Mazda CX-3 vs CX-30: which one is the best choice ?

Some people might not be aware of it but the pearl-effect white colour of the CX-30 “100th Anniversary” is a tribute to the first Mazda R360 that is in the background.

Spending a week with both Mazda’s SUVs, the CX-30 and the CX-3, their differences just strike you in the face. We hope this combined test will help some customers make up their mind more easily between the two. To summarize, one of them is compact and comfortable while the other is more dynamic and luxurious. Which one would you choose?

The small Mazda CX-3 was revised last year : new colours are available and it features a new tailight design as well.

Let’s start with the older one. Mazda launched the CX-3 in 2015, and has just given it some improvements. As is often the case with the small Japanese manufacturer, improvements are more small touches than big evolutions. Externally, the grille was slightly modified, the tail lights revised and some pieces of trim are finished in gloss black. Inside, we discover that the front seats support passengers much better than before. Nubuck is now featured on the door panels and the dashboard. Mazda also worked on reducing noise and vibrations levels inside the cabin through the use of new welding techniques on the doors as well as a thicker roof panel. Finally, the steering and chassis were revised to improve comfort and balance. However, this is just “fine tuning” as the saying goes.

Driving any Mazda is a really enjoyable experience, thanks to their well-conceived interiors allied to the latest safety technologies.

The auto- dipping interior mirror is now included in the standard equipment, while the infotainment system now automatically features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as a DAB+ digital radio. Still on the equipment side, autonomous emergency braking is now enhanced by a night pedestrian detection device. A 360° camera vision system is available as an extra. The dark grey colour of our test model is also new.

On top of its nice design, the Mazda CX-30 was really enjoyable on the raod thanks to its 186 HP 2.0 litre engine mated to a 6 speed autobox.

The CX-30 seems undoubtedly to be of a higher standing. This is noticeable in the finishing details of the cabin. All the sub-assemblies now look much better and made of better quality plastics. The dashboard and centre console are remarkably simple and elegant while incorporating the same equipment as other modern cars. Classic buttons and a knob allow the driver to navigate between screen menus, improving usability. Once inside, it is easy to realize the CX-30 is bigger than its older brother: It is 4,4 m long and 1,8 m large against 4,28 m and 1,77 m  for the CX3. Their height is identical. Our test model was a nice Centenary limited edition, featuring many distinctive red signs scattered all over the red leather upholstered interior. Outside, the pearly white colour is reminiscent of the first Mazda R360.

This limited edition celebrating the first century of Mazda is adorned with logos everywhere…

Under the CX -30 bonnet, we found the “old” 180 HP 2.0 SKYACTIV-X engine linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This makes for a pretty nice combo allowing drives in total serenity at a steady pace. Of course, sportiness is not hifh on the agenda… However, most of the time, we take advantage of a rather dynamic car, its handling being perfectly adapted to daily traffic. The automatic transmission is immediately forgotten and that is how we prefer it. We tested a front-wheel drive version but the CX-30 is also available as a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Compared to it, the smaller CX-3 is only available with a 121 HP 2.0 SKYACTIV-G which tends to be more sluggish. Fortunately, our test model had a manual gearbox ; that improved the car’s dynamics quite a lot. We don’t really like intrusive driving “aids”… Both Mazdas allow the lane departure warning system to be disconnected once and for all, that’s highly commendable!

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Both interiors are quite different. Above, the CX-30 nice curves and below the CX-3, now with the added refinement of nubuck.

The CX 30 using an automatic transmission mated to a high power output engine, there could be fears about its lead-free appetite. However, during our 586 km test, we managed a 8.2 l/100 km average, without even attempting to reduce its fuel consumption. The CX-3 stuck to 7.4 l/100 km but no doubt its lower power level explains this. The CX-3 is available from € 22,490 (RRP) while the cheapest CX-30 using the same engine starts from € 26,390 (RRP). That’s a rather large gap but it seems to us to be fully justified as the two Japanese SUVs turn out to be quite different from one another. Of course, the CX-3 represents good value for money : it’s got a  rather complete equipment list and offers a 350 l boot capacity. However, some finishing details detract from a general quality feeling and space in the rear is at a premium. It is also available as a «100 years» limited edition.

Putting the two Mazda SUVs face to face allows us to identify their pluses and minuses straightaway.

The CX-30 compensates its higher price by being far more sophisticated, modern and more pleasant on a day-to-day basis than its cheaper sibling. Even more so when it is powered by the new for 2021  more powerful 2.0 litre engine. This new e-SKYACTIV-X is more powerful (186 HP instead of 180 at an unchanged 6,000 RPM) and has more torque too (240 Nm instead of 224, but now 1,000 RPM higher, at 4,000 RPM). CX-30 WLTP combined fuel consumption now ranges from 5.7 l/100 km to 6.6 l/ 100 km, CO 2 emissions ranging from 127 to 149 gr/ km.

Despite being 6 year old (which can be old for a Japanese car), the Mazda CX-3 is still fresh and charming on the eye.

To achieve such good results, Mazda engines use new pistons lowering the compression ratio from 16.3:1 to 15.0:1, use a new distribution diagram and timing, revised ignition and injection mapping. On top of all that, a new 24 V micro-hybrid system uses a combined alternator-starter powered by a lithium-ion battery. Mazda is constantly improving its engines and, by extension, its models. Soon, there will be new in-line six cylinder petrol and Diesel engines available on the brand’s high-end models. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)


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