Test Drives

Cross Up: 2016 Mazda CX-3 Review


Mazda’s new small crossover banks on a strong combination of style and dynamics. It’ll be in Singapore soon

BANGKOK, THAILAND — Crossovers are becoming all the rage, and car manufacturers can no longer afford to have only one in their lineup. Step forward the CX-3, a new car in a new segment for Mazda. It’s set for launch in Singapore in July, but till then here’s what you need to know…

Let’s see, a Mazda with the CX name and it’s not a CX-5…so it’s a smaller crossover, based on a Mazda 3?
That’s half correct: The new CX-3 is a compact SUV or small crossover, thus it slots in underneath the current CX-5 in Mazda’s soft-roader range. But unlike its number designation, it’s actually based on the smaller Mazda 2 (also reviewed by us in sedan and hatch versions) compact hatchback, rather than the most popular car of Mazda’s range, the Mazda 3 (available in sedan or hatchback form).

Isn’t that sort of counterintuitive?
Not if you look at the reasons why: A 3-based CX-3 would be too close to a CX-5 in size/weight/price, while using the smaller Mazda 2 platform keeps cost down. Plus, rivals like the Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai and Suzuki Vitara are all within 10mm difference lengthwise.

But does that mean it looks small and angry like a 2 hatchback on steroids?
In the flesh, the CX-3 appears totally different from the car it’s based on and that’s good, given looks are a key part of a crossover’s sell-ability. The CX-3 is longer, wider and taller and married with the car’s MX-5-esque front end, a muscular mid-section and hunched rears, it surely looks one of the more attractive compact crossovers around. No surprise given Mazda’s new-found design mastery has been almost universally well received.

It sure looks nice… but is it slow and porky?
We’ll agree that most inexpensive compact SUVs have looks which overstate their performance (no sin to most buyers though) but the CX-3 has a large surprise under its bonnet: It uses a 156bhp 2.0-litre engine rather than the popular 1.5-litre. Thus its acceleration and high-speed manners are very sprightly, despite the fact that the car weighs 200kg more than the Mazda 2 it’s based on. As typical of a Mazda, the CX-3 handles and rides well, and up in the hills its more than capable of a quick pace with nary a squeal of the front tyres to make you back off.

Hmm…we’re sure there are some compromises…
The compact hatch roots shine through in the limited rear space and the boot has 10-litres less room than the already small 250-litre capacity of the 2 hatch. Three adults and luggage for four days just about made it into the CX-3. The tall stance and 18-inch wheels also made more road and wind noise.

So don’t go on a week-long road trip with the whole family in one?
Not unless you want to keep your sanity. In any case, big families would’t be looking at a CSUV or small crossover to begin with. But the CX-3 has other perks on its side: Mazda’s Skyactiv fuel saving tech proved itself worthl, delivering 6.4L/100km on our 700km route including highways, towns and mountains. The car we drove came with lots of useful standard equipment like a HUD, blind spot monitor, keyless entry and LED headlamps – Mazda Singapore says our own units expected here in July will have a similar spec.

NEED TO KNOW Mazda CX-3 2.0G
Engine 1,998cc, 16V, inline 4
Power 156bhp at 6000rpm
Torque 204Nm at 2800rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 192km/h
0-100km/h 9.5 seconds                        
Fuel efficiency 6.1L/100km
CO2 146g/km
Price $TBA
Availability July 2016

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Renault Captur review
Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG review – The crazy crossover with 360bhp
Infiniti QX30 – Yet another small crossover in the works
Analysis: Why every carmaker on Earth is launching a new crossover

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong