First Drive

2015 Mazda CX-3 review

Mazda's new Nissan Juke and Renault Captur rival joins the growing crossover market, but brings with it a new sense of maturity

Words ByJohn McIlroy

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Mazda has enjoyed deserved success with the practical, efficient CX-5 SUV. Now the Japanese firm is hoping to cash in on the burgeoning market for baby SUVs by launching its own rival for the Nissan Juke, the CX-3.

What is the 2015 Mazda CX-3 like to drive?

Based on the recently launched 2 supermini, the CX-3 comes with a choice of 2.0-litre petrol engines (with 118bhp or 148bhp), although the more powerful of those motors is reserved for pricey editions that also get four-wheel drive.

There’s also a 104bhp 1.5-litre diesel that can be specced with front- or four-wheel drive. All models get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but a six-speed automatic is an option.

Mazda clearly sees the CX-3 as a model above the 2 in its range, because it doesn’t come cheap. Even the entry-level SE edition with the lower-powered petrol engine will set you back Β£17,595 – almost Β£4000 more than the cheapest Juke – and you can take diesel editions all the way up to an eye-watering Β£24,695 for a four-wheel-drive automatic version.

That relatively high asking price does bring you a decent slug of standard kit, however. Every CX-3 gets a 7in touchscreen, plus DAB, Bluetooth, air-con, alloy wheels and heated, electrically folding door mirrors, and you don’t have to go too far up the range before the equipment includes heated front seats, rear parking sensors, climate control and rain-sensing wipers.

On the road the CX-3 feels accomplished and well sorted. We tried the front-wheel-drive diesel edition that could account for around a third of UK sales, and it manages to feel a little more grown-up than the class average. The steering is nicely weighted and precise, and the gearshift has a pleasing, mechanical action.

However, the engine isn’t that happy when you work it hard – you get a rasping note from about 2500rpm – but there’s plenty of low-down shove so you shouldn’t have to stress it too often. It settles down at a cruise; you’re more likely to be bothered by wind noise from around the base of the windscreen pillars when you’re travelling along a motorway. The petrol engine is a bit smoother when it’s being revved hard, mind you.

As with the 2, the suspension set-up is on the firm edge of comfortable, which is to say that you’ll be fine most of the time, and the CX-3 stays admirably flat through corners. You will feel bridge expansion joints and sharper road imperfections coming through to the cabin, though. Our car was on the 16in wheels that will feature on SE and SE L editions, and we’d certainly want a test drive before committing to the 18in alloys that come with Sport models.

What is the 2015 Mazda CX-3 like inside?

The CX-3’s cabin is undeniably influenced by the 2 on which it’s based. The fascia is neatly styled and features a solid blend of well-textured but hard plastics on its top, and padded leather-effect material on the front, with lines of double stitching in all the right places.

The overall impression of quality is a clear step above anything a Juke can muster – and the CX-3’s clear, easy-to-use 7in colour display is at least a match for the system in the Captur.

There’s plenty of room up front for a couple of adults, with decent shoulder room and head room, but the rear cabin can’t quite match the CX-3’s positioning above regular superminis, because six-footers will start to grumble on longer journeys.

This trend extends to the boot; it’s a useful size, at 350 litres, and there’s an adjustable floor in the luggage bay that allows you to prioritise space or minimise the lip over which you have to load in heavier items. Just don’t expect the CX-3 to match the everyday capacity of a Ford Focus or VW Golf.

Should I buy one?

Like so many of its rivals, The CX-3 can’t match a conventional five-door family hatchback for out-and-out practicality.

However, it does offer an appealing standard equipment list and strong driving dynamics – and if you’ve decided to go for something different then the Mazda’s chunky looks could seal the deal.

Stick to one of the cheaper trim levels, in fact, and we think you’ll be buying one of the most appealing baby SUVs on the market.

What Car? says

Mazda CX-3 1.5 SkyActiv-D

Engine size 1.5-litre diesel

Price from Β£18,995

Power 105bhp

Torque 199lb ft

0-62mph 10.1 seconds

Top speed 110mph

Fuel economy 70.6mpg

CO2 105g/km