Mazda CX-3 hatchback performance
There are three engines to pick from: 119bhp and 148bhp 2.0-litre petrols or a 113bhp 1.8-litre diesel. The entry-level petrol and the diesel come with front-wheel drive, while the higher-power petrol is your only option if you want four-wheel drive (it gets this by default).
The least powerful (and our recommended) petrol delivers okay performance; 0-62mph for the manual version takes a respectable 9.0sec. But it’s going to provide that kind of pace only if you’re willing to rev the bejesus out of it; it doesn't have a turbocharger, you see, and if revs drop below 2500rpm, especially in higher gears, it’s about as accelerative as a somnolent slug. Despite having half the capacity, the turbocharged Arona 1.0 TSI 115 has more low-end surge. But don’t be too deterred, because if you keep the CX-3's revs up above that region, there’s reasonable pick-up for staying with the flow of motorway traffic.
We’re yet to try the 148bhp engine in this facelifted CX-3, but it’s essentially the same as it was in the previous iteration. It has more power than the 119bhp petrol but produces identical torque at similarly peaky revs, and because it sends drive to all four wheels, it isn’t much faster in the real world. So, unless you really need four-wheel drive, we wouldn’t bother.
If you want the most easily accessible performance in the range, choose the diesel. It’s slower than the petrols from 0-62mph (9.9sec) but delivers its oomph much lower down – from around 1500rpm - and feels faster in everyday driving as a result. For a diesel, it revs out keenly, too. The problem is it's available only in top-spec Sport Nav+ trim, making it pricey.
Mazda CX-3 hatchback ride
Despite being firmer-riding than some of its rivals, such as the C3 Aircross, the CX-3 feels better tied down and more composed over haphazardly undulating roads. It also manages to take the sting out of the sharper intrusions, such as potholes and expansion joints, without crashing and bashing too much.
That said, the Captur is still a little more supple around town road, while the Arona is a slightly better-riding car across country.
SE Nav+ and SE-L Nav+ models come with 16in alloys that offer the best ride, while Sport Nav+ trim gets larger 18in wheels that give it a firmer edge.
Mazda CX-3 hatchback handling
The CX-3 has two sides to its handling. Around town, the light steering means it demands little effort, although the poor steering lock can be an issue in tight multi-storey car parks.
Then on open roads, the minimal body roll and decent composure brought about by the firm suspension give the car a slightly sporting edge – certainly compared to the C3 Aircross and Captur.
That said, the steering is less ingratiating at higher speeds. It’s too ‘sticky’ around the straight-ahead, failing to return to centre as definitely as we’d like, and never builds enough weight or feel through corners. So, for an entertaining small SUV we’d look instead at the Arona or Kia Stonic.
Mazda CX-3 hatchback refinement
The petrol engines are loud and not as smooth as some competitors, partly because you need to rev them so hard; models such as the Arona 1.0 and 1.5 TSI and Captur 0.9 TCe spring to mind as quieter prospects. The diesel is louder still and shoots some vibrations through the gearlever and steering wheel, but it’s not rough-sounding for a diesel, and there are worse offerings in the class.
Beyond its engines, the CX-3 isn’t that quiet at high speed. There’s a noticeable flutter of wind noise from its door mirrors at 70mph and a fair bit of road and suspension noise – enough to get annoying on coarse or broken Tarmac. The Captur is less tiresome on a long journey as a result.
On the plus side, the CX-3's controls are slick and well weighted, which works to aid a smooth driving style. For example, the manual gearshift is precise and doesn’t require much effort, the automatic gearbox is slick and the brakes are progressive.