2019 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport review: Pros and Cons

For this review we thought we’d do something a little more fast-paced and digestible by simply going over the main pros and cons of the 2019 Mazda CX-3. You can check out our usual format review of the CX-3 sTouring here, which includes one of our ‘famous’ 0-100 videos.

Just before we get into it, this is the Maxx Sport variant we’re looking at, which sits one up from the base Neo Sport grade. It features a 2.0L petrol engine producing 110kW and 195Nm, matched to a six-speed automatic with front-wheel drive. Prices start at $26,200, or from $24,200 if you can change gears yourself (excluding on-road costs).

2019 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport – PROS

  • Quality and design

Siting in the ‘SUV small below $40,000’ category in Australia, according to FCAI, the CX-3 really stands out for build quality and design. Even in this low-spec Maxx Sport trim the interior feels warm and secure. Most of the dash is covered in a soft rubbery material with contrasting stitch-like seams, with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and breathable and comforting material for the seats. And check out the titanium-style climate vents, matching the door handles and climate controls.

Most of the controls are very well laid out as well, in terms of design, and all within arm’s rest. The Maxx Sport also gets Mazda’s fantastic MZD Connect media interface with a hand controller on the console. Despite the quality materials and thoughtful, sporty design layout, Mazda has found room for some handy cup holders and plenty of storage in the front. Both the interior and exterior designs are a real standout for this class in our opinion.

  • Ride and handling

It’s difficult to characterise a small SUV as offering a sporty handling, but the CX-3 would have to be as close to that as it gets. It feels responsive and energetic around the city, and stable and reassuring on the highway. On the flip side, the CX-3’s ride is also very pleasant. The basic torsion-beam rear suspension isn’t ground-breaking, but at least it’s not back-breaking. Most rivals in this class, at least the front-wheel drive competitors, feature a similar setup, except for a few such as the Toyota C-HR which uses a more sophisticated multi-link arrangement.

You can turn in using the perfectly-sized three-spoke steering wheel and get an encouraging sense of enthusiasm throughout corners. We like that it feels playful and happy, all the time. But if you just want to cruise and relax, it supports that as well.

  • Media interface

The MZD Connect media system incorporating a 7.0-inch screen with touch-screen functionality deserves special mention alone. This really is an awesome setup that most rivals simply can’t match. Sure, most rivals do come with a comprehensive touch-screen system featuring similar functions. But the hand controller and the menu layout is superior in the Mazda we think. We also think it’s safer to operate, as you don’t need to reach up to the screen to make selections. And bumps in the road won’t cause you to make false selections either.

After spending just a few hours in the car, you’ll find you don’t even need to look down at the hand controller. Instead, you’ll be making intuitive selections on-the-go, and using the handy main menu buttons that surround the main dial. As a bonus, the Maxx Sport comes with in-built sat-nav, digital radio, and a rear-view camera as standard. Keep in mind this is just one up from the base model. Not many competitors offer these features, especially not with the rest of the positives mentioned above. Apple CarPlay and Android is missing, but again, the standard setup already packs most of the must-have functions anyway.

  • Safety and technology

The latest CX-3 is jam-packed with standard safety tech and convenience-minded features. Aside from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All models, even the base Neo Sport, come with autonomous emergency braking in forward and reverse. This means the car will brake all by itself if it detects an imminent collision. The system in the Mazda is rated for low speed only (up to around 30km/h). There’s also a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors. Needless to say, all models are rated five stars by ANCAP.

Aside from the safety side of things, it’s the little convenience-minded features that stand out too. All models come with push-button start, so you never have to do any of that insert-and-twist nonsense. Stepping up to the Maxx Sport gets you a proximity key with keyless entry, so you never have to actually press or do anything with the key. You can simply walk up to the car and grasp the door handle and it’ll unlock by itself. You can then press the little button on the door to lock it.

Other nifty highlights include an electronic parking brake on all models, twin USB ports, aux-in and a 12V socket in the front, height adjustable driver and passenger seat (we know, it’s not that big of a deal but you’d be surprised by how many rivals don’t offer this), as well as a tilt-and-reach adjustable steering column.

2019 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport – CONS

Now for the areas we think require further consideration. These are only compared with similarly-priced and sized rivals.

  • Boot and rear seat space

The boot in the CX-3 is comparatively small. It measures just 264L, and expands to 1174L with the rear seats folded. Compared with the segment’s best-seller (in Australia), the Mitsubishi ASX offers 393L/1193L, while the Nissan Qashqai presents 430L/1598L, and the Toyota C-HR offers 377L/unknown (at time of writing).

You could argue that a small SUV isn’t really intended for hauling cargo on a regular basis, and that’s a valid point. But the fact of the matter is the CX-3’s boot is one of the very smallest in the class.

A similar thing can be said about the rear seat space. It is adequate for two adults for short journeys. But if the adults happen to be pretty large, it can quickly become very squishy. Fitting three across is basically impossible, unless everyone is made out of Plasticine.

  • Noisy petrol engine

Mazda has introduced a new 1.8-litre turbo-diesel for the 2019 CX-3 range, producing 85kW and 270Nm. And it’s available in Maxx Sport, sTouring and Akari forms. We haven’t test driven that one, but we’d be guessing it’s probably a quieter engine. The standard 2.0L petrol is rather noisy. It’s smooth and the power delivery is progressive, but it means you need to rev the engine to experience any of its performance. Peak power is reached at 6000rpm, and peak torque doesn’t come in until 2800rpm.

We wouldn’t call it thirsty but we think a smaller-capacity unit with a turbocharger would be under less strain for most of the time, thus resulting in lower consumption. Officially, the average rating is 6.7L/100km. The new diesel – available in FWD form only for the Maxx Sport – uses just 4.7L/100km. If it were our decision, we’d seriously consider the diesel.

  • Radar cruise control only for top model, no Apple or Android connectivity

Despite featuring a lot of the hardware to support radar cruise control, most CX-3 variants miss out on adaptive cruise control. In this market space there are a few rivals that offer this as standard, such as the Toyota C-HR. We think it would be great if Mazda stepped above the rest and offered this as standard.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are quite important these days, as they allow users to virtually mirror their mobile phones onto the touch-screen. Compatible apps can be navigated right there on the screen. Mazda is looking to roll out these technologies with its latest model releases, but for now (at time of writing) the CX-3 misses out.

2019 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport – THE VERDICT

As you can see, our positives far outweigh the negatives. We think the CX-3 is a great little car that definitely deserves thorough consideration. Its design and in-car quality stand out as the key attractions. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for it is the sheer number of rivals that are popping up, all looking for a slice of the market.

It doesn’t help that this market segment specifically is one of the fastest-growing categories of them all. Sales in Australia jumped 17.2 per cent from 2017 to 2018. As such, all manufacturers are fighting hard for your hard-earned money. Overall the CX-3 is a good value and excellent quality proposition in this class.

We didn’t test this CX-3 across the usual 0-100km/h sprint, but we have previously tested the sTouring AWD version. See the video below for that.

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.