October 16, 2018

2018 Mazda CX-3 First Drive Review

Caroline drives the updated Mazda CX-3 ahead of its Irish arrival

The 2018 Mazda CX-3
The 2018 Mazda CX-3

The Mazda CX-3 was launched in Ireland back in 2015 as Mazda’s new challenger in the ever-growing compact crossover/SUV class. Now in 2018, Mazda is launching an updated version of the CX-3 citing increased quality, refinement and elegance. There’s also a new 1.8-litre diesel engine introduced for the Mazda CX-3. Priced from €21,295, the updated Mazda CX-3 goes on sale in Ireland from 1st October. I travelled with Mazda Ireland to Malaga, Spain, to find out more about this new model ahead of its Irish arrival.

Styling

The CX-3 has a neat, compact presence. Exterior updates are minimal for the new Mazda CX-3, though if you look closely the grille now has fins comprising two lines of differing thickness! The fog lamp bezels, pillar garnishes and side garnish mouldings are now finished in gloss black. The rear combination lamps now have a ring shape combined with horizontal lines. There are also new alloy wheel designs and two new colours – Soul Red Crystal and Machine Grey.

Interior

The interior of the Mazda CX-3  has an upmarket feel with good quality materials used for the segment and an attractive horizontal design punctuated with circular air vents that now have a red surround. The centre console has been redesigned a little around a new electronic parking brake and the Mazda Multimedia Commander has been moved forward for improved usability. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available and can be retrofitted. The front seats now have high-damping urethane foam cushions that improve comfort and support, while the rear seats now feature a central armrest with built-in cup holders.

Practicality

The dimensions have not changed during this update. The Mazda CX-3 has seating for five, though the rear legroom is on the small side. Boot space is about average for the class at 350 litres and there was no problem fitting two small suitcases.

The interior of the 2018 Mazda CX-3
The interior of the 2018 Mazda CX-3

Engines

In Ireland, the updated Mazda CX-3 will be available with a new 1.8-litre diesel engine with 115hp and the 2.0-litre petrol with 121hp. Both of the 2018 CX-3’s engines are homologated according to the requirements of the new WLTP/RDE test cycle and meet Euro 6d temp emissions standards. A manual transmission comes as standard though an automatic gearbox is offered with the 2.0-litre petrol. Front wheel drive models are available in Ireland; there is no all wheel drive option.

At the launch, I sampled both engines. The petrol engine is smooth and quiet, with adequate power for the CX-3. The 1.8-litre diesel is more economical, with plenty of power though it gets noisier under hard acceleration.

On the road

For this update, Mazda engineers have focused on enhanced handling and improved ride comfort. There are new coil springs and dampers, while the front anti-roll bar has also been changed. The electric power steering has also been recalibrated for more consistent weight transfer and improved shock absorption.

On the road, the Mazda CX-3 is an agile and composed drive. There is some audible wind noise reaching the cabin from around the wing mirrors, but comfort and refinement is generally good for this segment. The steering is light but precise, and it is one of the most engaging cars in its class with a sporty, hunkered down feel on the road.

Equipment

There will be four trim levels for the updated Mazda CX-3 in Ireland: SE, Executive, Executive SE and GT. Standard equipment includes Emergency Brake Assist, keyless entry, electric windows and air con. Executive adds 16” alloys, cruise control, 7” touchscreen, Bluetooth and push button start. Executive SE adds LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED front fog lights, Lane Departure Warning, rain sensing wipers, automatic air con, Advanced Smart City Brake Support, heated front seats, rear parking sensors and automatic headlights. GT adds 18” alloys, heated steering wheel, half leatherette upholstery, rear view camera, front parking sensors, BOSE sound system and chrome effect front bumper and side trim garnishes.

Pricing

The updated Mazda CX-3 range starts at €21,295 in Ireland for the 2.0-litre petrol SE. Executive models start from €22,770, Executive SE models from €24,770 and GT models from €26,570. Diesels start from €24,770 in Executive trim.

The updated Mazda CX-3 will go on sale in Ireland in October
The updated Mazda CX-3 will go on sale in Ireland in October

Rivals

Competition for the updated Mazda CX-3 includes the Peugeot 2008, Volkswagen T-ROC, SEAT Arona and Hyundai Kona.

Verdict

The Mazda CX-3 remains a very stylish compact crossover. Refinements to the interior and driving character are subtle, but enhance what is already an upmarket choice in this segment. The CX-3 is not the most spacious among its competitors but it offers a mature driving character and a stylish cabin that makes it very desirable!

Caroline Kidd