If you haven’t heard of the new Mazda CX-3, you soon will. This SUV crossover is set to become the next big thing on the Australian motoring landscape by shaking up the booming small SUV segment. How big could it become? Right now we would predict segment leadership and probably Mazda’s third highest volume vehicle behind icons Mazda3 and CX-3’s big brother, CX-5.

Not since Range Rover Evoque has a vehicle yet to hit showroom floors caused such a stir. It wowed the international media at the 2014 LA Motor Show. With Australia set to be the second country to take CX-3 – Japan is the first – Australian motoring writers were the first in the world to get a taste of the CX-3 in a closed track session at the Anglesea Australian Automotive Research Centre, just outside Geelong in Victoria.

CX-3 has an exquisite body style that will lure and then seduce buyers in Mazda showrooms. The style alone will generate sales but as we found out Anglesea, there is a lot more to this small crossover than a provocative body style. It’s a seriously good thing to drive and will have massive appeal to young couples and those with small families. We have no doubt CX-3, to be launched in Australia in the second quarter on 2015, will win major design awards.


We drove two pre-production cars at Anglesea – a high spec 1.5-litre turbo-diesel, six-speed auto with AWD and a mid-spec 2.0-litre petrol, also with six-speed auto, but this time with 2WD.

Mazda is yet to announce pricing or what the model range here will look like, other than to say there will be combinations of 4WD/2WD, manual and auto transmissions, and petrol and diesel engines.

There are likely to be two or three specification levels. Pricing is likely to fall between the upper level of Mazda2 – the same platform on which the CX-3 is based – and the Mazda 3. This could mean from around $23,000 to $37,000 depending on specifications.


Mazda is rolling out new cars that feature the company’s current “Kodo – Soul of Motion” design philosophy and the CX-3 is the latest to get the treatment. To our eye there are three major features to this car: the long bonnet of a sports car, the small cabin of a coupe and the rear end of an SUV, along with some clever, yet subtle, lines that add sculpture to the end product.

Mazda had the chief designer for the CX-3, Youichi Matsuda on hand at Anglesea. He told us that the designers penned a car they would like to design for themselves, but within Kodo framework.

In particular the long bonnet line, which extends to the rear door, gives an impression that this vehicle is a lot longer than it really is at 4275 mm. This is also enhanced by the black D-pillars. That also results in the car having proportions that are as near perfect as we have seen in recent years, down to the 18-inch inch wheels the fill the arches ideally and set the car off for its road presence.

Mazda say the car is a crossover – but say that crossover term is for a vehicle designed to be a crossover of lifestyles for younger buyers.

Cargo space is light on at 264 litres with the rear pew in use (and compared to others in the segment), but this seat does have a 60/40 split and fold flat, so there are options for various cargo requirements. Also, the cargo area has a removable false floor for storing valuable items.

The SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre petrol engine develops 109 kW of power and 192 Nm of torque. Mazda Australia expects fuel consumption to be in the low sixes per 100 km. The SkyActiv-Drive six-speed auto is based on the unit in the Mazda 3. The SkyActiv-D 1.5-litre turbo-diesel is also found in the Mazda 2 on other markets, but not in Australia. It produces 77 kW of power and 270 Nm of torque, with fuel consumption expected to be less under five litres per hundred kilometres.

CX-3 has a lightweight, high-strength body that carries the Mazda SkyActiv tag. Add six SRS airbags, ISOFIX rear outer seat anchors as well as top tethers, stability control, traction control. CX-3 also has Mazda MZD Connect, a media system designed to reduce distraction while driving and is a connectivity system that eases the use of internet connectivity and communications for media such as Bluetooth,

While the design of the Rangie Evoque has some shortcomings with rear vision, the Mazda CX-3 – which does resemble the Evoque’s rear swooping roofline, has better vision.

We drove the diesel CX-3 AWD first on a high-speed circuit, then a typical twisting country road and finally a patch of gravel road.

The turbo-diesel is impressive for a 1.5-litre. In the cabin there is little evidence of it being a diesel, with only minor noise intrusion, what sound there is does not contain any typical diesel rattles.

Both test cars were fitted with a six-speed auto. The diesel’s were less inclined to swap gears, instead relying on the engine torque.

We had no problems in hitting speeds of up to 170 km/h on the straight and no rear end issues as we backed off. The car sat flat and clung to the two long sweeping corners with no feeling that it was going to let go.

On the switchback section the car handled beautifully and maintained excellent passenger comfort despite the constant direction changes.

We then took the CX-3 2WD 2.0-litre petrol auto for a spin around the same circuit. If the diesel was impressive, then the petrol version takes it to a new level, apart from rear end uneasiness in sharp high-speed turns, where we felt the AWD variant was superior.

The petrol / transmission balance feels sharper though with the gearbox being more responsive to driver input for the higher revving petrol power plant. Handling is good and flat, but when driving at speed the AWD seemed more composed.

The 2.0 litre SkyActiv-G 2.0 is also found in the Mazda 3, but is slightly de-tuned at 109 kW and 192 Nm of torque.

This is a quiet cabin that is classy in a subtle way. Both cars have high comfort levels for the front seat passengers. We also like the head-up speedometer read out in the higher specced diesel variant.

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