With the launch the CX-7 of 2006 and then the CX-5 in 2012, Mazda needed yet another crossover to bolster its swelling ranks. Thus, going down the size scale and opting for a B-segment machine, the 2015-launched CX-3 neatly fits into Mazda’s naming hierarchy and provides an interesting alternative to a Mazda2 supermini or Mazda3 hatchback. Sporting all the Japanese company’s ‘Kodo’ styling cues, the CX-3 is a fabulous-looking crossover that competes in a highly lucrative class.
In Ireland, there are just two engines for the CX-3, the 105hp 1.5-litre SkyActiv-D turbodiesel and the 120hp 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol. Nominally, these are both front-wheel drive and equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, but the diesel (being turbocharged, whereas the petrol is normally aspirated) has more torque, so there is a four-wheel-drive option for it on top-spec models, as well as a six-speed automatic transmission (paired with the 4WD only). Trims here run SE, Executive, Executive SE, GT and then GT SL. Only the SkyActiv-G is available at base SE grade, while the flagship GT SL models are powered by the four-wheel-drive diesel running gear, with a choice of gearboxes; at the other three trim grades, it’s a straight choice between front-wheel-drive manual versions of the petrol or diesel. Equipment levels are good across the board and the 105hp FWD diesel will do 0-100km/h in 10.1 seconds with a top speed of 177km/h and 4.0 litres/100km (70.6mpg) combined, while the 2.0-litre petrol model is capable of 0-100km/h in 9.0 seconds, 192km/h and 5.9 litres/100km (47.9mpg). In 2018, the CX-3 was mildly updated with a new steering wheel, additional sound-absorbing material in the dashboard, tailgate, transmission tunnel and boot, re-tuned engine mounts on the petrol engine to reduce resonance in the cabin, revised dampers and lower-arm rear side bushings for smoother ride quality, recalibrated power steering, G-Vectoring Control, Advanced Smart City Brake Support, heated and auto-power-folding door mirrors, and a heated steering wheel option.
While the petrol is a smooth, free-revving engine and has enough horsepower grunt to make the SkyActiv-G CX-3 quicker on paper than its diesel sibling, it’s the SkyActiv-D you want. It has a much richer torque curve, with 270Nm available low down – whereas the petrol only summons up 204Nm at 2,800rpm. Therefore, the diesel is the more pleasant car to deal with on a daily basis and it returns excellent fuel economy, too.
Mazda CX-3 1.5d 105hp 2WD manual
Engine: turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel
Maximum speed: 177km/h
0-100km/h: 10.1 seconds
Fuel consumption: 4.0 litres/100km
• Striking looks
• Good chassis
• Lots of equipment fitted
• Limited engine choice
• Plain interior
• Cramped rear space, small boot
In the burgeoning B-segment crossover marketplace, it can seem like a vehicle gets lost in the crowd if it doesn’t shout about its presence with wacky two-tone colour schemes, rugged black plastic body addenda and the ability to add splashes of bright contrast paint to various bits of its exterior. The Mazda CX-3 does none of these things – but is still one of the most desirable vehicles in its class, thanks to first-rate engineering, a great chassis and handsome looks that catch the eye, without need for the lurid add-ons. It’s one of the most likeable compact SUVs you can buy.