The recent explosion in popularity of the baby SUV has seen a number of manufacturers caught short and now lacking what has quickly become an important part of the range.
But not Mazda. The Japanese manufacturer has been on a blinding roll recently, with remarkably good product pouring from its factories; the Mazda6, Mazda3 and Mazda2 are all brilliant cars, while the CX-5 is simply one of the best SUVs of any size. And now they have added the little Mazda2-based CX-3 baby SUV to the mix.
Not only does the CX-3 fill the gap marked “small” in Mazda’s SUV line up, it is also the best example yet of the company’s “Kodo” design language that has already produced some incredibly good looking cars.
Likes: Looks fantastic; sleek and aggressive, which would seem impossible for a small hatch/SUV… Easily the most cohesive and convincing expression of Mazda’s “Kodo” design language yet. Wide, planted stance looks both nicely aggressive and strangely reassuring.
Dislikes: Only the fact that if you removed all the plastic cladding and dropped the ride down a few inches you would have a better looking hatch than the already handsome 2 and 3…
Likes: Interior is and brilliantly designed as the exterior, plus is also fantastically well put together out of high quality materials. Brilliantly comfortable and supportive front seats. Incredibly well laid out and intuitive controls.
Dislikes: The red highlights do break up all the black, but also take some getting used to. For some odd reason the “two-tone” stitching on the dash (red on top, black on the bottom) really annoys me…
Under the bonnet
Likes: 2.0-litre petrol engine is powerful and adept at hauling the CX-3 around. Surprisingly frugal as well. Six-speed auto is brilliant, with crisp and decisive shifts.
Dislikes: Engine is a bit on the coarse side, particularly under heavy acceleration.
On the road
Likes: Handles more like a low sporty hatch than a baby SUV! Fantastically sharp and accurate steering is complimented by confidence-inspiring handling and an impressively supple ride.
Dislikes: Will ultimately understeer though. Struggles a bit in the wet, mainly with all the power only going through the front wheels.
The CX-3 is a mighty impressive entrant into the baby SUV segment. Every aspect of the CX-3 is well thought out, beautifully designed and utterly convincing.
The GSX Model we drove here is the mid-spec offering and yet it is still incredibly well equipped and packed with a surprising amount of standard specification.
But regardless of all the trinkets, the basic package of the CX-3 is so damn good that it really doesn’t matter what model you buy – the only real difference is that the diesel-powered cars are all 4WD and set up for a softer ride, while the petrol cars are all FWD and come with the firmer, sportier ride we enthused about here.
The only real disappointment we came across during our time with the CX-3 was the slightly coarse, wheezy noise the engine made under hard acceleration that made it sound like it was working way harder than it needed to. This didn’t diminish the performance in any way (nor did it diminish our enthusiasm for the CX-3), but it just stood out because it was really the only slightly unpolished part of what is a remarkably well-polished package.
- PRICE (incl. GST/excl. on road costs): $34,695
- PRICE AS TESTED: $34,695
- ENGINE: 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder petrol
- TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
- PERFORMANCE: 109kW/192Nm
- FUEL ECONOMY: 6.1L/100km