Buyers can pick from three engines: a 118bhp 2.0-litre petrol, a 148bhp 2.0-litre petrol or a 1.5-litre diesel. The entry-level petrol may be the least powerful but it delivers decent performance and has a willing, sporty nature. It’s a little gruff under acceleration but it’s quiet when cruising and offers a decent amount of low-down shove, even at higher speeds, despite the lack of a turbocharger.
Next up is the 148bhp version. This produces the same torque as the 118bhp model and is saddled with four-wheel drive so isn’t much faster in the real world. So, unless you want or need four-wheel drive, we’d recommend sticking with the 118bhp engine.
The diesel has just about enough low-rev pull and gets the CX-3 down the road briskly enough. Its in-gear pulling power makes it easy to accelerate at higher speeds, too. It’s not as eager as the petrol engines, though.
Mazda CX-3 ride comfort
Can be a bit uncompromising
Firm suspension means the CX-3 doesn’t lean much in corners. This makes it feel more stable and sporting than softly sprung alternatives, such as the Citroen C4 Cactus. The compromise is that it doesn’t ride as well, with sharp edges and potholes sending vibrations and jolts through the cabin.
Across country, this isn’t much of a problem, but on the motorways, where there are lots of expansion joints and cracks in the road, it can become an annoyance.
SE and SE-L models come with 16-inch alloys but the Sport Nav gets larger 18-inch wheels, which make the ride even firmer.
Mazda CX-3 handling
Great fun on twisty roads
Few compact crossovers are as gratifying to drive as the Mazda. Its steering is precise and quick and there’s lots of front-end grip. This, in conjunction with its firm suspension and eager petrol engines, make the CX-3 a competent and rewarding car to drive. It feels remarkably like a conventional well-sorted hatchback on the road, as a result, and is very stable and controllable.
Admittedly, its steering could do with a little extra weight at higher speeds but at least it’s not excessively heavy when you’re manoeuvring the Mazda into parking spaces.
Mazda CX-3 refinement
Slick controls but some road noise
The Mazda CX-3 is quiet enough on the move to avoid you having to raise your voice, even at motorway speeds, but its stiff suspension does cause some intrusive noise over bumps. It’s not intolerable though, and about average in its class.
The petrol engines can be gruff, and aren’t as smooth as some of those in rivals, but the performance they offer more than compensates. The diesel is noisier than the petrol, and there’s some vibration through the pedals and wheel, but it’s perfectly tolerable.
All of the controls are slick and well weighted, without overly sharp responses, which contributes to the Mazda’s excellent on-road manners. Its manual gearshift is precise and doesn’t require much effort, and the automatic gearbox works well, too.
Many buyers will find the entry-level petrol a good choice. It’s a little coarse but it spins up eagerly, makes quite a good noise and delivers decent performance. It can be had with a manual gearbox or an optional automatic, but there’s no option of four-wheel drive.
2.0 SKYACTIV-G 150ps
The higher-powered petrol option is available only with a manual gearbox and four-wheel drive. Its extra punch will come in handy if you’re regularly carrying lots of passengers or luggage and the efficiency penalty isn’t outrageous.
1.5 SKYACTIV-D 105ps
The sole diesel choice in the range is a serviceable, if not particularly refined, choice. Its performance is acceptable but the petrol options are far more eager. It can be had with a manual or an automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive versions are available.