Road Test: Mazda CX-3 2.0 SkyActiv Automatic

Mazda CX-3 is stylish and pretty

The Mazda CX-3 ticks almost all the boxes. We have a closer look and see if the stylish newcomer can compete against the turbos with it’s normally aspirated engine.

Plush Interior

The infotainment system in Mazda’s CX-3 is similar to the Mazda 6.  The touch-screen dash display is clear and easy to use, although I did find the touch function could be a bit slow at times. The volume knob, located on the center console is not as ergonomic as in the 6, but it’s convenient none the less. Carbon fibre look is now cool and even thought it doesn’t seem to be real carbon it makes the cabin feel every bit as cozy, if not more so than the competition.

The door cards also contain some “carbon fibre” and this combined with the soft suede trim on our test car really reinforced the premium feel inside the cabin.  This was completed by the all enveloping plastic that runs all the way around the dashboard.  The heads-up display is easy and not at all distracting and I had mine setup to show the speed limit and speed for the entire week of “ownership”.

Seats are half leather and half suede, and Mazda CX-3 also, strangely, comes with a CD player. The USB is located conveniently but is visible to would be thieves. Not much of a concern for this motoring journalist but if this was my own car, I’d be a tad worried. I can’t imagine CX-3 windows come cheaply.

Speaking of glass, I had to transport a massive windscreen and the seats folded down conveniently to reveal 1260 litres of boot space.

The airplane style air vents look good and the soft details on the dash give the new CX-3 a trendy modern feel. The start button is conveniently located and in the real world the auto lock works great, with a quick glance back, this is confirmed by the automatic folding mirrors and the automatic lights switching off.

On the road

The 160mm ride height is noticeable, especially when cornering over bumps. The car isn’t going to set any cornering records but this extra height does allow for some minor off roading and believe me I did exactly that. I scraped the nose of the car through some sand and when I got out to check I noticed the durable black trim that runs all the way around the car wasn’t damaged or scuffed at all. Very convenient when using the car as a real world running about.

Mazda CX-3 is equipped with grippy Toyo Proxis R40 215/16 on attractive diamond cut wheels which provide high grip in wet and dry conditions.

CX-3 also comes with stop/start and our average fuel consumption was 7.7 litres per hundred compared to the claimed 6.1l/100.

Maybe It’s my cape town accent but I gave up on the voice command system after just two tries. Johannesburg owners might be more successful. In-car entertainment is provided by a BOSE audio system.

Engine and gearbox

Mazdas 115kW 2.0 SkyActiv engine is swimming in a sea of forced induction sharks. It does work well and provides more power and torque than most of its competitors,  but when compared to its rivals it does fall short as the power is produced quite high up the rev range. Mazda is remedying this with the next generation by adding a supercharger but for now, this is one compromise Mazda owners will have to make.

The gearbox is quick enough but for me, the paddles remained mostly unused. This car really is the type of car one leaves in automatic mode. The gearbox works well around town but don’t expect rifle like DSG changes.


A very attractive car with an interior that wouldn’t be out of place at a higher price tag. The only downside is the engine, which in isolation is great and makes good power, but feels old tech when compared to turbo charged and supercharged competitors.

If you’re willing to live with that you could find yourself behind the wheel of the most stylish small car on the block.

Mazda CX-3 pricing starts at R284 800


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