Mazda CX-3 review – A crossover with the spirit of an MX-5? - Engine and gearbox

High pricing may deter some, but the CX-3 is appealing to both drive and to behold

Evo rating
Price
from £17,595
  • Good dynamics; frugal; most stylish car in its class
  • Steering lacks involvement; quite expensive

The CX-3 comes with a choice of 2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel powerplants. All sit under the Skyactiv banner (Skyactiv-G for the petrols, Skyactiv-D for the diesels) and as such promise a class-leading mix of power and economy.

Starting with power first, the petrol comes in 118bhp and 148bhp formats. The latter is all-wheel drive only and hooked up to a six-speed manual transmission, while the former is front-drive only, and comes with manual or six-speed automatic options. Maximum torque is identical regardless of power output – 150lb ft at 2800rpm.

As ever, the diesel is the torque star of the range. A headline power output of 104bhp seems positively weak, but it’s more than made up for in typical everyday driving by a 199lb ft torque spread between 1600-2500rpm. Here once again a six-speed manual and two-wheel drive are standard, while all-wheel drive models have a choice of manual and automatic transmissions.

On the road, we’d be tempted to recommend the petrol, as it’s simply more fun yet doesn’t lose out a great deal in terms of real-world economy. The gearbox doesn’t quite have the satisfyingly mechanical action of an MX-5’s cog-swapper, but once warmed up it’s slick, and Mazda hasn’t been able to resist placing the pedals in positions appropriate for heel-and-toe downchanges.

It’s also quiet around town and at cruising speed and relatively smooth the rest of the time. If there’s one disappointment, it’s that the 2-litre unit doesn’t seem keen hunting for the red line, becoming strained – despite being ostensibly similar to its counterpart in the MX-5.

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