It’s a happy coincidence driving the revitalised Mazda CX-3 right now because several new competitors are about to run onto its playing field in the form of Hyundai’s Kona and Toyota’s CH-R.
So how does the acknowledged best in class feel after a refresh?
Not that different, if we’re honest but a drive in the Limited model, selling at just the wrong side of $40k does reinforce that there’s nothing to hold a candle to this vehicle in its class currently as far as the driver is concerned.
It looks Kodo-smart, has an almost overkill amount of specification – hence the price that impinges on CX-5 GSX territory – and has a personality-laden powertrain. GSX is probably the sweet spot for value, but if you simply must have the best dressed compact SUV of the moment, Limited is it. A lack of space is probably the only thing that will put you off as it’s still tight on space in the rear and boot.
You’d be hard pushed to pick the changes externally (new wheel styles, powered folding mirrors) but inside there’s a new wheel, refreshed instruments and a higher resolution screen. The Limited now features autonomous braking up to 160km/h – handy – and radar-based cruise control, as well as driver attention alert. Traffic signs from sat nav have been added to the tiny perspex HUD, and there are minor suspension tweaks, along with the fitment of G-Vectoring Control which doesn’t obviously do much. Not that it matters as CX-3 is a lively handler anyway.
This has an engine and transmission that are reference grade, odd that given the engine’s naturally aspirated. It’s simply sorted, as is its slick six-speed auto. What makes this perform so nicely is the fact that the direct-injection VVT engine exceeds expectations across the midband and that’s probably because the weight of the car is just 1250kg. The competition is around 1400kg. So the CX-3 not only goes well with its biggish 109kW/192Nm mill but it feels lively across a broad spread of revs. In town, it pulls from not much above 1000rpm, so easily plies city streets in fifth gear, while on faster roads it feels feisty from 2500-4000rpm. Taking it beyond 5000rpm is pointless because it starts to wail.
For performance, nothing has changed. It’s still perfectly adequate without even trying hard, especially when the Sport button is activated. We used the MS gate quite a bit too, simply because Mazda is one of the few that bothers to do ergonomic studies of which shift lever direction works best. Forward for downshifting, the only logical way, ask any Vulcan. Unlike most small turbos which drink in double figures when pushed, this generally sticks to single figures in town, and only double figures out when driven by loons.
Being an SUV it’s quiet as a churchmouse over our rowdy national roading system of rock chips and tar, and is even more refined than the 2015 original. That’s in contrast to the noisier small cars with which this competes.
So, best compact SUV? That we’ve driven, for sure. There are five to choose from, all with the same stupendous powertrain, one with 4WD, costing $31,395-$40,195. All come with Mazda’s five-year, unlimited km warranty, including the first three years of free servicing.
|Model||Mazda CX-3 Limited||Price||$40,195|
|Engine||1998cc, IL4, DI, 109kW/195Nm||Drivetrain||6A, FWD|
|Fuel Use||6.1L/100km||C02 Output||146g/km|