Mazda raises bar
The CX-3 is already our most popular small SUV and, says Grant Edwards, safety tweaks put it further ahead
IT’S barely two years since Mazda launched the CX-3 but the maker is tinkering with the formula already.
This illustrates just how quickly things are moving in the car industry these days. Stand still for a second and you’re in danger of being overtaken.
The changes to Australia’s most popular baby SUV are subtle — all the action has occurred beneath the highriding hatch’s skin, with evolutionary progression in safety, ride quality and driving dynamics.
Progress comes at a price — the cheapest Neo model is up by $500 to $20,490 plus on-roads for the manual (add $2000 for the auto), while the secondshelf Maxx has also risen by $500 to start from $22,890 (allwheel drive adds $4000 with a self-shifter).
The third-tier sTouring remains the same from $26,990, while the range-topping Akari rises $200 to $35,490 for the petrol and $37,890 with a diesel.
Mazda product planner Minoru Takata reckons the marque has avoided gratuitous change. “We focused on refinement rather than wholesale changes,” he says.
You’ll need a keen eye to spot the visual changes. There’s a new shade of blue, while more expensive models get gunmetal 18-inch alloys.
Engine options are unchanged, either the 2.0-litre petrol or the unloved 1.5-litre diesel — which accounts for only about 3 per cent of sales.
The biggest change is the addition of auto emergency braking on all models, which unlike rivals works in forward and reverse.
This tech, which Mazda calls Smart City Brake Support, monitors the surroundings to assess the likelihood of a collision. If there is a high risk, it warns the driver and brakes automatically if needed.
Disappointingly, Mazda continues to refuse to fit a standard reversing camera to the Neo. The option costs almost $800.
Stepping up into the Maxx grade — as most buyers do — gains blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and reversing camera. Next up, the sTouring now has a drowsiness alert as well as speed limit sign recognition and the Akari adds lane keeping assist, adaptive LED headlamps and front parking sensors.
ON THE ROAD
Mazda claims its incremental improvements to the suspension improve comfort and dynamics.
It has added new engine mounts in petrol models and additional sound deadening material to limit wind, tyre and engine rumbles, although it’s hard to notice without a previous model for comparison.
The range also picks up suspension changes to improve steering response, along with Mazda’s much-vaunted G-Vectoring software, which reduces engine power in milliseconds when cornering to put more weight over the front tyres and deliver more grip in the bends.
As with most passive safety features, it’s imperceptible and the average person would struggle to feel it. Without doubt the little Mazda is supremely confident and adept, whether cruising through town or cutting a swath through winding rural roads at 100km/h.
Diesel models should also have more refinement with updates to reduce vibrations and noise.
One of the biggest changes comes via a new steering wheel that feels better in the hands. The driver’s instrument cluster is updated with sharper needles, gauges and fonts.
Rock-solid with an attractive skin, the market-leading CX-3 raises the bar again on safety and roadholding ability.
The other tweaks and refinements burnish the existing shine and should keep the baby Mazda ahead of the chasing pack.