Designed to be a dynamic benchmark in the small SUV segment, the Mazda CX-3 was conceived under the Jinba Ittai driver-and–car-as-one ethos that defines all Mazda products. Combining the raised ride-height and larger body of a crossover vehicle with the stability and agility of a compact hatchback, the CX-3 emulates the Mazda CX-5’s ability to bring new levels of handling and driver engagement to its segment.
Developed for both the Mazda CX-3 and the Mazda2, Mazda’s SKYACTIV global small platform is the basis for the CX-3’s chassis. In developing the CX-3, Mazda’s engineers refined the suspension, brakes and steering for the small SUV’s weight, centre of gravity and powertrains, with the aim of delivering a ride and handling balance that exceeds the products currently found in the small SUV sector.
As a starting point, the use of ultra-high-tensile steel for 29 per cent and high-tensile steel for 63 per cent of the body delivers both strength and lightness, ensuring the CX-3 has the same high levels of torsional rigidity as the larger Mazda3 hatchback. Retaining an identical wheelbase to the Mazda2, the Mazda CX-3 has the same front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension set up, however, the roll-centre height has been raised to keep it closer to the driver’s eye-line and ensure a confidence inspiring sensation of stability, while increased bump movement within the suspension maintains wheel and tyre contact with the road.
Stronger and firmer suspension bushes matched to retuned damper and spring settings also help the CX-3 deliver the body control and engaging driving experience Mazda drivers expect, yet at the same time ensure Mazda’s first small SUV strikes the right balance between handling precision and ride comfort. All-wheel drive versions of the CX-3 feature optimised torsion-beam characteristics and arm shapes to take into account having drivetrain at the rear axle.
The Mazda CX-3 features subtle revisions to the dynamic set-up to ensure the CX-3 continues to win praise for its ride and handling. New coil springs and dampers have been fitted, while the front anti-roll bar has also been changed. Combined with a recalibration of the electric power steering, the end result is more consistent weight transfer and improved shock absorption.
By offering four-wheel drive versions of the Mazda CX-3, customers looking for surefooted handling and traction in slippery and wintry conditions will find the CX-3 just the ticket. Thanks to its intuitive front-wheel slip warning detection, Mazda’s latest-generation AWD system provides power where it is needed. It uses 27 sensor signals to monitor road conditions as well as driver intentions, instantly determining how much power to send to each wheel, even when conditions are constantly changing.
In good conditions when front-wheel drive operation provides enough traction the system prevents unnecessary rear-drive operation thereby reducing fuel-consumption. Low-viscosity synthetic transmission oil also helps efficiency by reducing resistance and with a smaller rear differential the CX-3’s AWD drivetrain is 20 per cent lighter than those used on larger AWD Mazda models.
With an accurate and consistent pedal feel, plus excellent stopping performance the Mazda CX-3’s braking system features ventilated front discs and solid disc rear brakes, while the electric power-assisted steering has also been tuned specifically for the Mazda CX-3. While it’s based on the Mazda2 system, a bigger motor and a seven per cent slower steering ratio ensures the steering feel, weighting and response is matched to the CX-3’s size, weight and centre of gravity.
Pleasingly responsive to inputs yet reassuringly weighty and precise at the straight ahead, the CX-3’s improved steering delivers the feel and accuracy you’d expect from a Mazda and at the same time prevents kickback and vibration from entering the cabin. Matching the CX-3’s positive steering, to well-weighted pedals and an accurate Mazda MX-5 inspired shift action, ensures that the Mazda CX-3 is a small SUV that drives and handles with the precision and agility found across the Mazda range.
Refinement was another area of focus during the development of the Mazda CX-3. By concentrating sound absorbing materials in the panels, carpet and seats Mazda’s engineers worked on preventing road noise entering the cabin. Updates to the 2018 model include improved door sill trims, thicker sound isolation in the doors and enhanced rear glazing. In addition, an increase in the cabin headliner thickness absorbs more sound to deliver a hushed cabin.
As is the case with all SKYACTIV Mazda products, the reduction of weight is a key factor in the CX-3’s handling, performance and agility. With one of the lightest bodies-in-white in the sector, the Mazda CX-3 is an exceptionally refined, well-engineered and passionately designed newcomer to the evolving small SUV sector.
The Mazda CX-3 is a compact SUV that embodies the fun to drive nature that’s in the Mazda DNA, yet at the same time it delivers fuel economy, comfort and refinement without compromise.