2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve review - SUV VEHICLE

2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve review

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The Mazda CX-3 is going on eight years on sale, but is crushing competitors in the light SUV segment. It’s not often an old car has new tricks, but the CX-3 keeps delivering, says Peter Anderson. 

2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve

Mazda may call this the 2024 Model Year Mazda CX-3, but as we know, car companies don’t release an all-new model every year. In fact, it’s quite common for truly ‘new-generation’ models to only come around once every seven to ten years.

This current generation Mazda CX-3 first launched in 2016, and eight years is a long time for a car to be on sale. Yet buyers still like it, so much so that it’s far and away the best-selling Light SUV in the land.

Mazda still lavishes it with regular tweaks to keep it as fresh as possible against ‘new-generation’ rivals like the Toyota Yaris Cross, and others like the Kia Stonic and Hyundai Venue. But while those tweaks are clearly enough to make it the popular choice in the Light SUV segment, is it still the best choice?

Let’s find out.


How much is a Mazda CX-3?

Right out of the gate, the Evolve looks pretty good as the sensible middle ground in the range. Being the troublesome third child, it has a couple of visual differences to set it apart from the Sport and Pure below. That amounts to 18-inch alloys and two-tone interior trim.

Aside from that, the spec is as you’ll find on the G20 Pure, the second car in the range. You get auto LED headlights with auto high beam, head-up display, satellite navigation, leather steering wheel and shifter, single-zone climate control, LED tail-lights, power windows and mirrors, six-speaker sound, keyless start, remote central locking, auto wipers and cruise control. The spare is a space-saver.

You get all this for $31,050 plus on-road costs, and if the wheels and light-coloured interior aren’t your bag, the CX-3 Pure is usefully cheaper, from $29,300.

At this end of the market, on-road costs can add 10 to 15 per cent to the buyer’s total cost, which is a lot. So factor that in when shopping the CX-3 Evolve against its rivals, and keep a keen eye out for ‘driveaway’ deals that could save you thousands.

If you are interested in the Mazda CX-3 Evolve, we’d recommend cross-shopping the Nissan Juke ST+, Toyota Yaris Cross hybrid, Kia Stonic GT-Line and Hyundai Venue Elite, all of which cost between $29,000 and $31,200 plus on-roads. This way you’ll get a really good feel for the space, equipment and driving experience your money can buy.

Key details 2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve
Price $31,050 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Aero Grey Metallic
Options None
Price as tested $31,050 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $35,269 (NSW)
Rivals Nissan Juke | Toyota Yaris Cross | Kia Stonic

How big is a Mazda CX-3?

After years of complaints from… well, me… about the interior’s darkness, Mazda seems to have found a way to lighten things up without its efforts looking a bit naff. At first glance, the grandly titled White Maztex leatherette and Tan Grand Luxe suede look a bit retro, but it absolutely does the trick.

The cabin feels much lighter and airier, with the suede effect on the dash and doors working particularly well. 

You will certainly leave your mark if your backside or back is wet from Sydney’s endless humidity, rain,and biblical downpours, but it always seemed to dry without any ill effects. One does wonder what a couple of determined kids or pets might do to it, though, so think about whether this interior trim is right for you.

Back seat space is tight in just about all directions, but knee and leg room are probably going to be the real killers. Small kids will be happy enough, kids on boosters happier still because they’ll be able to see out of the stylishly rising window line, but adults are a short-trip proposition only.

Apart from an armrest with two cupholders, there are no other useful features such as air vents or USB ports.

Boot space is similarly limited, but even for this segment it’s on the small side. At 264 litres, it’s enough for a few bags of shopping or a load of sports gear, but don’t get too ambitious.

2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve
Seats Five
Boot volume 264L seats up
1174L seats folded
Length 4275mm
Width 1765mm
Height 1535mm
Wheelbase 2570mm

Does the Mazda CX-3 have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

The CX-3 and Mazda 2 are the last of the current crop of Mazdas to feature the once-impressive MZD Connect. The 8.0-inch screen is about right, maybe an inch smaller than some other offerings, but does run an ageing software package. 

On the move, you have to use the console-mounted rotary dial, which is fine for the Mazda software, but less so for phone operating systems. 

You do get wireless Apple CarPlay, which worked perfectly but it is sometimes a chore to scroll through things using the dial. The same goes for Android Auto, but the connectivity is only via USB.

Annoyingly, CX-3s sold in Japan have the newer Mazda software, which is inestimably cheeky.

The software features Mazda’s retro Minecraft-style sat nav (okay, maybe that’s a little harsh), AM/FM radio, DAB digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity, most of which is standard in this part of the market. I might have made a little bit of fun of the sat nav, but that’s relatively rare on mid-spec cars of this type. DAB seems to be a bit hit-and-miss, particularly on the Korean rivals.

As the CX-3 is getting on a bit, it doesn’t have an app for connecting to the car when you’re not in it.


Is the Mazda CX-3 a safe car?

All CX-3s built since January 2023 are considered unrated by ANCAP, with the previous 2015-era five-star rating retired. This was done to stop companies selling five-star ratings that stretched back almost a decade in some cases.

When tested in 2015 and under a different set of rules, adult occupant protection was rated as good, as were pedestrian and whiplash protection.

To be fair to Mazda, the active specification of the entry-level MY24 CX-3 would be higher than most of the 2015 range, so the company hasn’t sat on its hands.

2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve
ANCAP rating Unrated

What safety technology does the Mazda CX-3 have?

The CX-3’s safety story has been an interesting one. At one point in its long life, it suddenly became a bit of a leader in safety in its segment and, to a certain extent, it still is.

Very few light SUVs offer reverse AEB as an option let alone as standard. I’m a particular fan of reverse AEB as it prevents so many silly little accidents in car parks as well as more worrying ones with kids and driveways.

It’s kind of annoying that the forward AEB is still only for city speeds, leaving you to fend entirely for yourself on highways and motorways, but it does feature pedestrian and cyclist detection. Blind-spot alert is also rare in this part of the market, especially at this price.

It’s ahead of the features in the VW T-Cross, Kia Stonic and Hyundai Venue. This is why it’s a bit odd that the car no longer has an ANCAP safety rating as its original one from 2015 has expired under a recent ANCAP rule change. It would struggle to repeat a five-star rating if it were to be retested today as it’s missing the front-centre airbag that seems to get most cars over the line and the urban speed-only AEB may also play against it.

Having said all that, the list is pretty good for a car of this size and price.

The CX-3 features six airbags as well as two ISOFIX points in the rear outboard seats and three top-tether anchors. Most cars in the class mirror this number of airbags and anchors.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) Yes Low speed only (up to 80km/h) forward, parking speeds for reverse. Pedestrian and cyclist detection
Adaptive Cruise Control No Available in the CX-3 Touring SP and above
Blind Spot Alert Yes Alert only
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert Yes Warns of an approaching person or vehicle behind the car when in reverse
Lane Assistance Yes Lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist
Road Sign Recognition No Available in the Touring SP above
Driver Attention Warning Yes Warns of distraction and suggests stops after around two hours
Cameras & Sensors Yes Front and rear sensors, reverse-view camera

How much does the Mazda CX-3 cost to run?

Servicing comes around every 12 months or 15,000km and service pricing is capped for the first five services. Pricing bounces around a bit, $338, $531, $416, $531 and $338. Over three years the total cost is $1285 (average $428 per year) and five years is $2154 (average $431 per year).

While not super high, it’s not super cheap either, but really only Toyota and Honda are significantly cheaper in the segment or adjacent segment.

An indicative insurance premium came out at $1209 based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances. 

At a glance 2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1285 (3 years)
$2154 (5 years)

Is the Mazda CX-3 fuel-efficient?

The CX-3’s one and only drivetrain has an official fuel figure of 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres. This test was mostly around the city where the fuel usage hovered at 9.1L/100km, admittedly in very sticky weather forcing the climate control to work hard.

With a 48-litre fuel tank, if you could hit the claimed figure you’d go around 760km, and with my real-world city test you’d be refilling every 520km. In past CX-3 reviews, with a more balanced mix of city and open-road driving consumption has been lower.

One payback for the Mazda’s SkyActiv naturally aspirated state is that it does run on 91-octane fuel, saving a few cents on every litre over some of the Euro competition.

Fuel efficiency 2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve
Fuel cons. (claimed) 6.3L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 9.1L/100km
Fuel type 91-octane unleaded
Fuel tank size 48L

What is the Mazda CX-3 like to drive?

Small Mazdas have been good for decades, and the CX-3 really shines around town. Even riding on 18-inch alloys, it’s a genuine pleasure to take it from A to B. For the most part, the 2.0-litre engine is smooth and gets going smartly.

A tired old joke of mine I like to trot out is that the CX-3’s early start in this segment with these fairly modest outputs – 110kW and 195Nm – was treated as legislation by just about every competitor that arrived afterwards. 

Most of those rivals are heavier and bigger – indeed the CX-3 is now a light SUV rather than a compact SUV like, say, its bigger brother the CX-30. But at just under 1300kg, the CX-3 makes the most of those figures in its most likely home, the city.

The engine gets a bit noisy and a wee bit buzzy at the top end and the torque isn’t really there for marginal overtaking manoeuvres. More to the point, more overtakes are marginal because while the gearbox – very well calibrated and very cooperative – kicks down and sends the engine up to the power band, there’s just not enough grunt to pass a semi on a single carriageway.

You feel far less exposed in town, though, and the engine has enough mid-range torque to get you moving when there’s just one or two adults on board. The steering is just right, too, with a good weight to it and a chassis that goes with it when you turn it. It’s easily the most fun you can have in a light SUV.

Ultimately, though, this driveline, while very capable and smooth, is running out of runway compared to some of its rivals. Not that long ago you had a choice of diesel and even all-wheel drive, but the resolutely front-wheel-drive MY24 CX-3 means any ambitions for gravel or slippery stuff need to be dialled back a bit.

Key details 2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power 110kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 195Nm @ 2800rpm
Drive type Front-wheel drive
Transmission 6-speed torque converter automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 85kW/t
Weight (kerb) 1294kg
Spare tyre type Space-saver
Payload 446kg
Tow rating 1200kg braked
655kg braked
Turning circle 10.6m

Can a Mazda CX-3 tow?

It probably won’t come as a shock to you that the CX-3 is not what we would consider an ideal towing vehicle. With a 655kg rating for unbraked trailers and 1200kg for braked trailers, it’s okay for a light trip to the tip with a normal trailer or a run to the boat ramp with a jetski or small tinny.

You also need to take into account the tow ball download weight, which in this case is going to be around 120kg or 10 per cent of the maximum rating. So you’re going to have to offload a hefty footy player’s worth of passenger and cargo weight to stay legal and, let’s be honest, safe. The CX-3 is pretty slow four-up with a little bit of luggage, let alone dragging nearly its own kerb weight along behind it.

It’s unlikely you’re looking at a CX-3 and a large boat as a likely couple, but if you are, perhaps look further afield to something bigger and more capable to get you to the water.

Should I buy a Mazda CX-3?

I’ve said a couple of times the CX-3 is old, but you have to hand it to Mazda, it has kept it fresh and the sales figures reflect that. It clobbers even its Toyota rival by two-to-one and sells three-to-one over everything else.

I don’t think many other cars in the class come particularly close to the CX-3’s all-roundedness, and the one that did has just been killed off in Australia, the Ford Puma. The closest mainstream competitor is the now hybrid-only Yaris Cross, which is more expensive and doesn’t have the same high-quality interior.

The entry-level CX-3 Pure seems like the pick of the range, because there’s so little that’s not cosmetic or substantial above that grade apart from the 18-inch alloys. Higher-grade models, like the CX-3 Akari, while very nice, are close to 40 grand which could get you into something pretty good a class above, like a Kona or Seltos. Or, again, a CX-30.

How do I buy a Mazda CX-3? The next steps.

The next step on the purchase journey is to check with a Mazda dealer for stock of your preferred CX-3 variant. You can also find Mazdas for sale at Drive Marketplace.

A recent chat with Mazda about the stock was met with a confident assertion that there are plenty of CX-3s to go around, and given how quickly they sell, that rings true. As I’ve already said, the pick of the range is likely the Pure unless you’re gung-ho about the bigger wheels. The great thing about this car is that even the cheapest one feels pretty good to drive.

We strongly recommend taking a test drive at a dealership before committing because personal needs and tastes can differ. Find your nearest Mazda dealer via this link. We’d also recommend test-driving the Toyota Yaris Cross because it is the next most popular with consumers and is a good benchmark.

If you want to stay updated with everything that’s happened to this car since our review, you’ll find all the latest news here.

The post 2024 Mazda CX-3 G20 Evolve review appeared first on Drive.

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