Do you own a big SUV? I bet the kids need a ladder to climb into it. Or you sometimes struggle to park it. Or you had a mini heart attack the first time you saw how much it was going to cost you to fill up every time? Well, if you’re willing to go from big to small, the 2015 Mazda CX-3 doesn’t suffer from any of these problems…
With a line-up starting at a touch under $20k, the Mazda CX-3 is one of the best looking and most affordable small SUVs on the market.
Based on the same platform as the Mazda 2, the CX-3 is uniquely offered with a choice of a 2.0-litre petrol engine or a 1.5-litre diesel, as well as front- or all-wheel drive. And while the top-spec all-wheel-drive diesel Akari will set you back $37,690 (before on-road costs), my car for the week is a $24,390 front-wheel-drive petrol automatic Maxx.
Before even leaving the CarAdvice Melbourne office, the first thing I notice about the CX-3 is its ‘face’. Mazda are good at these. Thanks to styling cues in-line with the brand’s Kodo design language, the CX-3’s front-end is sharp with sleek headlights and a prominent grill.
Jumping inside, it doesn’t feel like an SUV at all. It sits quite low, with an official ground clearance of 155mm – for context, the Honda HR-V is listed at 170mm.
The manually adjustable seats are comfortable, especially on the long-ish journey to and from Shepparton, though high sides make getting in and out of them a touch awkward.
The central analogue speedometer is big and bright, but the same can’t be said for the two information screens on either side of it. To view fuel consumption figures clearly for example, I almost need a magnifying glass to read the display and sun reflection is a near-constant issue.
The rest of the interior though, is larger simple, and I love it. There are ‘old school’ climate control switches, a subtle central dash-mounted air vent and standing proudly up in the middle of the dash, the seven-inch MZD Connect colour touchscreen.
A really easy-to-use system, MZD Connect is linked to a scroll wheel that sits inboard of the handbrake – in place of an armrest – and utilises several shortcut buttons including one each for music and navigation. Genius. Once you’ve hit the music one too, you’ll need to be pump the volume through the Maxx’s six speakers, because road noise is seriously loud – at first, I thought I hadn’t closed the passenger door properly.
The wing mirrors take a bit of getting used to as well. To try and avoid having a big blind spot, Mazda have placed them rather close to your face. Over-shoulder vision is limited too thanks to sloping rear windows, but a big help is the Maxx’s standard reversing camera.
There’s not a lot of legroom for rear seat passengers, and if you’re up for the challenge of trying to fit three passengers across the back, the middle person will have to contend with a raised floor.
A result of the CX-3 coming with the option of all-wheel-drive, another flow on effect is reduced boot space. Luggage capacity is 264 litres, and expandable to 1174L with the 60:40 split-fold rear seats folded down, but a fair whack off the mark of something like the super roomy Peugeot 2008 (410L, expandable to 1400L).
The 109kW/192Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with Skyactive Technology is punchy yet impressive with its economy.
After traveling two-and-a-half hours from Melbourne to Shepparton on highways and a day of doing around town errands, I’m surprised but happy to see the trip computer read 6.1 litres per 100km. Down a fraction on the car’s 6.3L/100km claim, either way, the CX-3 pips the likes of the four-cylinder Ford EcoSport (6.5L/100km), Holden Trax (6.9L), Honda HR-V (6.6L/110km) and Peugeot 2008 (6.5L/100km).
After waiting a few days to adjust to the car, I’m finally tempted to flick the CX-3 into ‘Sport’ mode. Making things a little more fun, I quickly realise I should’ve tried it much earlier.
Spending a week with the 2015 Mazda CX-3 was like meeting and getting to know a new friend. At the beginning, it was awkward and a little difficult to understand its personality. But by the end of the week, I loved its company and wanted to hang out all the time.
If this is an example of how quickly the fun and affordable Japanese SUV can grow on you, I can only imagine the bond formed over several years of ownership.
Have you bought yourself a new Mazda CX-3? How’s it been? Tell us in the comments section below.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Mazda CX-3 images by Tom Fraser and Mandy Turner.