2021 Mazda CX 3 Maxx Sport 5

What is it?

Most people think CX-3 is the SUV equivalent of the Mazda3 hatch.

Well, it’s not. It’s actually based on the smaller Mazda 2 hatch. The newer Mazda CX-30 is in fact the partner of the Mazda3.

That’s a long and perhaps drawn out way of explaining why the CX-3 is smaller inside than you might expect. Even so it’s Mazda’s third largest selling model with more than 13,000 sales last year.

2021 Mazda CX 3 Maxx Sport 4

What’s it cost?

Prices start from $22,890 plus on-roads.

There’s half a dozen grades and they’re all powered by the same 2.0-litre, four cylinder petrol engine, but available in either front or all-wheel drive.

Kicking off the CX-3 range is the Neo, followed by Maxx Sport, Maxx Sport LE, sTouring, Akari and Akari LE, with prices ranging from $22,890 to $38,690.

An auto adds $2000 to the price, while all-wheel drive effectively boosts the figure another $4000.

Competitors include the Hyundai Venue, Kia Stonic, Nissan Juke, Toyota Yaris Cross and the Volkswagen T-Cross.

Our test vehicle was the front-wheel drive Maxx Sport priced from $24,890, with the optional 6-speed auto taking that figure to $26,890 — or about $27,990 driveaway.

Standard kit includes cloth trim and climate control air conditioning, along with 16-inch alloys, push button start, auto lights and wipers, and an auto dimming rear view mirror.

There’s also cruise control, rear parking sensors, electric parking brake with auto hold function, 7.0-inch touchscreen, with Bluetooth, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 6-speaker audio with AM/FM and DAB+ digital radio.

Safety extends to six airbags, reverse camera, Smart City Brake Support with night time pedestrian recognition, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

CX-3 comes with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and 5-year roadside assistance.

2021 Mazda CX 3 Maxx Sport 6

What’s it go like?

The 2.0-litre four cylinder engine produces 110kW of power at 6000 rpm and 195Nm of torque at 2800 rpm.

With the 6-speed auto installed and automatic stop-start to minimise fuel use, claimed fuel consumption is 6.3L/100km.

You don’t get gear change paddles with this one, but you can change gears manually using the shifter and sport mode is also available.

Start is via push button, with a leather clad steering wheel and shift knob, plus an electrically operated hand brake.

The instrument panel features a single, large analogue speedo with info displays either side — all in flat, almost retro grey.

CX-3 was updated at the beginning of the year, with the addition among other things of re-designed seats.

They’re the same as those in Mazda3 and CX-30 and feature a newly developed internal structure designed to reduce driver fatigue.

The seats are reasonably comfortable, but there’s very little room in the back seat and limited luggage space too.

CX-3 is a good looking car, with great proportions, but the wheels look small and low rent, despite the fact they’re alloys with 215/60 series Bridgestone Turanza rubber.

Strangely, the tyre pressure warning light came on soon after we got into the car for the first and stayed on for the entire week we had the car.

I say strange because the exact same thing happened to one of our other reporters two years ago, which suggests there might be some kind of a problem with the pressure monitoring system that they have been unable to iron out.

Dynamically CVX-3 is quite good to drive, but the revy 2.0-litre engine is a noisy unit in the confines of what is a relatively space and, to be blunt, sounds terrible — all dry and breathless.

It creates and leaves a bad first impression that is difficult to shake.

Maximum power and torque are developed high in the rev range which means basically that you have to get up it to get it going.

The 6-speed auto (at first I thought it was a damn CVT) works well with timely, smooth shifts between gears.

Engaging sport mode keeps engine revs high where it’s needed, but as a result the engine becomes noisy and intolerable for lengthy use.

You can also change gears manually using the shifter, but sport mode is good enough to make manual changing almost redundant.

If you can get past the noise, the car is actually quite fun to drive within limits, with responsive steering, decent braking and tyres that have plenty of grip.

But the ride, at least on back roads, verges on the wrong side of the ledger.

Over the course of the week, we clocked up 450km at a rate of 8.7L/100km.

That’s nowhere near the 6.3 promised and it was an unexpected outcome given our previous experience with the brand.

2021 Mazda CX 3 Maxx Sport 9

What we like?

  • Looks smart
  • Lots of stuff thrown in
  • Easy to get in and out of
  • Reasonably comfortable to drive
  • Built-in satellite navigation

2021 Mazda CX 3 Maxx Sport 10

What we don’t like?

  • Small inside
  • Small luggage area
  • Limited rear legroom
  • Higher than expected fuel use
  • No digital speedo

2021 Mazda CX 3 Maxx Sport 8

The bottom line?

It’s a winner at the box office.

CX-3 looks good, is well equipped and ticks most of the boxes.

But it’s smaller than you might think. So, be sure to take it for a run and check out the back seat for legroom and don’t forget to poke your head in the boot.

2021 Mazda CX 3 Maxx Sport 7

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CHECKOUT: Mazda CX-30: Allure of the Pure

 

Mazda CX-3 2.0 Maxx Sport, priced from $24,890
  • Looks - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Performance - 7/10
    7/10
  • Safety - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Thirst - 7/10
    7/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
7.5/10
Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport: The 2 -- not the 3

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.