The new Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback is a fun compact SUV that’s affordable to run. It also looks great and can boast a hassle-free but very pleasant interior.
Its strength lies where many Mazda strengths lie – behind the wheel. Arguably one of the best – if not the best – cars to drive in this class, it will appeal to growing families who still want to be entertained.
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OSV takes a closer look at what it’s all about with our 2018 Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback review.
Overview of the Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback
On the Road
Mazda have again relied on their excellent SkyActiv technology to boost the cars driving dynamics, and it combines with a lightweight, stiff body shell. Handling is nice and sharp and the car is even better to drive than last time.
This improvement was made possible by a few tweaks to the CX-3’s MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension. The damper rates are a tad different too, which has given ride quality a bit of a boost.
Meanwhile, Mazda have also added a different calibration for the steering, which has further increased the fun factor.
Then there’s the introduction of a system called G-Vectoring Control. This is standard on all models, and its role is to reduce engine torque ever so slightly when you turn the wheel. This enhances dynamics by putting more weight on the front axle.
Overall, the CX-3 is easily what you’d call a drivers car. That said, it’s always a good idea to test cars like this out on a number of surfaces before you buy.
In terms of its engines, there’s just the one Diesel to choose from. This is a 1.8-litre SkyActiv unit that’s affordable to run, and which develops a healthy 105bhp. It can get you from rest to 62mph in just less than 10.0 seconds, and it’s generally refined and smooth. If you push it hard it will growl, and it can also be a bit hesitant low down in the rev range. On the whole, though, it’s our top pick because it offers the best mix of performance and economy.
Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback Interior, Design and Build
Take one quick look at its cabin and you might think it looks a bit of a plain Jane. If first impressions are everything, it will lose out.
However, once you’re inside and all settled, you’ll soon find that the CX-3 is home to a very pleasant, functional and at times classy cabin.
It’s a tad lower slung than many of its rivals but other than that we don’t have too many complaints. A single binnacle is the foundation for a clear and logical instrument display, while a 7″ colour touch screen otherwise dominates the dashboard. It’s not as intuitive as we’d like, nor is it the easiest infotainment system to get to grips with. However, it comes complete with sat nav.
A rotary MultiMedia Commander controller is far easier to use but its menu layout can get confusing.
Fit and finish is good, and the overall quality is excellent. You have the option to add contrast stitching and leather if you wish, but we think most buyers will be happy with this cabin in standard guise.
Is the Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback practical? It’s a bit too compact for anyone who needs a car to regularly ferry five adults around, but it will appeal to young families. Its fairly small frame means that it’s easy enough to park, but because it isn’t much larger than the Mazda 2, space in the rear is a bit cramped.
Space up front is fine, and the supportive seats provide lots of comfort. The driver’s seat is low set, while the wheel is rake and reach adjustable.
Rear legroom, however, is poor and fares unfavourably with rivals.
The boot is more reasonably sized and measures 350-litres. That’s average for this class and should suit a number of buyers. Anyone who needs luggage space for four people will have to look elsewhere though. Worse still, if you opt for the range topping trim, boot space shrinks to 287-litres due to a sound system. Sacrifices, eh?
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Equipment and Safety of the Mazda CX-3
There are three trim levels to choose from and all models are well kitted out. The entry-level model comes with a leather steering wheel, cruise control, air con, a digital radio, Bluetooth, and sat nav.
Go for the mid-range model and you also get automatic lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, climate control and automatic lights and wipers.
The Sport Nav model tops things off with 18″ silver alloys, chrome effect body trim, signature LED rear lights and keyless entry.
Safety wise, Euro NCAP awarded it four stars for its crash test performance. Standard safety kit is actually quite good though and includes 6 airbags, electronic stability control, emergency stop signalling, and hill hold assistance.
Costs of the Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback
Prices for the new car start out from £18,995 and rise to £24,995. For more information on our leasing deals, check out our page here.
In terms of its running costs, the 1.8-litre SKYACTIV diesel is the most frugal engine in the range. It can return as much as 64.2mpg on a good day and emits 114g/km of CO2. That’s not too bad but you’ll find that there are rival cars that are cheaper to run. It has a BiK rating of 27% and occupies insurance groups 13 to 19.
Pros and Cons of the Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback
Feels like a premium product
It’s not quite a premium car but the CX-3 is very high in quality.
There’s only one diesel available but it offers an excellent mix of economy and performance.
This is one of the best cars to drive in this sector, and it has plenty of driver appeal.
Can get loud
At speed, the diesel does bark and tyre noise is also a bit of an issue.
Rear legroom is especially poor and there’ll be grumbles from your passengers back there on longer trips.
Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback vs Renault Captur vs Citroen C3 Aircross
Let’s see how the car fares against its rivals in the comparison section of our 2018 Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback Review.
Mazda CX-3 vs Renault Captur
The new Renault Captur is a popular compact SUV that’s comfortable, practical and affordable.
It’s not as much fun to drive as the Mazda, and indeed it feels a lot like the Clio. This means it’s right at home in the towns and cities, where its light steering proves useful.
Out of the city, however, it’s a bit less assured. Its steering is overly vague and lacks feel, and excess body lean is a bit of a problem.
That said, it’s comfortable and relaxing on longer trips.
In terms of its engines, there’s only one diesel available and it isn’t very big. It’s a 1.5-litre unit that develops just 89bhp. Performance is reasonable and it does cope well with the cover over longer distances. On the other hand, it also rattles and makes a nasty vibration that can be off-putting.
Running costs? The fact that the sole diesel engine is so small helps with economy. Although official figures still haven’t been released, we can see it returning over 60mpg on a good day. It emits 138g/km of CO2 and has a BiK rating of 32%. All models come with an Eco button that helps you keep costs down.
Inside, the cabin is comfortable – perhaps the most comfortable in this class – but it isn’t the best for quality. While some of the interior plastics look and feel good, other surfaces are harder and scratchier.
There’s plenty of scope for personalisation, while a recent facelift has improved the dashboard. A two-tone covering has made it more attractive, as have lighter shades.
Is the Renault Captur practical? It’s based on the Clio but bigger, although it’s not the biggest or the most practical in this class.
Rear legroom is decent and the rear seats can slide back and forth, while a short bonnet means the car is fairly easy to park. Space up front is good and storage solutions are fine. However, UK models miss out on the large 11-litre glovebox that our European friends get.
The boot meanwhile, measures 377-litres and you can extend that to 455 by pushing the rear seats forward.
Mazda – £18,995 – £24,995
Renault – £15,300 – £21,100
Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback vs Citroen C3 Aircross
The new Citroen C3 Aircross is a uniquely styled family car that’s comfortable and quirky.
We like the way it drives, and although it can’t give the Mazda a run for its money in the entertainment stakes, this Citroen is competent and well mannered.
Body lean is controlled well, while the soft springs and tall height mean that ride quality is right up there with some of the best in this class.
In terms of its engines, a BlueHDi 1.6-litre diesel is available with two separate power outputs. The smaller of the two develops 98bhp and takes 12.8 seconds to complete the 0-62 dash. That’s going to make it too slow for most buyers who’ll likely take a chance on the bigger 118bhp variant of the same engine.
This version accelerates with plenty of conviction and it feels nice and smooth at lower revs. The problem is that it’s not as smooth higher up the rev range, while its gearbox isn’t as accurate as we’d like.
Running costs? The smallest diesel variant is super cost-effective and can return as much as 70mpg on a good day while emitting just over 100g/km of CO2.
The bigger 118bhp variant isn’t much more expensive to run and can return just over 68mpg at best. It emits 107g/km of CO2 and has a BiK rating of 23%.
Inside, Citroen say they wanted to make it feel as though you were sat in your living room. To that end, they’ve added wide seats that are plenty supportive and comfortable.
Ride quality is excellent, as is insulation, and the cabin is a truly relaxing place to spend your time on the road.
It’s a fairly attractive cabin too, with Citroen allowing for plenty of customisation. Tick the HypeColorado box and you’ll benefit from a lovely two-tone interior.
The dashboard is clean and nice to look at, and everything is nicely arranged.
Is the Citroen C3 Aircross practical? It’s compact enough to make your life easy when it comes time to park, and there’s enough room for four adults to be comfortable on longer trips.
Headroom is especially good, but anyone who’s over six foot will struggle for space in the rear.
The boot meanwhile, measures 410-litres and increases to 1,289 when you fold the rear seats.
Citroen – £14,700 – £20,035
Verdict of our 2018 Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback Review
Prices are a bit high, to begin with, but there’s lots to like about this fun compact crossover. It’s got the looks, it’s got the tech and it’s got the cabin quality. Provided you’ll be using it to transport children or young teens around, as opposed to four adults, it’s also reasonably practical. The new Mazda CX-3 Diesel Hatchback is a modern car for the modern family.
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