Review: 2015 Mazda CX-3 2.0L - A fun compact SUV

If you're looking for something small, nimble, slightly practical, and slightly fun to drive, Mazda might just have the perfect car for you - The Mazda CX-3. Launched in Malaysia in 2015, the Mazda CX-3 has just just received a facelift in June this year.

Before we go on, it is important to note that this is the pre-facelift CX-3 that comes with a mechanical hand-brake.

Mazda CX-3 overview

Engine2.0-litre SkyActiv-G inline-4 DOHC
Transmission6-speed Automatic (SkyActiv-Drive)
Max. Power Output156 PS @ 6,000 rpm
Max. Torque204 Nm @ 2,800 rpm

Sharing the same platform and wheelbase as the Mazda 2, the Mazda CX-3 is powered by a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine (156 PS/204 Nm).

Mazda CX-3 dimensions

Length4,275 mm
Width1,765 mm
Height1,535 mm
Wheelbase2,570 mm
Kerb weight1,211 kg

Despite having obvious SUV cladding all-around that gives the CX-3 a rugged appearance, the ride height is not raised by much. Put the Mazda CX-3 to the average B-segment sedan/hatchback, and it looks small.

What is it like to drive the Mazda CX-3?

With a floor-mounted accelerator, a Head-Up Display, a shiftronic gear knob, paddle shifters, a cushion for your left knee, and decent seats, the CX-3 is driver-oriented, ergonomic, and engaging. If you enjoy driving, but need a small urban SUV, the CX-3 is the car for you. The automatic transmission is escellent when left alone so cruising is a breeze.

The transmission is a planetary-gear torque converter automatic that allows you to stretch gears when in ‘manual’ mode. The paddle shifters come in handy in relatively straight roads, but through a series of corners on a B-road, using the ‘manual’ mode is advised. You can almost fantasize you’re driving a rally car with a sequential-manual gearbox. 

Although the ‘manual’ mode is not something you would usually use, I found it to be very handy when climbing up hills. This torque converter automatic transmission is decent.

And through the hills, the Mazda CX-3 handled the corners decently - confident and with good grip.

With a kerb weight of 1,339 kilograms, the CX-3 is in hatchback kerb weight category. The Mazda 3 weighs in at almost 1,300 kilograms too. The CX-3 really is then, just a lifted hatchback. It’s heavier than the Honda HR-V and Renault Captur, but lighter than the Toyota C-HR.

Moving all this weight is a 2.0L SkyActiv-G In-line 4 naturally aspirated engine with 155hp. Similar to the 1.5 SkyActiv in the Mazda 2, the 2.0-litre SkyActiv engine also has a high compression ratio. 

What is SkyActiv Drive (The Transmission)?

Mazda claims to provide the benefits of all types of automatic transmissions with its SkyActiv Drive. You get the direct feel/quick shift of a dual-clutch transmission, the fuel efficiency of a CVT, and a smooth acceleration and gearshift of a conventional automatic with a torque converter.

Q: How does it achieve a direct feel/quick shift?

A: By widening the lock-up range (80% instead of 50%)

Wider the lock-up range > less time spent transferring power through the fluid in the converter > more direct drive/feel & quick shift

Q: How does it achieve better fuel efficiency?

A: Also by widening the lock-up range (80% instead of 50%)

Wider the lock-up range > less time spent transferring power through the fluid in the converter > more direct drive/feel & quick shift > less power loss > better fuel efficiency

Q: How does it achieve smooth acceleration and gearshift of torque converter automatic?

A: It still is a torque converter automatic. Just with a smaller torque converter and a multiple disc lock-up clutch instead of a single disc lock-up clutch.

I can only testify the direct/quick shift and the smooth acceleration and gear shift since I was driving the CX-3 like I stole it. I can’t say so much about the fuel economy because I wasn’t driving it in the most economical way possible

A distinctively Mazda interior

Ergonomic, driver-oriented, and rather fancy. The seats are a good balance between plush and firm, the paddings on the center console are excellent cushioning for your left knee and the tactile points give off a good premium feel.

I like the screen controls that are mounted on the centre-console. It even has a wee platform for you to rest your palms as you scroll through the infotainment menu.

Things have changed though in the face-lifted 2018 Mazda CX-3. There is no more mechanical hand-brake and the centre-console layout has been slightly reconfigured.

Back seats look small but there is enough space for 2 adults to sit comfortably. Three is a bit of a squeeze.

All Petrol Stations (even Petronas) show up as ‘Shell’ logos in the GPS


The Mazda CX-3 is fun to drive - something unusual in a crossover.


Honda HR-V- RM110,138.00, 1.8L NA

Renault Captur- RM102,844.62, 1.2L Turbo

Toyota C-HR- RM127,299.77, 1.8L NA

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