Judging by the current landscape of the automotive industry, it is fair to say that the compact crossover segment is where the money is going. Honda is tasting success with the ever practical HR-V, Renault is capturing big sales in the Europe with the Captur, and now Mazda wants a piece of that pie with the fifth offering to wear its famed Skyactiv badge – the all-new CX-3.
Having made its global debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2014, the B-segment crossover only made its way to our shores almost a year later. Here, the CX-3 is offered solely as a fully-imported (CBU) model fro Japan with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, while other markets such as Australia and the UK have a more frugal option in the form of a 1.5-litre turbo diesel unit.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the CX-3 is based on the 3 because of the nomenclature. The crossover actually takes its basis from the 2 hatchback – similar to how the HR-V is based on the Jazz and the Captur uses the same platform as the Clio. Of course, there are adjustments made to the dimensions of the car. While the wheelbase remain unchanged at 2,570 mm, the CX-3 is actually 215 mm longer, 70 mm wider and 65 mm taller than the 2. Weight has also gone up from 1,056 to 1,211 kg, though that is to be expected when a small car is transformed into a crossover.
The CX-3 may be contesting in a crowded market segment but it certainly has the superficial edge to stand out among its competitors, thanks to Mazda’s Kodo – Soul of Motion design language. The sharp styling on the front fascia makes the CX-3 look more menacing than any of the automaker’s current crossovers, while a character line down the side of the car and its “floating roof” design put the car above its Japanese and French competitors. It looks the sportiest among its rivals, too, with a rear spoiler, twin exhaust pipes, and 18-inch wheels wrapped in Toyo Proxes tyres.
The cabin of the CX-3 seems like a familiar place to be, if you’ve ever been in its hatchback cousin. Here, Mazda showcases its know-how in keeping things simple yet very functional. The seven-inch tablet-like touch display is isolated on top of the dashboard, giving a sense of spaciousness around the centre console area, while the rotary knob located near the gear lever makes fiddling with the infotainment system effortless. The knobs and buttons feel solid, while the tasteful leather trim with red stitching and faux carbon-fibre trim evoke luxury and proper craftsmanship.
It is also a pleasant place spend your time in – at least when you’re sitting in front. The seats, wrapped in leather complete with suede-like inserts, are comfortable for long distance excursions and supportive enough if you decide to go silly around the bends. Overall visibility is excellent, despite the high beltline and small rear windscreen. As expected, the second-row seating feels slightly cramped and has limited leg and shoulder room. That said, a powered sunroof – which is a standard feature – somehow mitigates the sense of confinement in the cabin.
On the performance front, the CX-3 has quite some grunt to match its athletic demeanour. The crossover enjoys a whole of 154 hp at 6,000 rpm, and 204 Nm of torque that peaks at 2,800 rpm courtesy of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine, making it the segment leader in terms of power output. The naturally-aspirated petrol unit has a truly dynamic character – it is smooth when you’re gentle with the throttle, and relentless when put through its paces. It also screams every time the rpm needle goes high up the rev range – which can be easily done in Sport mode.
Despite rolling on a high riding position, the CX-3 drives almost like a normal sedan. We won’t go as far as to say it is a real driver’s car, but from the excellent driving position to the well-tuned suspension, to the vast amount of front grip, the crossover has all the right ingredients for an engaging drive. The Electronic Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) feels a tad too light for aggressive driving but works perfectly if you need to make a tight U-turn or park the car in a small lot. A reverse camera makes backing into and out of a parking spot all the more easy while a head-up display helps you keep your eyes on the road.
The CX-3 has all the criteria to make it a worthy contender in the segment, but the car is not perfect. The tyres are noisy at high speeds (which is expected, considering the size), and the i-Stop system – though beneficial on the fuel consumption front – can be somewhat intrusive especially when you’re stuck in traffic. The limited cargo space is another aspect to be considered if you plan to use the CX-3 as a people carrier.
Well, if you’re in the market for a crossover, this Mazda should be among the top candidates, despite its steep price tag. Its styling is the best in its class, the cabin is sporty yet functional and comfortable, while the chassis and drivetrain are match made in heaven. As mentioned, the CX-3 has its drawbacks but those are easily forgotten (at least for us) when you just take a step back and behold its sheer beauty.
|Price (RM)||RM135,143 OTR with insurance|
|Power||154 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque||204 Nm @ 2,800 rpm|
|Kerb Weight||1,211 kg|
|Front Suspension||MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam|
|Front Brakes||Ventilated Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Solid Disc|
|Tyres Size||215/50 R18|