with Mazda. Coverage for one year starts from $68.10, but the premium one, which includes things such as a rental car and accommodation, is $83.50.

The 2016 Mazda CX-3.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3.

Practicality   

Phones and audio players have a perfect position just in front of the shifter, close to dual USB ports, 12-volt plug, SD card slot and auxiliary jack. The doors can each handle large drink bottles and there is also a pair of cupholders in the console.  

With one of the smaller boots in the segment at 274<TH>litres, the CX-3 can swallow a couple of carry-on suitcases or one of larger proportions. The rear seats fold 60-40 to bolster functionality.  

Funky factor

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but the CX-3 is one well-proportioned offering. All the angles and lines work cohesively, an adaptation of the design that has proven so popular with other variants such as the all-conquering '3 and the larger CX-5.  

The lowdown

Mazda has a simple yet successful formula: good looking cars backed with strong performance.

The CX-3 is no different - the marque has become the second most popular in Australia for good reason.

With an enviable after-sales network and strong reputation for quality, each model comes with peace of mind.

This compact offering boasts strong performance from a strong and economical diesel, and while the interior operations are a combination of new and old, it's a loveable and attractive package.  

The 2016 Mazda CX-3.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3.

Vital statistics

Model: Mazda CX-3 Maxx Diesel.  

Details: Five-seat, front-wheel drive, sub-compact sports utility vehicle.  

Engine: 1.5-litre, in-line, four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 77kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 270Nm @ 1600-2500rpm.  

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.   

Consumption: 4.8 litres/100km (combined average).   

Bottom line plus on-roads: $26,790.  

The 2016 Mazda CX-3.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3.

What matters most

What we liked: Good looks, ease of cabin operation, burly engine performance.  

What we'd like to see: Larger boot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (but that should be on the way).  

Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty (extended four-year warranty available at purchase) with servicing every 10,000km or 12 months. Capped price servicing is available. Average price of the first 16 services is $344.   

The 2016 Mazda CX-3.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3.

The verdict

Driving experience  17/20  

Features and equipment  16/20  

Functionality and comfort  15/20  

Value for money  17/20  

Style and design  18/20  

Total  83/100    



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