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Facelifted Mazda CX-3 still strong contender in compact crossover sector

PUBLISHED: 06:44 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:31 18 December 2018

Mazda'’s updated CX-3 compact crossover is still a great little car to drive. Picture: Mazda

Mazda''s updated CX-3 compact crossover is still a great little car to drive. Picture: Mazda

Mazda

Mazda's given its CX-3 a mild update. Tom Wiltshire finds out what's new and whether this compact is still fun to drive.

Distinctive, new LED taillights are part of the subtle facelift. Picture: MazdaDistinctive, new LED taillights are part of the subtle facelift. Picture: Mazda

Mazda regularly updates its cars with small refinements and improvements, rather than saving them all for a big update every few years.

Small changes aside, it’s the same recipe with the 2018 CX-3 compact crossover we’ve come to appreciate from Mazda – good looks, straightforward interior, smooth, naturally-aspirated petrol engines and excellent driving manners.

Oddly, given the current anti-diesel rhetoric, there’s a new 115PS 1.8-litre oil-burner but the outgoing 1.5 only took 20pc of sales.

Looks and image

Rear legroom not as good as some rivals. Picture: MazdaRear legroom not as good as some rivals. Picture: Mazda

Much like the old CX-3, and that’s no bad thing. Mazda’s family face sits well on the front, and the overall effect of a smaller CX-5 is quite handsome.

The updated grille is flanked by slim LED headlights, mirrored in the distinctive new LED taillights, making it a smart compact crossover.

Under the bonnet

The base unit impresses the most. The naturally-aspirated, 121PS 2.0-litre is smooth and refined and, mated to a slick six-speed manual, good fun when worked yet the claimed 45mpg is achievable. Compared with turbo units, it needs to be worked to really get going, which can be tiring, but there’s also a 150PS version.

The well-shaped 350-litre boot. Picture: MazdaThe well-shaped 350-litre boot. Picture: Mazda

The new diesel is impressively economical but slightly agricultural in character. Four-wheel-drive is optional for the higher-powered petrol engine, while both petrols can also be had with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

How it drives

Handling is up there with the best in the compact crossover segment, steering is sharp and accurate and front-end grip inspires confidence. There’s not a huge ride penalty, either, so the CX-3 is comfortable too.

Mazda’s tweaked the suspension to give the car a more grown-up feel, but the slightly soft edge means it soaks up bumps well but tends to bounce over larger crests. It’s a comfortable cruiser though, despite wind roar from those large mirrors.

Simple fascia and new centre console with electronic parking brake. Picture: MazdaSimple fascia and new centre console with electronic parking brake. Picture: Mazda

Space and comfort

The CX-3 lifts its interior from the Mazda 2, so there’s a pleasantly driver-focused aspect to the cabin with a straightforward gauge cluster. There are rather a lot of different materials on show, of varying quality, but the metal surrounds to the air vents feel solid and premium.

The redesigned centre gains an electronic parking brake and the infotainment system controller moves forward to a more comfortable location.

There’s a decent amount of space but the CX-3 is more cramped for rear occupants than some rivals.

Final say

The Mazda CX-3 is a great little car to drive but potential buyers should make sure the character of the naturally-aspirated engine suits them. For the most part, this is an excellent car with plenty going for it.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: Mazda CX-3 Sport Nav + £21,695 (range £18,995 to £24,995)

Engine: 2.0-litre, 121PS, four-cylinder petrol

Performance: 0-60mph 9.0 seconds; top speed 119mph

MPG: 45.6 combined

CO2 emissions: 141g/km

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