Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
I had first heard about the Mazda CX-3 in the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, when it was revealed to the public for the first time. I remember thinking to myself that it was a great looking mini crossover, and a fine addition to a growing mini SUV market.
Months later,I eventuallyfound out how much it would cost, and my heart sank. It would find itself overlapping the Mazda3 — a bigger car with more interior room and a slightly more premium cabin. So when I learned that Berjaya Auto Philippines was finally bringing the Mazda CX-3 to local shores, I was ready to dismiss it as a wasted opportunity. I had no doubt in my mind it would be a great product — as Mazda’s track record is excellent — but I was convinced no one would want a raised Mazda2 for Mazda3 prices.
I was wrong. Completely, unabashedly, foolishly wrong. Because after having driven it across all of Thailand and more recently, on our local streets, no one wants a Mazda CX-3 more than I do.
The mistake, I realized, was in assuming the Mazda CX-3 would be nothing more than a raised up Mazda2, on which its platform is based. It’s actually more akin to a smaller Mazda CX-5. They share similarities on the exterior at least, with the same aggressive Mazda front fascia, sloping coupe-like roofline, and well-balanced proportions from the hood to the tail.
The top of the line Activ AWD variant we have this week sits on handsome 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, enhancing its sporty appeal. Despite sharing the same design philosophy across their model ranges, Mazda’s designs have always been on point without looking stale, outdated, or boring.
Looks that never get old
Inside, the Mazda2’s DNA starts to make itself apparent. The instrument cluster is dominated by a single tachometer display with a small digital readout of your speed, which is familiar to the Mazda line. The length of the dash is kept attractively clean and simple, which makes its seven-inch infotainment screen stand out even more.
There’s no hiding the fact that the CX-3’s small proportions can cause a tight fit for three large individuals at the rear. Two smaller passengers, however, will find no problem enjoying the CX-3’s cushiony rear seats. Rear luggage room is also compromised, offering even less room than your average compact hatchback. Luckily, the rear seats can be folded flat for additional storage space.
Making true on Mazda’s driver-centric philosophy, the driver’s seat is the best place in the car. The seat is snug and comfortable, offering a nice, height-adjustable view of the road ahead. The steering wheel is also tilt and telescopic adjustable, so finding a comfortable driving position is made easy. The Activ AWD’s seats are made of leather with suede inserts. And while the seats aren’t completely leather, this doesn’t detract from the fact that the cabin’s fit, finish, and build quality are excellent, with no sense of cost-cutting whatsoever.
The CX-3 drive is, simply put, class-leading. The steering is sharp, with a nice weight at any speed. Turning corners at speed, the CX-3 rewards drivers with itsimpeccably balanced chassis. Its 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder SKYACTIV engine provides 148 hp and 192 Nm of torque, which is more than enough grunt to keep up with a fast highway pace, or zip around in traffic. Pot holes, bumps and other road irregularities are easily soaked up by the CX-3’s MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam setup at the rear. It’s rare that a vehicle combines agility and comfort, but somehow Mazda has pulled it off.
The CX-3 is by far the most fun you’ll have on the road in a crossover. Fuel economy is good as well, thanks to the SKYACTIV suite of technologies working efficiently, returning an average of around 10 km/l on mixed highway and city driving conditions.
As expected with the top-of-the-line variant, the CX-3 Activ AWD comes loaded will all of Mazda’s best. Driver, passenger, side, and curtain airbags, stability control, smart keyless entry, a BOSE six-piece speaker system, reverse camera, automatic wipers, LED headlamps and of course, Mazda’s veritable AWD system are all standard. The AWD system is worth the admission price alone, as the CX-3 is the only one in its class that has it. And even if you probably don’t need it in everyday driving situations, it’s one of those things that are always nice to have when you do need it. At P1,480,000 the CX-3 Activ AWD can be a tough pill to swallow for some; but in this case, you really do get what you pay for. And if you’re looking for the best mini crossover in the market, you can stop your search.