As regular followers of our long-term reports may note, most of our extended-loan test cars pass through the CarAdvice garage for a good time, if not a terribly long time. Three or four months generally provides us with a taster of simulated real-world ownership, with time to shake out the bugs. However, usually, by this time, a long-term test car is cleaned, fuelled, and farewelled for the final time. Our intrepid 2016 Mazda CX-3 Maxx long-termer, though, has stuck around and made it through to report number four…
The Mazda CX-3 has become something of a good-time getaway car for the CarAdvice crew, and this month was no exception. And good times were certainly on the cards when our marketing and communications executive, Kathryn Marshall, pinched the key and pointed its 'Kodo' grille towards New South Wales’ winery mecca, the Hunter Valley... For a weekend... With her boyfriend Luke. A trip, allegedly, “for work”.
If we had a stand-up candidate for WineAdvice, then…
As it turns out, Kathryn’s preference for 'reds' favours Mazda's Soul Red as much as it does a rich cab-sav. She recently became the proud owner of her very own 2016 Mazda 2 Genki hatchback, finished in the same triple-process hero colour as our small Japanese SUV - The Little SUV That Could. Given the CX-3 is based off the Mazda 2 and the five-door pair share much more than passing visual similarities, Kathryn is as ideally placed as anyone in the CarAdvice fold to judge the merits of the more family-flavoured model, and whether its more commodious format brings much to the pint-sized Mazda ownership experience.
Handily, the two Mazdas are similar in price, which make them realistic options to cross-shop against one another. Kat’s chosen combination of a high-level Genki trim and a manual transmission lobs in at $20,690 (before on-road costs and options). Meanwhile, our CX-3 front-driver, in less-luxurious Maxx spec with an automatic transmission, wants for $24,390 (before on-road costs and added extras). Apart from a self-shifting gearbox, the added $3700 in outlay for the SUV gets you two litres under the bonnet, against the Mazda 2’s 1.5-litre engine.
Kathryn’s weekend away put over 400 kays under the CX-3’s tyres and she came away banking plenty of opinions.
“The CX-3 is noticeably roomier than the Mazda 2,” Kat says. “Luke is quite tall and he can’t seem to comfortably stretch his legs in the passenger seat of my car, but he had plenty of room to do so in the SUV.”
Familiarity fosters friendliness, and the common cabin design between the two Mazdas meant Kathryn connected with the SUV like it was an old friend.
“One of my big loves about Mazdas is the simplicity of the controls,” she explains. “Everything is exactly where you expect it to be. There are no fancy dash button for functions such as lights and wipers: they’re all logically located on the stalks behind the steering wheel.
“I love the infotainment system. It’s great that it offers touchscreen functionality, but it’s even better that there’s a super-simple rotary controller between the driver and front passenger.
“I also love how easy it is to connect to Bluetooth. One of most important aspects of a road trip is the soundtrack along the way, so I had some great playlists set up in the Spotify app. Each time we stopped for fuel or snacks, the system would pause my music, then start it up from where it left off once Bluetooth reconnected.”
So what of the CX-3's larger and more powerful 2.0-litre engine?
“Is it really? I didn’t notice. Perhaps the automatic transmission put me off (remember Kathryn’s Mazda 2 is a manual). I can understand the convenience of an auto for bumper-to-bumper Sydney traffic, but I like to feel more in control of engine performance and acceleration, particularly on a long drive. On the whole I just find automatic cars are just not as exciting to drive as manual cars.
“It drives smoothly and comfortably on a flat road, but head uphill, and all I wanted to do was slap it into third gear and zip effortlessly forward. Instead, the CX-3 sort of forces you to cruise in the slow lane until the transmission kicks down and, even then, the engine sounds like it’s giving its all and is quite noisy.
“I kept thinking to myself, 'My Genki could do this easily'.”
While the CX-3 provides more spaciousness, the high-spec Genki trades off with more lavish equipment. It’s a trade Kathryn doesn’t regret in her chosen ownership experience.
“The biggest difference I found between the two is the head-up display, which I’ve come to rely on for its speed readout and navigation instructions. My gorgeous Genki has it, and it was sorely missed in the CX-3 Maxx.
“The SUV also lacks automatic headlights. I keep my Genki’s lights on 'auto' all the time to take the guesswork out of knowing when the right conditions are to turn them on. I like having them turn off automatically when I turn the car off too. It’s not a massive issue, but I find it odd that a 2016 car, regardless of its badge, wouldn’t have this feature.
Anywhere else where the CX-3 Maxx was left wanting?
“I’m a huge fan of electronic seat adjustments located at the side of the seat base, but I found the CX-3 Maxx's manual seating adjustment to be very clunky. That said, once adjusted, the seats themselves are very comfortable.”
So could Kat be swayed by the SUV format?
“I can see how the CX-3 is more comfortable for passengers, particularly in the back row. It’s purely due to the larger cabin space. But at my current stage in life, I wouldn’t benefit from having the SUV over my hatchback – I’m usually on my own or it’s only Luke and I in the car.
“From a financial standpoint, I think that $24,390 for a compact SUV is a steal! It’s just that I associate the CX-3 with newlyweds that either have or intend to have children. It just screams: ‘young family’.
“The Mazda 2, on the other hand, is a sensible and fun light car that’s perfect for a young and independent female like me. I know that $20,690 is expensive for such a small car, particularly when you can pick up a micro-sized Mitsubishi Mirage or Kia Picanto for $15,000 or less, but the Genki has all of the features I desired in a new car and it delivers really good bang for the bucks.
“Before I took delivery, I did lose sleep over the large investment in the Mazda 2. But as soon as I laid eyes on my new ride once it arrived in the showroom, I knew I’d made the right decision.”
With her time in the long-term Mazda CX-3 up, Kathryn is back in her own little beast and, by all reports, continuing to enjoy her purchase.
Stay tuned for long-term report five, coming soon, for more on our 2016 Mazda CX-3 Maxx…
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.