Mazda’s CX-3 small SUV is a winner with private buyers, and it’s received a facelift to ensure it remains a front-runner in the popularity stakes.
WHAT IS IT?
A mild mid-life update for Mazda’s smallest SUV offering. Still riding on the same platform shared with the Mazda 2, the crossover has been tweaked outside and in, along with fine-tuning under the skin, to ensure it remains a top-seller.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
We’re big fans of the dynamic prowess of Mazda’s pint-sized SUV here at Wheels, and it seems so are buyers, with the CX-3 a consistent top three seller in the class. Mazda has treated the CX-3 to a mid-life update which keeps the styling fresh, offers better value for money with more standard equipment across a revamped range, while attempting to improve cabin comfort.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Mazda has avoided change for change’s sake, which is a good thing. Improvements are minimal, but when the product was already working well with real dynamic clout, that’s not a bad thing. The CX-3 remains as enjoyable to drive as ever, although its smaller stature compared to rivals hurts it in terms of practicality.
Prices have jumped a small amount with this update, but added features like a 360 degree reversing camera for flagship variants, and keen drive away pricing, sharpen the value offering. While Mazda claims NVH has improved, noise intrusion in the cabin can be an irritant, with lower-profile rubber on some variants producing noticeable tyre roar.
PLUS: As dynamically engaging as ever, increased value offering
MINUS: Smaller boot and rear seat space compared to competitors, auto gearbox is too eager to kick down a gear
THE WHEELS REVIEW
In a field littered with drab offerings, the Mazda CX-3 is a shining beacon of hope for enthusiasts who want a small SUV that is both stylish and fun to drive.
Mazda has updated its smallest SUV for 2018 with a facelift that boosts value, rejigs the model line-up and places a stronger focus on cabin refinement to try and fix the CX-3’s consistent niggle of poor NVH.
A thicker headliner, outer door panels, seals, and glass have been added, though unfortunately any improvements are minimal with noticeable wind and tyre noise still apparent.
The CX-3’s equipment list has been lengthened. A new Neo Sport model grade (which replaces the old entry-level Neo) gains a reversing camera, which is now standard across the range, along with Mazda’s MZD infotainment system. Maxx Sport and above model grades also score a pair of cup holders in the folding rear arm rest, while the flagship Akari is treated to a 360-degree camera and adaptive cruise control. Pricing has jumped by a roughly $1000 across the range, though Mazda has introduced keen drive away pricing for all variants, starting at $23,990 for a manual Neo Sport.
Exterior styling has been subtly revised, while the most significant interior change is the replacement of the manual handbrake with an electronic unit.
Subtle enhancements ensure the CX-3 remains one of the most dynamically engaging SUVs in its class. The chassis is beautifully balanced and crucially the ride is now improved with new springs and dampers ironing our larger bumps, while thicker anti-roll bars help to reduce body roll. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control tech has also been added and the CX-3’s steering remains crisp and is naturally weighted.
Read next: 2017 Mazda CX-3: Which spec is best?
The 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine carries over for this update and it remains as tractable as ever, though it’s been re-homologated with minute increases of 1kW and 3Nm. A 1.8-litre diesel producing 85kW/270Nm replaces the old 1.5-litre. All petrol variants use a six-speed manual as standard, with the six-speed automatic a $2000 premium. The self-shifting transmission is a smooth unit, though it does have a tendency to kick down a ratio too eagerly, resulting in a noisy flare of revs which does nothing to improve cabin refinement.
Mazda claims an unchanged combined fuel economy of 6.3-6.7L/100km depending on transmission and wheel sizes for the petrol, and 4.7-5.1L/100km for the diesel (which is a slight improvement over the previous unit). Both powertrains are available in AWD and FWD.
With buyers flocking to the small SUV segment the CX-3 has a tough ask ahead of it as convincing new contenders like the Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Kona encroach on its turf. While the styling tweaks keep it looking fresh, the real gains here are found in the improved equipment and value, and the greater sheen of polish to an already good dynamic package. Sadly, this update hasn’t quite ironed out the NVH issues.
2019 MAZDA CX-3 SPECS
Model: 2018 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport
Engine: 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Max Power: 110kW @6000rpm
Max Torque: 195Nm @2800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 10.0sec (estimated)
Fuel economy: 6.3L/100km
On sale: Now
Mazda has treated the CX-3 to a mid-life update which keeps the styling fresh, offers better value for money with more standard equipment across a revamped range, while attempting to improve cabin comfort.