Soul-ful: Mazda CX-3 Review

When launched onto the market in 2015, Mazda’s sub-compact SUV the CX-3, came loaded with flair, athleticism and electronic wizardry. But it would appear that with its latest refresh, they have further upped the ante with smoother styling, increased performance and a whole host of cutting-edge technology. So, the big question I have to ask about the 2019 Mazda CX-3 is, where do they find the space? To help me solve this conundrum, Mazda NZ handed me the keys to their GSX model in their deeply enriching Soul Red Crystal paintwork. 



At a little over 4.2m in length and 1.5m in height, the CX-3 really is a pocket-sized SUV, but with (in my case) a SKYACTIV-G 2.0L petrol engine married to a SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission it sure does pack a punch. For this ‘refreshed’ model, Mazda has improved on their already top-notch chassis and enhanced the SUV’s NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) essentially improving on an already sound driving experience.


Subtle-ish changes have been made to the vehicle’s exterior, with the grille, bumper, taillights and foglights receiving attention plus a variety of garnish tweaks there to impress the keen of eye (a side-by-side comparison would be advantageous). LEDs now feature on all four corners of this model and the CX-3 sits proudly upon sharp-looking 18-inch machined alloy wheels. 


Step inside the CX-3 and you’re greeted with (as if it needed it) improved luxury and a few owner ‘wishlist’ enhancements. Despite its compact exterior frame, the Mazda has a spacious cabin that offers plenty of head and legroom for up to five people (although my preference would be four) and a two-level trunk that holds ‘all seats up’ cargo of over 351L. My model came with leather seat trim, a soft ‘poke-inviting’ dashboard, a comfortable front console (now with usable storage areas) and a rear armrest with storage bin and cupholders—it’s these small things that make for a better ‘all round’ experience I’m told, but my obvious focus is still on the driver’s seat.



With its size and poise, the CX-3 fully embraces the Mazda Jinba Ittai philosophy (horse and driver as one). It’s nimble and agile both in urban and country environments and feels light underfoot, the small SUV offers you neatly weighted steering and there’s plenty of depth to each gear allowing confident open-road driving. 


This whole feeling of confidence is not without substance either, it’s effectively underlined by the sheer mammoth amount of driver aid electronics and SKYACTIV technology that the CX-3 has squirrelled away. For all you acronym lovers out there, here is a taste of what lies beneath that glorious Soul Red crystal skin—GVC, ASCBS-F, ABS, DSC, TCS, EBD, EBA, ESS, HLA, MRCC, SBS with FOW, SCBS-R, BSM, RCTA, TSR, SCR—I’ll leave you to look up their meanings, but suffice to say, the CX-3 has all manner of ways to keep you safe and pointed in the direction you choose to go!


With this latest model release of the CX-3, Mazda has managed to further modernise an already contemporary member of their SUV fleet. They’ve made changes where possible but not ‘just for the sake of it’ and although the CX-3’s footprint barely takes up half the size of an American parking space, Mazda has added a host of driver and safety assists while keeping an impressive amount of room inside for passengers to enjoy the ride—how did they manage to do all this? I guess I’ll leave that up to your imagination. 


Words: Dave McLeod