Review: Mazda CX-3 (2015)
Enjoyable and good to drive. Good quality interior finish. 2.0-litre petrol is smooth and economical.
Cramped in the back and small boot. Ongoing problem with a/c condensers and evaporators.
Mazda CX-3 (2015): At A Glance
- New prices start from £18,995
- Contract hire deals from £173.74 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 13–19
- On average it achieves 87% of the official MPG figure
Like the march of the seasons, new small crossovers are inevitable and in 2015 Mazda joined the party with the CX-3. However, unlike its rivals, it is pitched as a premium option with an upmarket cabin lots of standard kit and the option of AWD that gives it outstanding handling.
At first sight it looks very much like the larger CX-5, but it is appreciably smaller, with bolder lines, sleeker headlights and a more prominent grille. Inside it is very much like the Mazda2, with a classy, neat dashboard layout and an abundance of quality materials.
There is a standard fit seven-inch touchscreen with a rotary controller for use on the move. It's not as slick as the touchscreen system you'd find in a Volkswagen T-Roc but it works well enough and means there's no mess of buttons to clutter up the centre console.
The finish is good, with plush leather or suede inlays in the doors and on the dashboard, depending on trim level, while practicality is fine for a family. There is plenty of legroom and enough headroom for all but the tallest passengers. A 350-litre boot is about average for the class, though it has the benefit of a false floor for hiding items out of sight.
Engines include a frugal 1.5-litre diesel (later changed to a 1.8-litre) and a 2.0-litre petrol, the top version with 150PS. All of the engines give the light CX-3 punchy performance, with plenty of pace to overtake slower traffic and gearing that gives a relaxed, quiet motorway cruise, notwithstanding a little wind noise around the large door mirrors.
But it’s a country road where the CX-3 really shines, thanks to ample grip and lively steering. It’s a fun car on a back road, with suspension that blends a comfortable ride with impressive handling and body control. For those who live out in the wilds there is even an all-wheel drive variant on offer for some extra traction in poor conditions.
It's priced competitively with the competition and does come well equipped for the money. Regardless of price, there is no doubt this CX-3 is one of the best small crossovers on sale.
What does a Mazda CX-3 (2015) cost?
Mazda CX-3 (2015): What's It Like Inside?
The cabin of the CX-3 is very similar in style to the Mazda2, which makes sense considering they are based on the same platform. The dashboard is neat and comes with a seven-inch touchscreen as standard, which makes for an uncluttered centre stack with just ventilation controls.
The touchscreen is operated by a rotary controller near the gear lever and it's very intuitive and user-friendly. It links up mobile phones via USB or Bluetooth, bringing safe social media connectivity and web radio to the cabin, as well as streaming for Spotify or other music apps.
Material quality is good, with soft leather dashboard inlays and, on upper trim grades, suede door inlays and leather seats. The dashboard uses a hard plastic but it feels upmarket and sturdy, rather than cheap and flimsy. This gives the CX-3 a premium feel - something sadly missing from rivals like the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur.
Rear leg and headroom is decent enough for most passengers, though taller adults will struggle for comfort on longer trips thanks to the sloping rear roofline. The 350-litre boot has a double floor as standard, so the owner can choose between a flat load deck and a larger load area with a lip. The double floor is also handy for hiding valuables.
All models come with air conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control and touchscreen infotainment with Bluetooth, while upper trim grades gain extra luxuries. These include leather/suede upholstery, a head-up display and LED lights, plus emergency braking and lane departure warning tech for additional safety.
SE is the entry grade and comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, electrically adjustable and power folding door mirrors, cloth upholstery, soft-touch dashboard panel, leather steering wheel and gear lever, engine stop/start button, manual air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, electric front and rear windows, seven-inch touchscreen system with USB/AUX/Bluetooth/DAB, hill-hold assist and two Isofix mounts. SE Nav adds navigation.
SE-L gains tinted rear glass, automatic lights, automatic wipers, parking sensors, heated front seats, automatic climate control, smart city braking and lane departure warning. SE-L Nav adds navigation.
Sport Nav adds 18-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, LED headlights and Adaptive Front Light system, LED signature rear lights, reversing camera, cloth/leatherette upholstery, dark red soft-touch knee pads, dark-red leatherette door inserts, digital speedometer, head-up display, keyless entry, and a BOSE audio system specific to CX-3.
Child seats that fit a Mazda CX-3 (2015)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Mazda CX-3 (2015) like to drive?
Look through the brochure for the CX-3 and you'll see much mention of the word 'Skyactiv'. This is essentially Mazda's phrase for all the technology it uses to save fuel. It means that unlike most manufacturers, Mazda has shied away from turbocharged downsized engines and instead stuck to traditional naturally-aspirated engines.
As a result the sole petrol engine is a 2.0-litre - availble in two versions of either 120PS or 150PS. The lower powered version was upped to 121PS in 2018 and got an improvement in torque too.
The petrol engine suits the CX-3, helped by a short and snappy gear shift. Despite its raised ride height, the Mazda is very good in corners with impressive body control, yet the ride is still comfortable so you're not having to make sacrifices. High grip levels complete the picture, making for a fun-to-drive, nimble feeling car.
The 2.0-litre 150PS engine is only available with all-wheel drive, although the system isn’t really meant for tough off-road conditions, but should at least give extra security in poor weather.
Despite the fact it's not turbocharged, the 2.0-litre is none the worse for it. You may expect it would suffer from a lack of torque with 204Nm of pulling power, but in fact it pulls strongly in gear, so you don't have to work the engine and gearbox constantly to get meaningful performance.
Frugal and high mileage drivers will be best off with a diesel, rather than the petrol. The 1.5d might have a lower power output but peak torque of 270Nm, available from just 1600rpm, means it is responsive and capable, making overtaking and motorway cruising easy. It’s also efficient with Real MPG showing close to 60mpg.
It’s not just at home on B-roads, though – the light, accurate gear change and light clutch make town driving easy, while engine and road noise is suppressed at motorway speeds. That said there is noticeable but unobtrusive wind noise around the door mirrors. In 2018 the CX-3 was refreshed and the 1.5-litre improved to a 1.8-litre with 115PS
Buyers who want an automatic can choose between the 120PS petrol or 105PS diesel engines, both of which are available with a six-speed automatic. The auto has no real impact on emissions or economy of the petrol model, but pushes up the diesel’s emissions from 105g/km to 136g/km, and lowers fuel economy from 60.1mpg to 54.3mpg.
|1.5 D||71 mpg||10.1 s||105 g/km|
|1.5 D 4WD||60 mpg||10.5 s||123 g/km|
|1.5 D Automatic 4WD||54 mpg||11.9 s||136 g/km|
|1.8 D 115||64 mpg||9.9 s||114 g/km|
|2.0 120||48 mpg||9.0 s||137 g/km|
|2.0 120 Automatic||49 mpg||9.9 s||136 g/km|
|2.0 121||46 mpg||9.0 s||141 g/km|
|2.0 121 Automatic||46–46 mpg||9.0–9.9 s||140–141 g/km|
|2.0 150||40 mpg||8.8 s||160 g/km|
|2.0 150 4WD||44 mpg||8.7 s||136 g/km|
|2.0 150 Automatic||42 mpg||9.7 s||152 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Mazda CX-3 (2015)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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