Mazda CX-3

Dynamic and equipment gains for hush money

CAMERON KIRBY

IN A field littered with drab offerings, the Mazda CX-3 has always been a safe haven for enthusiasts who want a small SUV thatís both stylish and fun to drive. Mazda has updated its entrylevel entrylevel SUV for 2018 with a facelift that boosts value, rejigs the model line-up and places a stronger focus on cabin refinement to try and fix the CX-3ís consistent niggle of poor NVH.

To this end, a thicker headliner, outer door panels, additional seals, and better glass have been fitted. However, overall improvements seem minimal with wind and tyre noise still very much apparent.

The CX-3ís equipment list has been lengthened (see sidebar, right) while exterior styling has been subtly revised. Inside, the most significant change is the replacement of the conventional handbrake lever with an electronic parking brake.

Subtle chassis tweaks ensure the CX-3 remains one of the most dynamically engaging SUVs in its class. The chassis remains beautifully balanced; crucially the ride is now improved with new springs and dampers ironing our larger bumps, while thicker anti-roll bars help to reduce bodyroll. Mazdaís G-Vectoring Control tech has also been added and the CX-3ís steering remains crisp and is naturally weighted.

The 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine carries over for this update and it remains as tractable as ever, though itís been re-homologated with minute increases of 1kW and 3Nm. A 1.8-litre diesel producing 85kW/270Nm replaces the old 1.5-litre. All petrol variants get a six-speed manual as standard, with the six-speed automatic a $2000 premium. The self-shifting transmission is a smooth unit, though it does have a tendency to kick down a ratio too eagerly, resulting in a noisy flare of revs which does nothing to improve cabin refinement.

Mazda claims an unchanged combined fuel economy of 6.3-6.7L/100km depending on transmission and wheel sizes for the petrol, and 4.7-5.1L/100km for the diesel (which is a slight improvement over the previous unit). Both powertrains are available in AWD and FWD.

Pay to play

A new Neo Sport model grade (which replaces the old entry-level Neo) gains a reversing camera, which is now standard across the range, along with Mazdaís MZD infotainment system. Maxx Sport and model grades above also score a pair of cup holders in the folding rear armrest, while the flagship Akari now includes a 360-degree camera and adaptive cruise control. Pricing has jumped by roughly $1000 across the range, though Mazda has introduced keen driveaway pricing for all variants, starting at $23,990 for a manual Neo Sport.

With buyers flocking to the small SUV segment the CX-3 has an increasingly tough task ahead of it as convincing new contenders like the Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Kona encroach on its turf. While the styling tweaks keep it looking fresh, the real gains here are found in the improved equipment and the greater sheen of polish to an already excellent dynamic package. Sadly, this update hasnít quite ironed out the NVH issues.

CAMERON KIRBY