THE MAZDA CX-3 is the segment leader when it comes to Small SUVs, with almost 3000 being sold in the first two months of 2017 alone. But there’s a new challenger in town, with the funky looking Toyota C-HR.
The C-HR is poised to give the Mazda a serious run for its money in the sales race, so we decided to pitch the pair against each other in a back-to-back showdown.
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT – Winner: Toyota C-HR
Both these C-HR and CX-3 variants are yours for the same $33,290 pricetag. However, the C-HR is the clear winner in the equipment game, with LED headlamps and taillights, 18-inch wheels, active cruise control and heated leather seats all standard on the Koba model. Meanwhile, the CX-3 Akari comes with a sunroof, black leather trim, rear cross traffic alert, city brake, 18-inch wheels, LED headlamps and tail-lamps, and a heads-up display.
The addition to the active cruise control in the C-HR as standard, the more up-spec feel of the interior wins it this category.
INTERIOR AND VERSATILITY – Winner: Toyota C-HR
When it comes to hauling ability, The Mazda has 264 litres of cargo space compared to the 377 litres in the Toyota. However, riding in the back seats of the C-HR is an unpleasant experience. The large front seats, while brilliant for the front passengers, cut into rear legroom. The funky exterior design results in rear visibility being at a minimum compared to the Mazda.
Having said that, the CX-3’s interior remains rather bland, and comes off feeling cheap compared to the C-HR. Rear legroom isn’t exactly at a premium in the Mazda, either. Both cars prioritise the front passengers in terms of comfort.
The CX-3’s party trick is a retractable sunroof, where the Toyota comes fitted with front seats that hug the drivers, and give the illusion of a larger cabin.
The Toyota wins this category by a narrow margin thanks to its larger boot, comfier front seats, and more luxury-feel interior.
PERFORMANCE AND ECONOMY – Winner: Mazda CX-3
The 2.0-litre atmo engine of the CX-3 is a perky little engine, with plenty of torque for spirited driving. That extra power and torque makes it more nimble around town as well. Despite the larger engine and more power, it is also the more frugal of the pair, sipping just 6.1 litres per 100km (compared to 6.4 from the Toyota).
The smaller engine in the Toyota means it is working harder more of the time to keep you moving. It can also be lazy to respond in urgent situations. While the C-HR’s CVT is one of the best of its kind, it can still be noisy and frustrating compared to the Mazda’s six-speed auto.
RIDE AND REFINEMENT – Winner: Toyota C-HR
The Toyota is the clear winner here, with the CX-3’s engine and road noise being its biggest downfall. Mazda says this will be improved in the facelifted version (due soon), but it is very noticeable inside the cabin whether on coarse or smooth roads. Meanwhile, the C-HR feels rather insulated in the cabin in terms of road and engine noise unless engaged in very spirited driving.
The ride is the Mazda is marginally better than the Toyota. However both offer good around town and highway comfort.
STEERING AND HANDLING – Winner: Toyota C-HR
The Toyota has an unfair advantage in this category in that it has three different handling modes. Okay, so that’s not really an advantage, but it does allow the C-HR to tailor its steering to the situation, where the Mazda has a single mode for all conditions.
Both cars hold the road well, however the Toyota is more eager to turn into corners in sporty driving, and the ECO mode is fantastically light around town.
The Mazda meanwhile has a good weight to the steering, but has a tendency to understeer or ‘push’ in corners. Around town the Mazda is perfectly capable and adept in most situations.
VERDICT – Winner: Toyota C-HR
The newcomer is the surprise winner in this head to head. The adventurous styling, capable road handling, and bigger load-hauling capabilities make the C-HR a must-test if you are in the market for a Small SUV.
But don’t completely disregard the Mazda. It is the segment-leader in terms of sales for a reason, and WhichCar understands there will be a mid-life update for the CX-3 in the coming months.
Mazda CX-3 Akiri FWD
Engine: 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1252kg
Toyota C-HR Koba 2WD
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo four-cylinder
Kerb Weight: 1385kg