Published on February 3rd, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Mazda CX-3 Crossover test drive review
The B-segment SUV (or small crossover to most of us) segment is a burgeoning market in Malaysia and is expected to overtake the hatchback segment (non-national cars) by the end of 2016 to become the second largest portion of the B-segment. Mazda has decided to ‘play’ in this segment with its 5th SKYACTIV engineered offering. This is the Mazda CX-3 Crossover. Malaysia gets the 2-wheel drive version with a 2-liter SKYACTIV engine that is shared with the very popular CX-5 SUV and Mazda3 range.
So why is the segment so popular? It is a segment that has, in its short life, been highly design led. The Honda HR-V which is the segment leader by a huge margin, may divide opinions in terms of how it looks, but there is no questioning that it is unique. Rivals have worked hard in the design of their cars to make them stand out and, if you ask us, the recently tested Renault Captur is one of the best looking of this segment with its funky colours and cute shape. The Peugeot 2008 tries very hard but does not have the design nor the after sales reliability to match Honda or even Renault.
Now comes the CX-3 with the signature current Mazda DNA face and looks that we have all grown to love. Yes, it is an attractive looking vehicle with its thick SUV like matt black cladding running the bottom length of the vehicle and smart machined 18-inch alloy wheels shod with wide rubbers.
Mazda is preoccupied with weight reduction and lightweight high-strength steel played a big role on the CX-3, with almost two-thirds of the body (63%) by weight made up of steels rated at 440MPa or higher. The engineers even used 1,180MPa ultra-high tensile steel for 11 components, including the A-pillars and cross-members connecting the B-pillars, and 1,800MPa hot-stamped steel on the front bumper beams. Besides being exceptionally impact resilient, the latter also cuts weight where it brings the most benefit in terms of handling and responsiveness, namely at the greatest distance from the vehicle’s centre of gravity. Along with optimised frame member shapes, which helped trim additional grams, the Mazda CX-3 has one of the lightest bodies-in-white in its class.
The Living Quarters
This Mazda CX-3 is based on the Mazda2 hatchback (and sharing most of its components) the interior of the CX-3 is a classy affair with leather/Alcantara seats and a leather trimmed dashboard complete with carbon fibre-esque detailing on the door trim and steering wheel. Mazda has decide to share the cabin features of the larger Mazda3 with the CX-3.
Class leading features include the i-STOP and the MZD CONNECT, the connectivity system equipped with the Human-Machine Interface (HMI), which pursues safety as its top priority. The CX-3 also comes with the Active Driving Display, the first head-up display in its class, just like the Mazda2.
Front passenger gets a torso hugging seat with premium material feel. Passengers in the rear sit high and have a good view out front and if you drop the rear seats the cargo volume rises but with the seats up it’s an average cargo hold.
With a flat floor (a large spare tyre and tool kit sit underneath) it is easy to load DIY kits and even a folding bike.
You will find a very European feel when you are on the road with this CX-3 as it uses the SKYACTIV-Chassis’ front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension was bolstered with stronger, firmer suspension bushings and retuned springs and shocks. The electric power-assisted steering, meanwhile, has a high steering gear ratio in the name of a better balance between steering feedback and vehicle response. Although this comes at the expense of the turning radius, the figure (5.3m kerb-to-kerb) still puts the CX-3 among the class leaders. Finally, the rear brakes received solid discs rather than drums to go with the ventilated front discs.
Despite riding higher than a hatchback and sharing the Mazda2 platform, the CX-3 handles remarkably like a Mazda3 hatchback. There is very little body roll when you push it hard on to highway ramps and with firm surefooted braking when called on. As far as handling goes this vehicle is more like a hot hatchback than a SUV exhibiting fairly decent capabilities. Also the steering feels more like a hatchback than some competing SUV’s.
The ride comfort in city driving with the numerous pot-holes and bumps was surprisingly comfortable and despite its short wheelbase and 18-inch wheels, this Mazda never felt unsettled or returned a jostling ride to the rear passengers.
In ‘Sport’ mode, which can be selected by a simple button below the 6-speed gear-shifter, the engine control extracts every last ounce of performance potential from the SKYACTIV engine.
Should I Buy?
Time for you to test drive this CX-3 for yourself because when you look at its pricing of RM131k you will think of the larger Mazda CX-5 2-wheel drive SUV which costs less. But remember, This CX-3 is full imported with more features and the 2-wheel drive CX-5 is locally assembled. The import tax paid on the CX-3 needs to be passed on to the buyer and the local assembled tax incentives are passed on to the CX-5 buyer.
Mazda CX-3 SUV 2.0L Specifications
Engine: 4-cylinder DOHC 16V SKYACTIV
Gearbox: 6-speed SKYACTIV-DRIVE Semi-Auto
Horsepower: 154bhp @ 6000
Torque: 204Nm @ 2800
Top speed: 190km/h as tested