Still a hoot to drive, now with more toys and less noise

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

IN A field lit­tered with drab of­fer­ings, the Mazda CX-3 has al­ways been a safe haven for en­thu­si­asts who want a small SUV that’s both stylish and fun to drive. Mazda has up­dated its en­trylevel SUV for 2018 with a facelift that boosts value, re­jigs the model line-up and places a stronger fo­cus on cabin re­fine­ment to try and fix the CX-3’S con­sis­tent nig­gle of poor NVH.

To this end, a thicker head­liner, outer door pan­els, ad­di­tional seals, and bet­ter glass have been fit­ted. How­ever, over­all im­prove­ments seem min­i­mal with wind and tyre noise still very much ap­par­ent.

The CX-3’S equip­ment list has been length­ened (see side­bar, right) while ex­te­rior styling has been sub­tly re­vised. In­side, the most sig­nif­i­cant change is the re­place­ment of the con­ven­tional hand­brake lever with an elec­tronic park­ing brake.

Sub­tle chas­sis tweaks en­sure the CX-3 re­mains one of the most dy­nam­i­cally en­gag­ing SUVS in its class. The chas­sis re­mains beau­ti­fully bal­anced; cru­cially the ride is now im­proved with new springs and dampers iron­ing our larger bumps, while thicker anti-roll bars help to re­duce body­roll. Mazda’s G-vec­tor­ing Con­trol tech has also been added and the CX-3’S steer­ing re­mains crisp and is nat­u­rally weighted.

The 2.0-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated petrol en­gine car­ries over for this up­date and it re­mains as tractable as ever, though it’s been re-ho­molo­gated with minute in­creases of 1kw and 3Nm. A 1.8-litre diesel pro­duc­ing 85kw/270nm re­places the old 1.5-litre. All petrol vari­ants get a six-speed man­ual as stan­dard, with the six-speed au­to­matic a $2000 pre­mium. The self-shift­ing trans­mis­sion is a smooth unit, though it does have a ten­dency to kick down a ra­tio too ea­gerly, re­sult­ing in a noisy flare of revs which does noth­ing to im­prove cabin re­fine­ment.

Mazda claims an un­changed com­bined fuel econ­omy of 6.3-6.7L/100km de­pend­ing on trans­mis­sion and wheel sizes for the petrol, and 4.7-5.1L/100km for the diesel (which is a slight improve­ment over the pre­vi­ous unit). Both pow­er­trains are avail­able in AWD and FWD.

With buy­ers flock­ing to the small SUV seg­ment the CX-3 has an in­creas­ingly tough task ahead of it as con­vinc­ing new con­tenders like the Toy­ota C-HR and Hyundai Kona en­croach on its turf. While the styling tweaks keep it look­ing fresh, the real gains here are found in the im­proved equip­ment and the greater sheen of pol­ish to an al­ready ex­cel­lent dy­namic pack­age. Sadly, this up­date hasn’t quite ironed out the NVH is­sues.


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