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2019 Mazda CX-3 review

Wheels Magazine logo Wheels Magazine 28/8/2018 Cameron Kirby
2019 Mazda cx-3 © Wheels Staff 2019 Mazda cx-3

WHAT IS IT?

A mild mid-life update for Mazda’s smallest SUV offering, the CX-3. Still riding on the same platform shared with the Mazda 2, the crossover has been tweaked outside and in, along with fine-tuning under the skin, to ensure it remains a top-seller.

WHY WE’RE TESTING IT

Private buyers can’t get enough of the CX-3, and these updates keep the styling fresh and claim to improve passenger comfort and cabin refinement. We took the opportunity to get behind the wheel and see if the hugely popular small SUV deserves to keep its crown.

a green car parked on the side of the road: 2019 Mazda CX-3 rear © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd 2019 Mazda CX-3 rear

MAIN RIVALS

Toyota C-HR, Holden Trax, Mitsubishi ASX, Peugeot 2008, Haval H2, Nissan Juke, Suzuki S-Cross, Hyundai Kona, Ford EcoSport, Subaru XV

THE WHEELS VERDICT

Mazda has avoided change for change’s sake with this round of CX-3 updates. Improvements are few in number, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when the product is still working well years after its launch. The CX-3 remains dynamically engaging and attractive inside and out. Its small stature limits its practicality, and though NVH has been subtly improved, overall refinement isn’t class-leading.

PLUSIncreased value offering; strong dynamic appeal; small improvements to ride and NVH

MINUSStill not as practical as some competitors (it’s hard to facelift a small boot); outward vision from rear seats isn’t great, auto ’box calibration can be too rev-happy

a car parked on the side of a road: Mazda CX-3 © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Mazda CX-3

THE WHEELS REVIEW

Those trusty engineers back at Mazda headquarters have been busily fine-tuning their popular small SUV and prepared this mild facelift. They’ve devised a series of subtle changes that aim to improve the CX-3’s day-to-day livability and keep it at the forefront of the segment for sales.

Improving cabin refinement was a primary target, which has been tackled using thicker insulation to minimise road noise and better door seals for less wind noise, while revised spring rates and larger diameter dampers are designed to suppress the choppiness of the ride.

Read next: 2018 Hyundai Kona v Mazda CX-3 v Toyota C-HR v Subaru XV comparison review

The outcome is a mildly better CX-3 rather than a majorly revamped one, but it’s enough to keep the evergreen, Mazda 2-based SUV match-fit against an increasingly hot field of rivals.

Petrol buyers have the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine option with tiny performance bumps bringing it to 110kW/195Nm. It’s available with a manual or six-speed auto ’box depending on trim. For the one percent of buyers that Mazda reckons will opt for a diesel, there’s a new 1.8-litre oil-burner producing 85kW and 270Nm that replaces the old 1.5 that made 8kW less.

a car parked in a parking lot: Mazda CX-3 © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Mazda CX-3 Exterior styling changes are limited to a new LED brake light for the range-topping Akari, a tweaked grille design on all variants, and chrome fog-light embellishments. Interior updates include the deletion of a manual handbrake, now replaced with an electronic unit and a switch. This has allowed the MZD Connect infotainment system’s controls to be moved to a more ergonomic placement. Cabin materials have also been revised, most notably in the flagship Akari variant with its dash receiving a stylish swathe of suede.

On the road, the CX-3 remains as dynamically engaging as ever, helped by its low-slung seating position. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control technology has been added, and the small SUV’s steering feels crisp, with a lovely, progressive rack and well-judged weighting that falls into the Goldilocks bracket between too heavy and too light.

Read next: 2017 Mazda CX-3: Which spec is best?

Hiroshima’s engineers believe passenger movement has been decreased thanks to the damper adjustments, and those decibels are lower inside, but it would take a back-to-back drive with the old car to distinguish those differences. Ride refinement, however, is improved on uneven roads, with the car remaining poised and controlled through nasty mid-corner bumps.

Mazda’s SkyActiv petrol engine remains something of a naturally aspirated anomaly in an increasingly turbocharged segment. Its power output is adequate for this application, though it does need revs to give its best with peak power arriving at 6000rpm. The gearbox calibration is tailored to find the power band on demand but sometimes feels over eager to shift down under mild acceleration.

a piece of luggage sitting on top of a car: Mazda CX-3 © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Mazda CX-3 Unfortunately, the carryover engine’s need for the higher reaches of its rev-range makes Mazda’s efforts to improve NVH less obvious, and turbocharged rivals such as the Toyota C-HR do provide a more hushed cabin experience.

That said, the Mazda CX-3’s sales success isn’t unfounded, and the brand has done well to tweak one of the segment’s most popular offerings to keep it on buyer’s consideration lists. Expect this little success story to stay at the pointy end of the sales race.

2019 MAZDA CX-3 SPECS

Model: 2018 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport 

Engine: 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v 

Max Power: 110kW @6000rpm 

Max Torque: 195Nm @2800rpm 

Transmission: Six-speed automatic 

Weight: 1297kg 

0-100km/h: 10.0sec (estimated) 

Fuel economy: 6.3L/100km 

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