- Interior has a premium feel
- Sleek exterior styling
- Fun to drive
- Limited engine range
- No hybrid version
- Not that much space in the back
The Mazda CX-3 is a compact SUV that gives you a sportier look and drive than most of its rivals. It’s certainly not the least expensive car of its type, but every version is very well equipped and running costs are low.
Few would disagree that the CX-3 is one of the most attractive small SUVs around, or that it’s one of the most fun to drive. While many rivals are more practical, the CX-3 is spacious and versatile enough to suit a young family and what the interior lacks in space is more than made up for in style and quality.
There’s a fairly limited range of engines and trims to choose from but every version provides decent performance, inexpensive running costs and a very impressive amount of standard equipment.
The interior of the CX-3 is simply yet attractively styled and has a more premium feel than many of its rivals. The infotainment screen, perched on top of the dashboard, is controlled by a rotary dial and series of buttons next to the gear stick, which means both driver and front passenger can easily cycle through the system’s menus.
There’s plenty of space for the driver and front passenger but things are a little more of a squeeze in the back. Taller people might feel a little bit cramped but there’s enough headroom and legroom for kids so the CX-3 is fine for those with younger children.
Space in the boot is about average for this type of car, with a 350-litre capacity that’s much the same as that of hatchbacks such the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. It’s enough for three medium suitcases, but some other small SUVs offer more outright boot space.
The way the CX-3 drives is one of its best qualities. As with most Mazdas, it feels nimble and responsive, while the steering gives you a great feel for the road.
The suspension keeps the car well controlled through corners and although the ride is a bit more bumpy than in some rivals it’s smooth enough to keep you and your passengers comfortable. While it’s perfectly at home on the motorway, the CX-3 is at its best in town thanks to its compact size and responsive nature.
The engine range is quite small and you have to work the petrol-engined models a bit hard to get the best performance from them. Unlike in rivals’ turbocharged petrol engines, the non-turbo engines in the CX-3 only give their best performance at quite high revs.
Although the CX-3 is more expensive than some rivals it’s better equipped than many of them. Even the most basic models come with air conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control and sat nav.
Average official fuel economy for the diesel models is about 50mpg, while the figure for petrol models is about 40mpg. That’s pretty good, but some rivals are more fuel-efficient. There’s no hybrid or electric model available but you can go for a four-wheel-drive version. We would only recommend these if you regularly drive where road surface conditions are poor because four-wheel-drive versions of the CX-3 are heavier and use more fuel than their two-wheel drive equivalents.
Mazdas generally score well in owner satisfaction surveys, although the brand only achieved a middle-of-the-table score in the JD Power 2019 UK Vehicle Dependability Study. Even so, owners should find their CX-3s to be dependable.
As for safety, the CX-3 scored a good-but-not-perfect four stars in the Euro NCAP Safety assessment programme. CX-3s are available with a good range of high-tech safety features, however. All but the most basic models include automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
Best for economy - 1.8 SE Nav+ diesel
Best for family - 2.0 SE-L Nav+
Best for fun - 2.0 Sport Nav+
All versions of the Mazda CX-3 are well equipped, but the mid-range SE-L Nav+ adds useful extras like privacy glass, full climate control (rather than just basic air con), heated seats and rear parking sensors.
If you want your CX-3 to strike a more sporty note, then it’s worth going for the Sport models, which get a few extra styling tweaks. Pair this trim level with the most powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine for the full-on sporty flavour.