Car reviews - Mazda - CX-3
Design, steering, handling, improved ride, quieter petrol engine, better interior comfort and practicality, great seats, trim quality upgrade
Room for improvement
CX-3 still a little noisy and vibrational when pushed, packaging still tighter than most rivals, no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto – yet
The Mazda CX-3 facelift fixes several of its predecessor’s faults
28 Aug 2018
MAZDA is at the forefront of the burgeoning small-SUV class, slugging it out with the ageing Mitsubishi ASX for sales honours despite being very different propositions.
However, since launch, most critics would agree that the CX-3 has suffered from excessive noise and vibration issues, and these are just two things that the model year 2019 version attempts to address.
Prices go up slightly, but then so does the list of standard equipment, so are these collectively enough to keep the CX-3 at the top of its segment?
The Mazda CX-3 has long been one of our favourite small SUVs. Period.
That’s saying something too, because while it has always been right up there as a funky, stylish and dynamic alternative to a bunch of frankly boring rivals, the Mazda2-based crossover has suffered from excessive road noise and engine vibration, as well as a firm ride.
Thankfully, the good people at Hiroshima have been listening and learning, because for the model year 2019 version, many measures have been executed to make the CX-3 smoother, quieter and comfier to ride and sit in.
Sadly, no diesel examples made it to the local launch in rural Victoria, but the popular sTouring example we drove – in rare AWD guise with a de Dion rather than torsion rear suspension system – proved to be a bit of a revelation.
For starters, the cabin is now finished in higher-quality materials that stand out from the cold stark plastics that previously prevailed; there’s now a centre console bin/armrest combo for added comfort, as well as a nifty set of configurable cupholders – improving the Mazda’s practicality quotient by a few important degrees.
Better still, however, is the improved and quieter ride, even on the 18-inch rubber that our mid-range variant wore. Less thump from the suspension, less roar from the road, the improved refinement qualities transform the sTouring AWD into an impressive little machine.
Mazda also fettled with the dampers and anti-roll bars, as well as retuned the electric power steering, and on the curvy mountain roads up through the Great Dividing Range, the CX-3’s chassis really gelled together nicely.
Revving out keenly to the red line with less of the zizz and buzz that marred the earlier version, the sTouring could be driven hard with confidence, stringing together the tight turns with feeling and control. This is the sort of small SUV that can be fanged about like a warm hatch. A real delight.
We were less enamoured with the Neo Sport auto on standard 16-inch wheels, as it seemed to transmit more tyre roar than its fatter-rubbered sibling.
It also wasn’t as nicely presented inside, though the monochromatic black/greys actually do look cool. And we really do applaud the fitment of a rear camera and MZD Connect touchscreen/controller – a massive improvement over the bitsy old head unit that looked like an afterthought.
Also, the sTouring’s same improved level of seat comfort and handling capability translated through to the base car, if not quite its roadholding and refinement finesse.
In summary, then, the CX-3 has taken sizeable strides forward to remain in class contention. The Mazda head honchos have acted on criticism to deliver a small SUV that remains one of the most fun to drive and coolest to look at, but with more comfort and less noise.
If you’re in the market, we’d certainly recommend taking the sTouring AWD out for a long run like we did. It’s quite the bijou belter!
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