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Driven: Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.

Driven: Mazda CX-3 GT Sport
A corking small crossover, this is the facelifted CX-3, tested in a sporty-looking guise.


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Mazda CX-3 GT Sport

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Good points: subtly refreshed appearance still looks great; smooth drivetrain; equipment levels; sharp chassis; excellent refinement

Not so good: not cheap as a GT Sport; don't expect punchy performance from the 120hp motor; rear seat space tight

Key Facts

Model tested: Mazda CX-3 GT Sport manual
Price: CX-3 starts from 18,695; GT Sport from 22,895, as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 137g/km (VED 205 first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 47.9mpg
Top speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Power: 120hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 204Nm at 2,800rpm

Our view:

Like former Leicester City and Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, Mazda could be known as the 'tinkerman' of motoring companies. It loves to update its models on multiple occasions during their life cycles - for example, the current Mazda6 has been fettled lord know how many times* since it arrived in 2012 - and need we talk about the seemingly endless litany of MX-5 special editions there have been over the decades?

So here's the company's smallest crossover, the CX-3, gaining some very mild amendments and a special edition in one fell swoop, barely three years after it arrived. This particular variant is the GT Sport, based on the range-topping Sport Nav trim with the 120hp 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol engine. It starts from 22,895, for the manual as tested here, or 24,095 for the automatic, and it comes with an aero kit that incorporates front, rear and side skirts with silver inserts, a black roof spoiler and a set of large, attractive 18-inch alloy wheels in silver. Both Ceramic Metallic or Meteor Grey Mica paints are offered free of charge, while inside you get Nappa leather and exclusive GT-Line mats. Only 500 GT Sport CX-3s are going to be sold, ensuring a certain degree of exclusivity.

Of course, you're reading between the lines and thinking this is nothing more than a 120hp Sport Nav CX-3 with a body kit and some fancy floor mats, for a rather chunky 1,800 premium. And, to an extent, you'd be right. However, three things that might sway you towards this new Japanese motor: one, you benefit from all the extra CX-3 revisions introduced in 2017, such as a new steering wheel, additional sound-absorbing material in the dashboard, tailgate, transmission tunnel and boot, re-tuned engine mounts on the petrol engines to reduce resonance in the cabin, revised dampers and lower-arm rear side bushings for smoother ride quality, recalibrated power steering, G-Vectoring Control as already seen on the Mazda3 and Mazda6 cars, Advanced Smart City Brake Support on all CX-3s from SE-L Nav upwards, heated and auto-power-folding door mirrors and a heated steering wheel (this, by the way, is one of the most powerful we've ever tried - it's like gripping the sun itself after a few minutes of it being in operation) and colour head-up display on the Sport Nav models; two, the Mazda CX-3 has always been one of our favourite small crossovers; and three, the GT Sport is a particularly handsome machine, especially in Ceramic Metallic.

Without being needlessly showy or adding a baffling plethora of personalisation options and wheel colours on the CX-3, what Mazda has done with this machine is to give it some properly attractive automotive design. It remains a cracking-looking thing when viewed from all angles and the GT Sport trim/big wheels combination definitely improves it, making the most of its rakish lines. Same positives for the interior, too, which looks and feels of a generally high quality. Sure, the CX-3 isn't faultless inside; the fold-out head-up display of the lower Mazda model lines looks rather cheap and the whole car lacks for the sort of flashy digital visuals you'd find in some of the leading European competition in this class, while space in the rear and boot is merely adequate, rather than remarkable. But the strip of leather on the passenger console, the overriding ergonomic 'rightness' of everything and that pleasing new steering wheel, plus a fantastic driving position, all make the CX-3 a winner, inside and out.

And it certainly drives sweetly, too. Can't say we noticed a huge amount of difference in the ride quality, which remains comfortable, but on the firmer side of everyday-motoring shock absorber control. This is a direct corollary of the keen chassis dynamics Mazda sees fit to bless all of its products with, as the CX-3 has excellent (for this class) steering, an accurate and precise gearbox and impressive body control/grip to make it a decent amount of fun to throw about on a quieter, curvier road. Shame Mazda is absolutely insistent on not turbocharging its petrol vehicles, because the 120hp engine - while admirably smooth, rev-happy and refined - is nevertheless lacking for much in the way of guts. Thrash the knackers off the GT Sport and that nine-second 0-62mph time looks kind of feasible, but most of the time the crossover feels lacklustre for in-gear acceleration and it requires some careful forethought to keep up with traffic flow on the motorway.

However, aside from the occasionally crunchy ride quality and torque-shy drivetrain, it feels a big and grown-up machine when cruising at the national limit. Wind noise and tyre roar are both beautifully suppressed, the SkyActiv-G engine is inaudible when simply holding anything between 2,000- and 3,000rpm in top and it'll return around 45mpg in such circumstances... OK, not a terrific number, given what rival light-pressure turbo units in the order of 150hp will give back (the GT Sport actually turned in 41.8mpg overall, delivered across 311 mixed-roads miles), but mid-40s is not bad economy at all for something tallish and naturally aspirated. Your options, by the way, on the CX-3 motive power front amount to a revised 105hp diesel that's quieter and smoother than before, and a 150hp version of this same SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre petrol that is exclusively mated to four-wheel drive - neither of these are available on the GT Sport trim, though.

Nevertheless, like Claudio Ranieri, tinkering with the formula can often deliver incredible success; just look at Leicester's fairy-tale 2015-16 Premier League season for evidence of that. Is the CX-3 GT Sport a title-winner itself? Well, no, perhaps not quite - it's a little bit too expensive in this guise and notably lacking on the torque front for that. But it's certainly one of the best compact crossovers you can buy and something of a 'soft-spot' favourite of ours, that needs little in the way of alteration. Even if Mazda is bound to tweak it again within the next two years.

* Three. It has been revised three times, Matt - Ed


Honda HR-V: quite conservative in terms of its looks and personalisation options, the HR-V is nevertheless attractive, has a great cabin and some typically excellent Honda drivetrains.

Kia Stonic: surprisingly 'meh' from Kia, given some of the Korean company's latest products, but the Stonic has good aesthetics and a decent cabin, even if it's stodgy to drive and the ride quality is suspect.

SEAT Arona: probably the B-segment crossover class leader at the time of writing. The Mazda has the nicer cabin and can match the SEAT on appearance, but the Arona has wider engine choice and an even sharper chassis.

Matt Robinson - 6 May 2018    - Mazda road tests
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- CX-3 images

2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.

2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda CX-3 GT Sport. Image by Mazda.


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