- Beautifully styled with lots of Black+ specific trimmings
- Extra safety kit as standard on latest models
- Well balanced and great fun to drive
- Quite pricey
- Limited space for back seat passengers
- Some rivals have bigger boots
Since its launch in 2015, the CX-3 has proven to be a great compact SUV that boasts plenty of character and delivers all the handling capability associated with the Mazda name. It’s also available in a wide selection of trims with a choice of diesel or petrol engines along with manual or auto gearboxes. Plus, there are two or four-wheel drive versions available.
The latest updated model launched earlier this year features a redesigned exterior and cabin, additional safety equipment as standard, improved ride and handling and a very striking limited-edition Sport Black+ version that is dripping with eye-catching design cues and packed with a generous range of techno treats. And that’s the model we took out for a spin in the Cotswold countryside.
On The Road
Mazda upgraded its entire CX-3 line-up earlier this year, but the most recent addition to the impressive range is the Sport Black+ version that is limited to just 500 models. It is based on the 2.0-litre petrol 121PS 2WD SE-L Nav+ model and comes in manual or auto guise priced at £22,195 and £23,195 respectively.
We opted for the six-speed manual version and it didn’t disappoint. The punchy petrol engine delivers all the power necessary to accelerate swiftly through the gears and the CX-3 drives as good as it looks. And it looks stunning with plenty of black trim including a brilliant black roof spoiler, black door mirror caps, a roof mounted shark fin antenna, rear privacy glass and 18-inch silver alloy wheels.
Our test car could power its way to 62mph from a standing start in 9.0 seconds, maxed out at 119mph and, according to official figures, could deliver combined fuel economy of 45.6mpg with carbon emissions of 141g/km.
The acceleration is smooth and responsive and the car feels deceptively agile for a compact SUV. The road holding is confident and assured with a well-balanced ride even when driven hard into bends.
The light steering is really handy when weaving through congested traffic in busy town centres and then when the open road presents itself, the CX-3 is happy to show off its more adventurous side.
Just like the rest of the CX-3 range the latest Sport Black+ model benefits from all the new enhancements with a focus on driver engagement. The ride and handling have benefited from the changes with new coil springs and dampers along with a revamped anti-roll bar. These adjustments in combination with a recalibration of the electric power steering result in improved shock absorption and therefore an increase in comfort levels for all occupants.
The CX-3 is a car that can cruise at motorway speeds without too much effort and has the agility to weave through twisting country lanes. It’s also nice and nimble making it easy to manoeuvre in busy town centres. So it’s fair to say it’s a good little five-door hatchback that makes a great smaller sibling to the chunky Mazda CX-5 model.
The car feels balanced and composed and only more severe road undulations will cause any real issues. Our car sat on 18-inch alloys, which is slightly larger than those fitted to the standard CX-3, but they were not detrimental to the car’s handling. At no point did it feel too bouncy or wallowy when being driven.
Refinement is an area that Mazda models always do well in and the CX-3 is no exception to that rule. With upgraded door sill trims, thicker sound insulation in the doors, enhanced windows and a chunkier headliner, the cabin is a nicely hushed place to be with very little road surface, engine or wind noise filtering through.
In addition, the new CX-3 is more comfortable thanks to the introduction of high-damping urethane foam cushions in the front seats.
Admittedly, there are more refined models out there, especially in the premium price bracket, but the CX-3 scores highly. You have to head to the motorways and cruise at national speed limits to notice any real noise intrusion and even then, it’s not too bad.
The interior is clutter-free and quite minimalist in its design, but Mazda has ensured all the essential creature comforts are present. New to the model is a padded armrest and a central console that is more elegantly designed to flow effortlessly into the dashboard. Our car was very upmarket with leather upholstery, a head-up display plus heated seats and a heated steering wheel to fend off the winter chill.
In The Car
With ample steering wheel and powered seat adjustment it’s quick and easy to find a comfortable driving position in the latest CX-3. We tested the car on a wet, windy and chilly day so the benefit of a heated steering wheel and heated seats were soon very much appreciated.
The ergonomics of a car is an area that Mazda prides itself in and the CX-3 is beautifully laid out with all readouts, controls and instrumentation perfectly placed for ease of use. The multi-function steering wheel means that many of the car’s functions can be accessed without taking your hands from the wheel or your eyes from the road which is another plus factor.
Techno treats are plentiful and all the new CX-3 models feature Mazda’s MZD-Connect in-car connectivity system as standard which is accessed via a seven-inch colour touchscreen that sits high on the dashboard. It is easy to connect smartphones and the various menus can be entered via a controller dial. It’s all very quick and easy. Our test car featured a head-up display which could be personalised to project information such as speed and turn-by-turn navigation directions, with brightness and height adjustment through the commander dial.
The CX-3 is quite a compact SUV but there is ample space for tall occupants up front. The legroom is more limited in the back, but fine for youngsters. A couple of adults can fit in the back but they would probably start complaining about leg and head space before too long.
The boot can accommodate 350 litres of kit, which is okay but not as impressive as some rivals, but with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat, the capacity increases to 1,260 litres. A double boot floor is also a neat touch.
There’s a whole host of storage compartments scattered throughout the car, such as a glovebox, decent-sized door bins, a tray in front of the gear lever, a partially covered central cubby with a single cup holder that springs into position, a sunglasses holder, plus two cupholders in the rear armrest. The removal of a traditional handbrake and introduction of an electric parking brake has also freed up some extra space.
The latest CX-3 line-up is priced from £18,995, but our test car cost £22,195. There were no nasty hidden extra charges either, so that price included all the top-notch equipment. It was powered by the 2.0-litre SKYACTIVE-G petrol engine delivering 121PS. There is a higher powered 150PS version available along with some very economical diesel driven models.
According to the latest official figures, our test car could deliver 45.6mpg with carbon emissions of 141g/km. This would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £200 reducing to £140 each following year.
If fuel economy is a key factor, then the 1.8 SKYACTIV-D can achieve a combined 64.2mpg with carbon emissions as low as 114g/km. This would see the first year VED charge drop to just £160.
The insurance group for our test car was 17.
Mazda has an excellent reputation for developing and building cars that are reliable and cause minimal issues for their owners and the CX-3 should continue that trend. The interior of the car feels upmarket with smart leather seats and the extra-comfortable new cushions.
All the switchgear feels durable and with its clutter-free styling, there are not too many controls that could break or go wrong. There was a little suede-effect trim on the dashboard that could begin to fade and look a little jaded after time, but it looked very smart in our new test car.
The car comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty which is pretty standard but it’s worth noting that Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai offer far longer seven and five-year deals.
The Mazda CX-3 is packed with safety kit to protect occupants and pedestrians alike and help prevent accidents occurring in the first place. And the latest car gets a lot more kit included in the asking price too.
The car features Mazda’s SKYACTIV body which is lightweight yet very robust so offering maximum protection to anyone on-board. Inside the cabin, front, side and curtain airbags are standard across the range, and thanks to pressure sensors in the doors, the curtain airbags react faster than ever to side impacts. In a head-on crash the steering column moves forward to protect the driver, while reinforced seatbacks prevent luggage from injuring passengers if the car is hit from behind.
Our car featured Smart City Brake Support which automatically stops or reduces the speed of the car when there is a risk of collision with the vehicle in front and Lane Departure Warning System.
Drivers opting for the Petrol Sport Nav+ can choose to add Mazda’s Safety Pack, costing £650, that introduces Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and High Beam Control.
The CX-3 was awarded four out of five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP rating.