The Mazda CX-3 is essentially a taller riding Mazda 2 with a bigger 2.0-litre engine, as opposed to the little Mazda 2’s 1.5-litre. Inside, the cabin is quite similar to the 2’s, but dressed in more expensive materials.
On paper, it sits in the same segment as the Honda HR-V but in reality the Mazda CX-3 is a total opposite of the Honda HR-V, both for better and for worse.
New for 2019, the updated Mazda CX-3 has been refreshed with a thicker double-slat chrome grille, new LED tail lights and a new front bumper.
Also new is the improved cabin that’s now quieter and more comfortable. The mechanical handbrake has been replaced with an electric operating unit, which frees up space for a centre arm rest, thus addressing the biggest complain for the previous Mazda CX-3.
Cabin materials are also more expensive now, with a suede-like material covering the dashboard and door panels, while the seats have also been redesigned to offer better support. Compared to its rivals, the Mazda CX-3's interior is peerless.
The engine has also been updated to include G-Vectoring Control (GVC), which employ electro-mechanical magic to make the ride more comfortable when driving along twisty roads.
The benefits of GVC might not be apparent when experienced in isolation, but drive it back to back against a Honda HR-V on a stretch of twisty roads, the difference is like day and night.
Against its rival, the Mazda CX-3 is also the smallest. The Subaru XV technically sits one (C) segment higher but within the local context, it falls within the same shopping basket. However despite the bigger body size, Subaru's all-wheel drive mechanicals take up a lot of interior space and the XV's cabin isn't any bigger than the smaller but more space-efficient Honda HR-V.
How much is Mazda CX-3 ?
The Mazda CX-3 is imported from Japan, hence the slightly higher RM 130,159 price.
Pros and cons
With a bigger engine installed in a smaller body, the 2.0-litre Mazda CX-3 feels very nippy.
Being a Mazda, it lives up to Mazda’s signature ‘Jinba-Ittai’ ride and handling. The steering rack is quick and body control is spot on.
It’s a great driver’s car but that also means that it is short on practicality.
The Mazda CX-3’s smaller boot aperture and higher boot floor also makes loading of cargo more difficult than the HR-V.
In the HR-V, most of your money go towards a bigger body and a super practical interior, Ultra Seats and all.
In the Mazda CX-3, you are exchanging the HR-V’s space for an interior that’s looks and feels far more expensive, feeling more premium than even an entry-level BMW 1 Series.
You also get a very premium-looking 7-inch touch screen MZD Connect rotary dial controlled infotainment system, which works just like BMW’s iDrive.
It’s also the only model in this segment to offer a full-colour heads-up display.
However the downside is that the Mazda is not as comfortable as the Honda in longer distance drives.
It is afterall, a shorter wheelbase car.
Earlier model HR-Vs were not known for their comfort but improvements in the facelift model have fixed all of those flaws. Only the Toyota C-HR is more comfortable but it also costs RM 20,000 more.
However this are only true up to a certain extent. Once the roads get more challenging, it is the Mazda CX-3 that is more comfortable than the Honda HR-V, thanks to Mazda’s GVC feature, which in simple terms, reduces your head’s movement/sway – the main cause of fatigue and motion sickness.
GVC achieves this by controlling the engine’s ignition timing in an extremely precise manner to induce just enough (measurable but imperceptible) weight shift to counter the g-forces when the vehicle enters a corner.
Note that GVC is not a performance enhancing feature. It rewards smooth driving rather than aggressive ones.
Although the new CX-3’s cabin is now quieter, its driving position versus the cabin’s controls and dashboard is still rather odd, giving the impression that you are sitting a bit too tall in a very small hatchback.
The other downside to the CX-3, which is common in many Mazda cars, is the parking camera’s low resolution video feed.
If you want something that’s youthful, fun to drive, and yet compact enough, the CX-3 is ideal. The premium cabin is worth the money. New improvements to the cabin have also made the CX-3 a lot easier to live with but if space is a priority, you will have to look elsewhere.
In short, the Mazda CX-3 is for those who find the Mazda 2's specifications a little too low. It can't and it is not meant to pull over buyers shopping for a Honda HR-V or a Subaru XV.
What are the alternatives?