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From Late June




2021 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport FWD review

March 29, 2021

Bowen's Report Card

2021 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport FWD review


I will never understand why my fellow humans buy small-SUVs. Why buy a slightly elevated hatch rather than just that, a hatch. Anyway it’s not all about me, despite my very own eponymous website. If you must venture down this path, a good starting point is always Mazda. I’ve just spent two weeks in the CX-3 Maxx Sport, without having a complete mental breakdown. 


Mazda tout the CX-3 as a “modern classic”. This is a pleasant marketing line that actually means it’s the same car that was born in 2015 but has been sufficiently upgraded over time.

A rev-happy 2.0-litre petrol engine sits up front, with four in-line cylinders on duty. The naturally breathing non-turbo engine sends 110kW to the front-wheels, but not until 6,000rpm. However, 195Nm hits the dance floor at 2,800rpm. The six-speed automatic is trouble free and requires none of that double-clutch (DCT) or Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT) some others use.

You can tip 91RON or E10 into the 48-litre tank, although you may find matching the claimed combined figure of 6.3L/100km a difficult task.

The CX-3 is based on the Mazda 2 hatch and can also tow, 1,200kg braked or 640kg unbraked. The day I see a Mazda CX-3 towing a box trailer, I will get out of my car and never pen or speak a word again.I bet as soon as I leave the house today, I’ll probably see a plague of them. This is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It’s a really interesting field, Google it.

The Drive

From behind the wheel all Mazda’s do one thing well; that being the perception of quality. The most overused term in motoring land is “touchpoints” but don’t get touchy because it’s an important area to get right. I find that a meaty, slightly soft, decent steering wheel immediately makes you feel at ease. When you combine that with well-padded areas like the centre or door arm rests, well you’re riding on cloud nine. Mazda execute these key areas brilliantly.

I do like the driving manners of the CX-3; at times I have a number of cars here. Say some $100K Euro SUV was in the garage, I’d be far more likely to jump in the CX-3 to head to Aldi to score a 30 pack of “Flying Power” energy drinks at 79-cents a can. As an aside, do you realise what a steal that is compared to Red Bull?

Anyway, back to the car. Mazda’s used to be really bloody noisy in terms of road noise, that is no longer the case. A run on Sydney’s M2 was a whisper quiet affair. As with all SUV-ish type cars, the 1,535mm tall CX-3 is prone to lean into corners more than the 1,495mm Mazda 2 hatch; that’s just basic physics.

Although cornering prowess would be very low down the average Mazda CX-3 buyers list. Speaking of lists, there are nine models to choose from if you include those with AWD. There’s the Neo Sport, Maxx Sport (as tested), Maxx Sport LE, sTouring, Akari, and Akari LE. The last four also offer AWD.

The CX-3 driving manners are universally good; it steers with confidence, has just enough up and go, rides comfortably on the 16-inch alloys, and brakes with a nice progressive feel.

Heck there’s even a sport mode!


Value for money

The Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport FWD has a national driveway price of $27,990. The entry level Neo Sport is $24,990 and the range topping Akari LE AWD hits $39,990. I could never drop more than $30K on a CX-3; that’s madness. Look at the Toyota CH-R, Hyundai Kona or even the brand’s very own CX-30. According to the Mazda website you can score the G20 Pure model from $32,754.

Mazda offer a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.


Comfort and Technology

I’m not the biggest fan of the cloth seats, that’s not because I like to sit on cow skin either. The seating position is great, but the fabric was a little cheap feeling and a tad rough and kind of grabby for my liking.

Ease of access is good; the back row could seat three adults, but they would need to be on some paleo diet. The CX-3 Maxx Sport is longer than the Mazda 2 at 4,275mm v 4,065mm. It’s also wider at 1,765mm v 1,695mm.

The instrument cluster is showing its age with an analogue speedo and basic LCD screens each side.

I’ve always enjoyed the Mazda MZD Connect infotainment system, however there is a new seventh-generation now available. The CX-3 still scores the sixth-generation version, which is not a real issue and only one you’ll lament if you drive a new Mazda 3.

It still has the rotary dial controller and a 7.0-inch touchscreen, BUT, aside from the tiny screen the touch functionality is only available when the car is stationary. That’s a tad annoying for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto users, but to be honest, I’m still surprised we can touch our car screens but not our phones anyway.

There are two USB charging ports up-front, but not the fast USB-C style. The latter is becoming so prevalent we now have a dedicated hook for such a cable at home.

The centre front cup holder is in a very weird position, it’s way too far back.

The cabin’s climate is taken care of via single zone but automatic air-conditioning , although there’s no rear vents.

My major issue with the CX-3 is that it hates prams. Now we do have an SUV sized pram but I also found even Henry’s stroller was a tight squeeze. There is a mere 264-litres pf space back there. That measurement is taken with the rear seats up and the tonneau cover in position.

There’s a full-sized steel spare and removable floor panel that makes it a tad deeper, but it’s a bit of an issue I’d imagine for many. 




What I love

It is a fun drive, I’ll concede that.

Bowen’s report card

The Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport FWD is the pick of the range. Just be aware of the fact there are newer, clean-sheet design competitors out there. I can see the allure however; it’s attractive, well-built with a remaining perception of being a cut above the rest. It’s an 81 out of 100 from me.