Home / Car News / 2017 Mazda CX-3 Maxx First Drive Review | Australia’s Favourite Small SUV Keeps Up The Good Work

2017 Mazda CX-3 Maxx First Drive Review | Australia’s Favourite Small SUV Keeps Up The Good Work

To date in 2017 the Mazda CX-3 has been Australia’s best-selling small SUV, just as it was for 2016 so when it comes to updating such a rousing success it makes sense that Mazda hasn’t gone overboard with changes.

For the 2017 CX-3 external changes are limited to little more than a different shade on the alloy wheels of high-grade cars (from black to dark grey in case you were wondering) and that’s it. No new bumpers, headlights, or grilles for this update.

Inside the changes are similarly low-key: a new steering wheel and gauge cluster, a colour head-up display for those vehicles fitted with it and little more.

Most importantly though, Mazda has bumped up the level of standard safety with autonomous braking (called Smart City Brake Support) and added features across the board to help keep the CX-3 competitive against a growing crop of small SUV competitors.

Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $20,490-$37,890 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 109kW/192Nm 4cyl petrol, 77kW/270Nm 4cyl turbo diesel | 6sp manual, 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.1-6.7 l/100km petrol, 4.4-4.8 l/100km diesel,


Mazda has kep the model mix the same for the 2017 CX-3 range, which means four trim grades (Neo, Maxx, sTouring, and Akari) with a choice of petrol or diesel power, front or all wheel drive, and a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic for petrol models and auto only for diesels.

Pricing has moved slightly with Neo and Maxx models climbing by $500 to start from $20,490 plus on-road costs for Neo and $22,890 plus on-roads for the Maxx, both with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, six-speed manual, and two wheel drive.

The price of the sTouring holds firm, starting from $26,990, while the Akari takes a small $200 increase starting from $31,490 (for full pricing and specification details check our 2017 CX-3 Price and Features guide).

While external changes may be hard to spot, it’s under the skin that Mazda’s made the biggest move. All models now include Smart City Brake Support, Mazda’s version of Autonomous Emergency Braking, which works both forwards and in reverse.

Other new safety equipment includes blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert on Maxx, sTouring, and Akari with Driver Attention Alert fatigue monitoring and Traffic Sign Recognition for the sTouring and Akari along with extra convenience features through all grades to help justify the price change.

Mazda has also added its G-Vectoring Control chassis technology for a more engaging drive, plus fiddled with suspension and steering settings and engines and suspension mounts to improve refinement, with diesel models going further still thanks to a range of noise and vibration suppression measures first seen on the Mazda6 last year.


  • Standard Equipment: Cloth trim, manual air conditioning, height-adjustable driver and front passenger seat, push-button start, multi-function trip computer, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-folding exterior mirrors, gearknob and handbrake lever, 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Aux and USB inputs, multi-function console controller, Bluetooth connectivity, Pandora, Stitcher, and Aha internet radio compatibility (via smartphone connection), six-speaker audio
  • Cargo Volume: 264 litres (seats up), 1174 litres (seats folded)

The CX-5 is still a relatively fresh car having first gone on sale in 2105, accordingly it stands to reason that the interior design didn’t really need much done to keep it up to date.

Mazda has added its new steering wheel design (you’ll find it in everything from MX-5 to CX-9) and installed a simpler, less fussy instrument cluster. The Active Driving Dislpay of the sTouring and Akari also moves to a revised design and features colour graphics.

As before the CX-3 range sticks to hard plastics on the dash and doors, and goes without a lidded centre console or armrest – features not expected in the segment just a few years ago but ones that are starting to appear in newer small SUVs.

Front seats are comfortable, and the driving position feels just about spot-on, but visibility out of the slender glasshouse might be an issue for some and just like before the rear seats can be a little compact when it comes to legroom, with a restricted view outwards owing to the rising window line.

Fabric trim on the Neo and Maxx is attractive and comfortable, while sTouring features a fake leather and cloth interior and Akarai goes for leather and suede, with optional white leather. Akarai also adds a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support and memory function.

There’s still no screen for the Neo’s infotainment system, and as a result no reversing camera either (but it can be added as a $500 accessory). Maxx and up do get a 7.0-inch touchscreen unit, digital radio, smartphone app compatibility (but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), satellite navigation and six-speaker audio.


  • Engine: 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol, 109kW @6000rpm, 192Nm @2800rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive (six-speed manual and all wheel drive also available)
  • Suspension: Macpherson strut front, torsion beam rea
  • Brakes: 208mm front (295mm front AWD), 281mm rear
  • Steering: Electrically-assisted power steering
  • Towing Capacity: 1200kg braked, 640kg unbraked (800kg braked, diesel)

Mazda’s engineering story is a subtle one, but vital to how the car drives. The headline act is G-Vectoring Control (and I’ll get to that later) but buyers are sure to appreciate the work put into making the cabin quieter and more comfortable.

Changes have been made to cabin sound deadening with noise absorption materials, foam-filled pillars, thicker door glass, wider cabin seals, and even the engine mounts of petrol models to reduce road and wind noise.

Diesel models also feature High-Precision Boost Control, Natural Sound Smoother, and Natural Sound Frequency control technologies which are designed to make the engine quieter overall, with reduced ‘diesel knock’ and more refined running through adjustments to the combustion cycle and timing – some hefty engineering to make the diesel experience more pleasant.

G-Vectoring Control also comes to the CX-3 – this is another engineering-intensive story (and you can read all about it here to find out more) but basically it’s designed to increase driver engagement while making the car more stable by making minute changes to front tyre load through the engine management. It’s tricky stuff, designed to make drivers feel more engaged in the driving experience, but less jittery and fatigue on longer trips.

To go with G-Vectoring there’s also minor changes to the steering settings, suspension mountings, and damper tune – Although it may not feel vastly different to the previous CX-3 to drive, the result should be smoother, quieter running and improved roadholding.

As far as engine outputs nothing has changed the 1.5-litre turbo diesel still produces 77kW and 270Nm and sits as the ‘grunty’ choice in the lineup, though the 109kW and 192Nm 2.0 naturally aspirated petrol is somewhat well-endowed against its competitors.

Time behind the wheel was spent in the petrol Maxx with auto and two wheel drive – set to be the most popular combination with Australian buyers and it isn’t hard to see why.

On suburban melbourne streets the CX-3 feels right at home ducking through traffic, is lively enough away from the lights, and is usually low on noise and vibration unless you really work it hard.

The six-speed automatic is as smooth as you’ll find, and less prone to the lifelessness that affects some CVT automatics in competitors like the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR.

Out of town there’s still a little road noise present depending on the type of tarmac, but it was easier to hold a conversation with a front seat passenger so that aspect has improved slightly.

Into the hills and the CX-3 comports itself well, turning in accurately, and holding the road securely, to keep pace on an incline a sharp kickdown can be required which can ruffle the cabin ambiance slightly, but overall Mazda’s smallest SUV does a convincing job of behaving like a slightly larger one in terms of comfort.


ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars – the Mazda CX-3 scored 36.44 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2015.

Safety Features: All CX-3 models come with six airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, rear park sensors, front seatbelt pretensioners, and forward and reverse Smart City Brake Support (AKA autonomous emergency braking).

The CX-3 Maxx adds a reversing camera, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert, the sTouring build on that with fatigue monitoring (Driver Attention Alert), and traffic sign recognition, while the Akari brings adaptive LED headlights, lane departure warning, and front parking sensors,


Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres

Servicing: Mazda offers up to five years or 50,000km capped price servicing through Mazda Service Select. Service intervals are set at 12 months/10,000km (whichever comes first) with service pricing ranging from $286-$314 per service for petrol engines up to $324-$394 per service for diesel engines. Your Mazda Dealer can explain the full service schedule and pricing applicable to your preferred specification.


As Australia’s most popular SUV, Mazda didn’t need to tear up the rule-book and start again with the CX-3.

Admittedly it’s disappointing to see a reverse camera still hasn’t made it to the standard features list of the base model, but the inclusion of autonomous braking is equally important and now that all CX-3 models feature it Mazda has its entire passenger car range covered with Smart City Brake support.

As before the CX-3 is enjoyable to drive, maybe even more so thanks to G-Vectoring Control – but a tight boot and limited rear seat space make this a small SUV for the style-conscious, rather than buyers looking for pure practicality.

None of that should slow the CX-3’s momentum though as it seems plenty of Aussie buyers fit the profile and like what the CX-3 has to offer, with the 2017 updates simply building on that formula for success.

MORE: Mazda News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Mazda CX-3 – Prices, Features, and Specifications

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