Mazda CX-3 1.5 review: Down(sized) but not out

PHOTO: Torque

From electronics to bonsais and kaisekis, the Japanese undoubtedly have a knack for downsizing things.

But despite being smaller, items like these are actually of a higher quality.

Now, can the same be said when a car gets a smaller engine? That’s what I want to find out with the latest Mazda CX-3. It used to be solely available with a 2-litre engine, but it now comes with a downsized 1.5-litre engine.

Small and spicy

That might be the case here. Just like that dollop of wasabi you get with your sushi, the CX-3’s 1.5-litre engine proves you don’t need a lot of mass to pack a strong punch.

PHOTO: Torque

The power plant is quiet and refined when you’re pottering around town, only allowing the slightest of vibrations to permeate the cabin.

Speaking of which, bearing with the slight tremors the of the start-stop system can help bump up the fuel economy. Over a three-day drive, I eked out 14km/L, which is relatively good.

A naturally aspirated 1.5-litre producing 114hp and 149Nm may seem lacking in an age of turbochargers and mild hybrid systems, but the CX-3 never feels anaemic.

This is thanks to the relatively light 1256kg kerb weight and responsive 6-speed automatic, which immediately executes downshifts when you stab the accelerator pedal.

Step into space

The good news doesn’t end with the engine. The CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest crossover, but the interior doesn’t feel like you’ve booked yourself into a capsule hotel.

PHOTO: Torque

Headroom and foot space are relatively generous by supermini standards. Even knee room is sufficient for those at the rear.

Drivers will be glad to note that the CX-3 Elegance comes with a leather steering wheel that adjusts for height and reach. Adding to the ease of finding a comfortable position is the powered driver’s seat, which comes with lumbar adjustment and two memory settings.

Other passengers will also appreciate the CX-3’s ride, which does a fine job of shielding those aboard away from the sharpest edges on the road. It does get a bit wobbly when driving over pockmarked surfaces, but that is acceptable given the car’s short (2570mm) wheelbase.

The CX-3’s 240-litre boot, does not fare favourably against the 352 litres offered by the smaller Kia Stonic , but it’s still sufficient for daily marketing trips.

To deal with bulky items, it’s best to leave the parcel shelf at home to facilitate loading and unloading.

Classic or elegance?

PHOTO: Torque

If you’re looking for big value in a small product, the CX-3 Elegance is the variant to go for. It costs $6000 more (correct at time of writing) than the Classic model, but it’s loaded with plenty of features.

These include LED headlights and tail-lamps, a heads-up display and a blind spot monitoring system. It even comes with a 360-degree monitoring system – something typically only seen in larger and more expensive models.

The Mazda CX-3 Elegance costs a fair bit more than one of its direct rivals, the Kia Stonic Mild Hybrid. But with its standard equipment, responsive motor and better drivability, it comes across as a well-rounded package that’s hard to resist.

Mazda CX-3 Elegance 1.5 (A)

PHOTO: Torque

Engine: 1496cc, 16-valves, inline-4
Max power: 114hp (115PS, 85kW) at 6000rpm
Max torque: 149Nm at 4000rpm
Power to weight: 90.8hp per tonne
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic with manual select
0-100km/h: 11.2 seconds
Top speed: 175km/h
Consumption: 17.2km/L (combined)
Price incl. COE: From $107,888 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
Agent: Trans Eurokars Mazda

This article was first published in Torque.