Mazda CX-3 Skyactiv-D Limited AWD 2015 new car review

Mazda’s new CX-3 is based on the platform of the funky new Mazda2, but it has the look and feel of a far bigger car.

Robert Barry
Robert Barry
Expert reviewer | Auto Media Group

Mazda’s new CX-3 crossover is based on the platform of the funky new Mazda2, but it has the look and feel of a far bigger car.

The good
  • Torquey but economical engine
  • Loads of tech
  • Fun to drive
The not-so-good
  • Small boot space
  • Tight rear leg room

We had the pleasure of driving the new top spec 1.5-litre turbo diesel all-wheel-drive CX-3 Limited for a week in some of the worst weather conditions May could throw at us, and there were many times that the raised ride height and four wheel traction came into its own. I suspect the stance, the specification, the price-points, and the styling of the new CX-3 might just cannibalise sales from its larger siblings the Mazda3 and CX-5.

It is a small car that feels much larger than its dimensions, and this feeling is further enhanced by the high level of fit and finish inside and out of the car, as well as the extensive list of specifications and features.

The one caveat to that cannibalisation argument is the boot space; as for the Trax and a number of other small crossovers popping up in this segment, the capacity of the CX-3 is adequate but not enormous, although it does have a ‘false floor’ that can be removed to create extra depth.

As well as providing a comfortable and responsive driving experience the CX-3 also offers a level of in-car internet and data connectivity which enables people to use mobile phone technology safely while remaining in control of the vehicle at all times.


According to Mazda the 77 kilowatt 1.5-litre turbocharged Skyactiv-D clean diesel engine produces more torque than a 2.5-litre petrol engine, being 270 Newton metres from 1600 to 2500 rpm. Fuel consumption is rated at 5.1L/100km. C02 emissions are rated at 137g/km.

All CX-3 models are equipped with a Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission, and the petrol models feature a new sport mode drive selection. The torquey nature of the diesel engine negates the need for such a feature, as we discovered on the road, its got more than enough power to attract the flashing red and blue lights.


This is not a cheap small crossover, but you do get an enormous amount of specification and standard equipment for your money, and the fit and finish of the vehicle also imbues confidence.

Mazda has filled the CX-3 with technology, the first example being the active driving display which is mounted on top of the dashboard directly in the drivers line of sight. This unique take on a head-up display shows vehicle speed, turn by turn directions from the navigation system, and other driving information in real-time.

Many of the technology features in the CX-3 such as the audio, navigation, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming can be easily controlled by voice activation or by the small rotary controller knob near the gear selector which Mazda refers to as the commander control.

Calling the “old trout” has never been easier, and hooking up a phone to the MZD Connect systems takes seconds and the reception is very good and the bluetooth audio quality is excellent. The 7-inch touchscreen is also intuitive and easy to use.

If the driver or passenger has a compatible phone the CX-3 can receive short text messages and display a list of sender IDs.

When on the move the text to voice function can read the contents of text messages or emails aloud. Cleverly, it also possible to send a preset message in reply to the sender of the original message.

The CX-3 Limited receives all of the Mazda i-Activesense safety technology which is found on its bigger siblings. This includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high beam control, smart city brake support-forward, and lane departure warning.

For me the rear cross-traffic alert in combination with the reversing camera has to be the most favoured of these functions, having the confidence to reverse out from an angled or awkward parking space, knowing that you will be alerted to oncoming vehicles or pedestrians that you may not have spotted is a god-send.


Without a doubt the cabin of the CX-3 Limited would have to be the best in its class. Mazda has been continually upping its game and as each new model comes along the interiors get better and better. The CX-3 Limited cabin offers the same level of attention to detail and comfort as its bigger sibling the Mazda6 Limited if anything it feels even more luxurious.

The interior combines black as a base colour with pure white leather and dark burgundy leather trim around the door trims and dashboard. Combined with touches of alloy, the CX-3 Limited’s upholstery gave the interior a premium feel which competitors in the segment will be hard-pressed to match.


The CX-3 puts a smile on your dial every time you jump into the driver's seat. It lives up to Mazda’s philosophy of Jinba Ittai, or man and machine as one. It's a responsive machine that allows a driver to experience the very good dynamics provided by chassis without causing discomfort to other occupants.

The ride quality is very good for a vehicle shod with relatively wide low profile tyres, and the all-wheel-drive system combined with the six-speed automatic transmission manfully handles the torque from that powerhouse of a 1.5-litre turbo diesel engine.

We spent a fairly sodden week with the CX-3 and I was grateful for the sure footedness of the drivetrain and the efficiency of the climate air-conditioning to keep the windscreen clear.


In the current crop of small crossovers from mass-market manufacturers, both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive, the CX-3 easily takes the crown of being the most well rounded, well-engineered, and most fun to drive. It is easily the new class-leader in this category.

The Korean-sourced Holden Trax Turbo is a very good car dynamically but is let down by an interior that feels utilitarian and looks cheaply designed in comparison to the Mazda.

The Ford EcoSport betrays its Indian-made origins and it suffers from an indifferent drive train, a rear door that's hinged for left hand drive markets, and a general lack of refinement found in other small cars from the Blue Oval.

The Mazda CX-3 also trumps the ageing Mitsubishi ASX which again is let down by an average interior and a horrible whiny CVT gearbox in the petrol versions. The all-wheel-drive diesel version of the Mitsubishi ASX is possibly the closest competitor to the diesel CX-3 models, but its level of refinement is nowhere near the Mazdas.

In summary, the CX-3 has shifted the goal posts in the small crossover segment and its now time for the other manufacturers to play catch up. We will watch this space with interest.

Note: this was reviewed as a new vehicle.

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