2020 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport Review: The Fan Favourite
Price & specs8
Interior & practicality6
Performance & economy7.2
Ride & Handling7.5
Running costs & warranty7
What we like
  • Drives well
  • Good quality interior
  • Good looking
What we don't like
  • Rear seat and boot space
  • 10,000km service intervals
  • Apple Carplay /Android auto not standard
7.1DiscoverAuto Rating

In the ever-growing segment of small SUV, the 2020 Mazda CX-3 has been a sales hit ever since it debuted into the Australian market in 2015.

The CX-3 stands out as a more dynamically styled package in a segment full of odd shapes and multi-levelled faces. With its smooth lines and ergonomic interior, it makes for a great all-round package for those looking for a small SUV (that’s definitely on the small side).

But with a slew of new competitors, does the CX-3 continue to shine in 2020? We tested the mid-range 2020 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport to find out.

Price & Specs: 8.0/10

For 2019, the CX-3 got another update that added new features such as an electronic handbrake, a centre arm rest for both front and rear passengers and a very slight redesign for the front grille and taillights.

Mazda has always been about mild updated rather than huge changes, so while the CX-3 looks pretty much identical to the 2015 model, under the skin it’s much improved.

The model we are testing here is the second-from-base 2020 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport, which has always been the best seller in the Australian CX-3 range.

Pricing for the Maxx Sport starts at $25,490 (plus on-road costs) and includes a healthy list of equipment including auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and braking, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav and digital radio, 16-inch alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers, climate control, power-folding mirrors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob.

A 6-speed manual is standard, while a six-speed automatic is available for an extra $2,000 – as is all-wheel drive (auto-only).

Those wanting more equipment can choose either the Touring (which adds  18-inch alloys, LED lighting, faux leather trim and so on), the Akari (which then adds a sunroof, heated leather trim, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree parking camera and Matrix LED headlights) or even the Akari LE with its fancy Nappa leather trim.

These trims can exceed the $40k mark, so choose wisely.

Drive & Engine: 7.3/10

As we’ve come to expect from Mazda, the CX-3 is one of the most dynamic cars in the small SUV segment. Everything from steering feel to ride comfort to the car’s agility has a refined and sporty note to it.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the experience has been compromised in order for it to feel that way. 

The 110kW/195Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (which is now the only CX-3 drivetrain option after the 1.8-litre diesel was dropped) propels the CX-3 along the road effortlessly when paired to the 6-speed manual as tested.

Most of the engine’s torque is produced low in the rev band, meaning you don’t have to thrash the engine to get the most out (which helps fuel economy).

Mazda claims the CX-3 manual will do 6.6L/100km, a figure we’ve been able to match during testing. Stretch the engine out and you’ll find reasonable performance, with a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of around 9.0 seconds.

For keen drivers, the manual is the only gearbox option – it’s precise and easy to use, and (again) sporty.

Choosing the auto reduces fuel consumption to 6.3L/100km, and though it too is precise and clever, it’s not as energetic as the manual.

Road noise, a typical Mazda bugbear, has been greatly improved in this facelift, with the CX-3 now being quieter than either the Hyundai Venue or Nissan Juke. It doesn’t hold up to its newer (and larger) CX-30 SUV sibling though.

Interior & Practicality: 6.0/10

The 202 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport’s interior is a nice place to be, as long as you’re sitting in the front seat. Material quality is reasonable, as is the feel of the buttons and steering wheel and everything feels solid and built to last.

The front seats are comfortable and offer a good amount of adjustability, the steering wheel is tilt and telescopically adjustable, and anybody can find a comfortable driving position.

Rear visibility is limited (like many small SUVs), but the CX-3’s large mirrors and blind-spot sensors help compensate.

Standard on all CX-3s is Mazda’s 7.0-inch touchscreen with its MZD Connect software, which uses a rotary dial placed between the front seats. It’s not a new system, but it is easy to use and the reversing camera is of a good quality.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto still aren’t standard equipment though and it’s going to cost you $495 to have a dealer install it.

Thankfully, Mazda now offers a centre armrest with cupholders as standard, which makes the car much more comfortable than before.

The rear seat experience isn’t as positive, however. Despite a new centre arm rest with cupholders, the rear seats are still small and cramped; a nagging reminder the CX-3 is based on the Mazda2 hatch.

The boot rates better, offering 264-litres with the seats up and 1,174-litres folded away. The boot also offers a false floor so you can have more space with the seats erected but a flat floor with them folded, but that’s about it. The boot’s lip is also quite high, meaning you have to lift items well up to get them inside. That’s could be an issue with heavier bags (especially if you’re a bit older).

Running Costs & Warranty: 7.0/10

All new Mazdas come with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and five years of roadside assistance as standard.

Servicing intervals for the CX-3 are a bit short at 12 months or every 10,000km. The average cost of a service over three years is $406, which is higher than average thanks to additional items not included in the basic service (including a $97 air filter every 20,000km and $71 brake fluid every 40,000km). The total cost of servicing a CX-3 for three years is $1,218.

2020 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.1/10

Five years after its release, the 2020 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport is still a great offering in the small SUV segment. It’s newer and safer than the Mitsubishi ASX, better to drive than the more practical Hyundai Venue, better equipped and worth significantly more for resale than the MG ZS, and cheaper than the Nissan Juke.

It’s not the roomiest or most practical car, but considering how strongly it still sells, that’s no issue to many buyers. For those looking for a fun, good value, safe and well-equipped small SUV, the CX-3 should be at the top of your list.

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