Mazda didn’t need to reinvent the wheel with this update of the CX-3 only two years after its release. A formula of refinement and class-leading on-road ability had quickly made CX-3 the top-selling small SUV in the country, so Mazda has concentrated on improved safety and a greater sense of quality and driving pleasure.
The biggest advance is the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking – which Mazda calls Smart City Brake Support – across the CX-3 range, making it the first small SUV to have this advanced safety feature as standard. This upgraded version of the system works at up to 80km/h (previously 30km/h), and it also operates when the vehicle is in reverse.
Other safety systems are collected as you step up through the four-model range, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic-sign recognition, driver attention alert and lane-departure warning.
Choice of petrol or diesel
Across the CX-3 variants – Neo, Maxx, sTouring and Akari – there’s a choice of petrol and diesel in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The default transmission is a six-speed auto, but front-wheel-drive petrol models get a six-speed manual option. Our test vehicle is the one Mazda believes will be the top-seller, the front-wheel-drive automatic petrol Maxx with an estimated on-road price of $28,470.
In Maxx, Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE safety package includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
Like many models of its size, CX-3 is missing a centre console armrest but this makes space for the surprisingly comfortable and intuitive multi-function commander control hub. The seven-inch display is at a height which allows you to keep an eye on the road but not so high that it becomes intrusive. Sat-nav is easy to use, and the 2017 update brings digital radio functionality. Connectivity features include Bluetooth mobile and audio, auxiliary and USB audio input, six speakers and integration with partnered apps, which all work well to improve the audio experience.
An upmarket feel
Quality plastics, carbon-fibre wrapping and a leather steering wheel and instrument cluster give CX-3 an upmarket feel which belies its price tag, but one aspect where a cost saving is noticeable is a flimsy seat-height adjuster.
CX-3 isn’t overly spacious in the back seats, but with enough room to slip your feet under the front seats it’s possible to fit two average-sized adults or three children without too much discomfort. There is plenty of headroom, and retractable headrests help to give the rear seats of the CX-3 a little extra comfort. ISOFIX seat anchorage points are present, with three tethers mounted on the rear of the seatbacks to accommodate a child seat in any position.
The boot is adequate given CX-3’s size, and the square shape gives it greater practicality. The floor can sit at two levels, the higher position allowing the rear seats to fold flush to accommodate long items. Underneath the floor is a steel space-saver spare wheel.