Mazda raises bar

The CX-3 is al­ready our most pop­u­lar small SUV and, says Grant Ed­wards, safety tweaks put it fur­ther ahead

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE MAZDA CX-3 -

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.


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.

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