Mark Higgins’ 2015 Mazda CX-3 Touring review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

In a nutshell: After just two months, the eagerly-awaited Japanese built Mazda CX-3 has quickly established itself as a popular choice in the burgeoning compact SUV space. Breaking the SUV stereotype with a sporty façade, it has already knocked off arch-rival Honda’s equally new, Thai built HR-V and finished a close second to Hyundai’s ix35 in the May sales race.


BUILT OFF THE same platform as the Mazda2, the CX-3 has a base lineup of four trim specs, with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, manual or automatic transmissions as well as front, or all-wheel-drive.

Unsurprisingly, the CX3 has visual similarities to the CX-5, (Australia’s top selling SUV), but with enough subtle changes for it to create ‘own’ look. An oversize grille, cats-eye headlights, wrap around tail lamps and narrowing window line, along with the accentuated front and rear guards, a coupe-esque roof and swoopy contours along its flanks are borne from the KODO design, with the CX-3 the fifth model in line to be created under this philosophy.

2015 Mazda CX-3 Touring review

The CX-3 Touring’s interior has a premium feel with black leather seats, along with red, silver and black highlights. Bucking the SUV trend and emphasizing the sporty charisma of the CX3, you sit in a more car-like driving position. There is decent fore, aft and height seat adjustability, along with good reach and rake on the multifunction steering wheel.  Although somewhat soft, the front seats are comfortable and like a favorite chair, wrap around you and provide good support in all the right places.

The CX-3 Touring featured ‘Active Driving Display’ or heads up instruments that I was never able to clearly see despite altering my driving position several times. So I relied on the easy-to-read small digital speedo, lodged inside the analogue tacho that, along with the ancillary dials and trip computer, are set in the wing and fuselage shaped instrument binnacle.

2015 Mazda CX-3 Touring review

The dash and door tops are covered in a hard, durable plastic but elsewhere the surfaces and controls are nicely soft to touch. There’s no centre armest in the front and not a lot of storage options, just the door pockets, two cup holders and small change cubby in the centre console.

2015 Mazda CX-3 Touring review

All round visibility is excellent, aided by the optional blind spot monitoring and up front, there’s a decent amount of space in all directions, but quite squeezy in the rear and the three pews are only suitable for kids. By comparison Honda’s HR-V offers greater interior and luggage space, 437 litres to the CX3’s 264.

2015 Mazda CX-3 Touring review

The centre dash has a seven-inch colour screen for the MZD infotainment Connect system, with voice activation, as well as via the control knob and drives a suite of features including smartphone, sat nav, reversing camera, the excellent six-speaker audio, Bluetooth and music streaming. I found the MZD system easy and intuitive to use.

Powering the front wheel drive CX-3 Tourer is a 2.0 litre 16 valve, 4 cylinder DOHC petrol engine with i-stop, that switches the engine off at idle to reduce fuel usage. It produces 109kW at 6000 rpm and 192Nm at 2800 rpm and has an official combined fuel cycle of 6.1 L/100km and runs on standard 91 RON unleaded or E10. Our figure for the week was 6.9 L/100km.

Power and torque is adequate for the CX-3’s size.  The additional torque and economy benefits of the diesel power plant would be welcome, and it’s only $413 more.  In automatic guise, the diesel’s fuel consumption is around the 4.7L/100km mark, and the petrol is 6.7.  For transmissions the price difference between auto and manual is $2064.

The petrol engine is a gem, smooth and free revving with a slightly sporty note. Only in the upper rev range could it be heard from the cabin and even then, it wasn’t unpleasant.

Coupled to the CX-3 Tourer was the optional six-speed auto transmission with a choice of two drive modes, Normal and Sport. In the default setting of ‘Normal’ it delivered gentle, seamless shifts. Flicking the switch at the base of the gearlever into ‘Sport’ instantly made the drive more alive, with quicker gearshifts, snappier throttle response (but no extra power) and a nice blip of the throttle when coming down through the gears.

Many might wonder why you’d want a ‘Sport’ mode in and SUV, but for me it epitomised the makeup of the CX3 and I am glad Mazda included it.

When I drove the Mazda2 recently I was surprised and delighted with its agility and overall on-road dynamics. For what is primarily a city car, the fun factor and driving enjoyment it delivered was surprising.

In essence, the CX-3 is a high riding version of the Mazda2, but while transitioning into an SUV, it has lost a bit of its on-road edge that made the donor chassis so endearing.

2015 Mazda CX-3 Touring review

Although the CX-3 is more sporty than some in the compact SUV market, it still has to tackle minor rough-road excursions (it’s only front-wheel drive, so you won’t go too far off the beaten track) and therefore has longish suspension travel but errs on the side of sport than comfort. And that means, when pushed, the CX-3 is an enjoyable baby SUV that’s right up there with the Subaru XV’s mid-corner balance, if not that car’s ultimate all-wheel drive grip.

The well-weighted electric power steering allowed you to place the CX-3 Touring precisely where you wanted to, affording plenty of feedback along the way.  Equally, the disc brakes had a progressive, solid feel under foot. A note of caution though, the CX3 Touring only has a space saver spare tyre. Venturing into the city made me appreciate the 10.6 metre turning circle that made getting in and out of tight spots simple. For the most part road and tyre noise is non-existent but across coarse surfaces, they do intrude into the cabin.

2015 Mazda CX-3 Touring review

Although I am sure there won’t be much of a call for it, the CX3’s towing capacity ranges from 800 to 1200kgs, depending on the model and has a tow ball downforce of 50kgs.

Being the second model from the top, the CX-3 Touring is well equipped and builds on the standard kit in the entry model Neo and next up the ladder, Maxx. Highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED head, tail, fog and daytime running lamps, rain sensing wipers, active driving display, climate control air conditioning and advanced keyless entry.

A five-star ANCAP safety rating has been awarded to the CX-3 which has, six airbags, stability and traction control, anti lock brakes, hill launch assist and ISOFIX child seat anchor points,

Our test car was also fitted with the optional $1030 Safety Pack that included blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and smart city brake support, that detects, via an infra red sensor mounted on the windscreen, at speeds between 4-30km/h that an accident is imminent and automatically applies additional pressure to the brakes the moment the driver presses the pedal to prevent or minimise a collision.

The Mazda CX3 has a three-year 100,000km warranty with servicing required every 10,000kms. Assuming you travel 15,000kms per year, servicing for the first four years will set you back $1,761.

The Mazda CX3 is a decent little SUV. We’d just like to see the ride tweaked a bit to make a good car, outstanding.

2015 Mazda CX-3 Touring

Price $30,020 (+ORC); 
Warranty three years, 100,000 kilometres; Safety five-star ANCAP; 
Engine 2.0-litre, four cylinder petrol (91RON or E10); 
Power/Torque 109kW/192Nm
; Transmission six-speed manual (standard) Six-speed auto (as tested); Body 4275mm (L); 1765mm (W); 1550mm (H); Weight 1226kg
; Thirst 6.1L/100km (combined)


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    1. Sorry for delayed response Mulligan. I’ll be testing a CX-3 in the next few weeks and will check. I live up in the Blue Mountains so have easy access to poorly lit roads… it’s hard to test headlight performance in town thanks to street lights.
      I did however recently test the HR-V and should have mentioned its headlights which weren’t particularly effective. Cheers Isaac

  1. Pity you did not test this off road like you did with the Forester, lots of people are complain that the front is too low and grounding into the ground/humps/curbs etc

  2. Sorry but we just bought a CX3 and it’s all wheel drive, you might want to update your review as it’s misleading. Also we purchased the Akari and love be it, great car!

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