Upgraded CX-3 even sweeter

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A couple of new colour options aside, there's little to visually distinguish the old CX-3 from the new machine. Photo: David Thomson

THE CX-3 has been a star performer for Mazda since its launch in late 2015, and in the normal run of motoring play, a mid-life upgrade would be at least a year away. However, with new rivals arriving thick and fast, Hiroshima's compact SUV has been given an early update.

A couple of new colour options aside, there's little to visually distinguish the old CX-3 from the new machine.

But in other respects the revamp is substantial: diesel-power is ditched for an all-petrol line-up; a new front-drive variant, the GSX Leather, appears between the GSX and Limited; inside, there's a new multi-function steering wheel and changes to instrumentation and displays screens; handling is enhanced by the inclusion of Mazda's advanced G-Vectoring control system; changes to the engine mounts and increasing insulation improve refinement; the two top variants - the GSX Leather and Limited - also pack an array of new active safety features.

Mazda showcased these changes by supplying a flagship $40,195 Limited for appraisal. Like all but one variant within the revised line-up, the CX-3 Limited is a front-drive rather than four-wheel-drive machine.

Sitting on 18-inch alloys and 215/50 tyres and fitted with LED lights, the test car was none the worse for looking very similar to a pre-update CX-3.

Inside, leather (actually leather and suede) helps give the nicely finished cabin a smart, classy feel. As well as adorning the seats, it is used in a mix of black and burgundy across the dash, on the steering wheel rim, and on parts of the centre console and doors.

Highlights on an extensive creature comfort and convenience features list include power-operated and heated front seats, keyless entry and start, auto-dipping lights, and a head-up display. A compact centre-mounted touchscreen is home base for satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a reversing camera, and a premium 7-speaker Bose sound system that is Pandora and Stitcher internet radio compatible.

A wide range of active safety features are deployed. These include active smart braking systems, traffic sign recognition, radar cruise control, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert systems, lane departure warning, and a driver attention alert system.

Like many of its compact SUV class rivals, the CX-3's high waistline affects rear three-quarter visibility. The driving position is excellent in all other respects, with a commanding view, comfortable and supportive seats, and clear instrumentation and controls.

Room in the rear of the cabin is adequate but a little knees-up for adults. The modestly proportioned 264-litre boot includes a handy underfloor compartment, and capacity increases to a decent 1174 litres when the rear seats are folded down.

With a 109kW/192Nm 2.0-litre engine under the bonnet, the CX-3 is a mechanical giant by class standards. Helped by having a conventional automatic transmission rather than a CVT unit, this ensures smooth and lively performance, especially with the transmission in sport mode. Economy is also reasonable at 6.1 litres/100km for the standard economy cycle.

Changes to the engine mounts and additional sound-deadening material behind the dashboardand throughout the floor fully address the noise issues that were a bugbear on the pre-update CX-3. 

Even before this update, the CX-3 was one of the sweeter-handling compact SUVs about. Helped no doubt by the clever and quite unobtrusive G-Vectoring control system, the latest iteration of the CX-3 is better yet. Light but accurate steering, crisp turn in, and a well-balanced demeanour through twists and turns are central to a pleasant and at times most rewarding on-road driving experience.

Upgraded CX-3 even sweeter
At a Glance


For: Quality fit and finish, strong performance, safety equipment, new-found refinement
Against: Small boot, limited rear seat space
Verdict: A great low-key update of a fine compact SUV
Overall: ★★★★
Design andstyling: ★★★★
Interior: ★★★★
Performance: ★★★★
Ride/handling: ★★★★
Safety: ★★★★★
Environmental: ★★★★+

Price: $40,195
Engine: 1998cc DOHC, direct injection four-cylinder petrol, maximum power 109kW@6000rpm, maximum torque 192Nm@2800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
Safety rating: Five-star European NCAP
Brakes and stability systems:Disc brakes, ABS, DSC, EBD, TCS, ESS, hill launch assist
Wheels, tyres: Alloy wheels, 215/50 R18 tyres
Fuel andeconomy: 91 octane unleaded, 6.1 litres per 100km on combined cycle, capacity 48 litres
Emissions: CO2 146/km on combined cycle
Dimensions: Length 4275mm, width 1765mm, height 1550mm