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2021 Mazda CX-3 Akari AWD review

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The Mazda CX-3 has been one of Australia’s favourite little SUVs for the better part of the past decade. But a raft of new rivals has thrown down the gauntlet. We find out if it’s up for the challenge.

VALUE

The CX-3 range is vast: there are six variants to choose from as well as manual or automatic options in some and the choice between front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive in others.

Prices range from $24,990 drive-away for the base front-wheel drive manual Neo Sport to the top-spec AWD Akari LE at $39,990.

We are testing the Akari variant — the second rung from the top — equipped with an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It is priced at $39,490.

That’s a lot of money for a little SUV but it has plenty of safety kit and creature comforts, while ticking all the boxes for connectivity.

Mazda covers its cars with the industry standard five-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing is affordable at $1770 over five years, but it requires shorter intervals of 12 months or 10,000km.

COMFORT

The Akari is a well appointed and beautifully finished little SUV, but it’s nearing the end of its life cycle. Front seat passengers get heated leather accented seats, which are snug but comfortable.

The CX-3 has a small wheelbase, which translates into a cramped cabin that could leave bigger teens feeling cramped and claustrophobic. The back seat is best used for younger passengers or short journeys.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, along with satnav and digital radio. The central infotainment screen is small at 7.0 inches and the picture isn’t as crisp as some rivals. Touch controls work when the car is stopped, but you’ll need to use the rotary-style dial when the car is in motion.

Cargo space is tight at just 264L. Newer rivals such as the Kia Stonic can hold almost 100 litres more.

The suspension is generally well sorted and the Mazda feels comfortable and composed for the most part, although it can struggle to soak up corrugated road surfaces.

SAFETY

The CX-3 has a five-star safety rating and six airbags, plus a comprehensive list of standard active safety gear.

The car will stop automatically if it senses a collision ahead and will alert you if you are drifting into the lane next to you. Blind-spot detection keeps an eye on surrounding traffic, while rear cross-traffic alert is handy when you’re backing out of driveways and tight spots in shopping centres.

DRIVING

The CX-3 is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 110kW and 195Nm, which is adequate for a car this size. It feels zippy in traffic and has enough puff to accelerate up steep hills, working well with the six-speed auto.

Vision is excellent and the higher ride height makes getting in and out easy for older drivers.

Steering is light but provides good feedback, while there is plenty of grip through corners. On the freeway the CX-3 feels planted and stable at speed.

Fuel use is on the thirsty side at 6.7L/100km, but it only requires cheaper 91 unleaded. Rivals use thriftier, small turbocharged engines, although some require premium.

VERDICT 3/5

Rivals have caught and passed the CX-3 as it comes towards the end of its life cycle. It’s still a quality option, but not at this price.

ALTERNATIVES

Kia Stonic GT-Line, $29,990 drive-away

Much cheaper, seven-year warranty and more fuel efficient. Basic safety and no all-wheel drive.

Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid GXL AWD, from about $39,200 drive-away

Safe and fuel efficient with a zippy petrol-electric combo. Expensive and snug cabin.

Volkswagen T-Cross Style, from about $33,500 drive-away

Sharp price, good looks and feisty little turbo engine. Interior lacks polish, dual-clutch auto can take some getting used to.

MAZDA CX-3 AKARI AWD VITALS

Price: $39,490 drive-away

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, 110kW/195Nm

Warranty/servicing: 5 yrs/ultd km, $1770 over 5 years

Safety: auto emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, 360-degree camera, driver attention warning, front and rear parking sensors

Thirst: 6.7L/100km

Cargo: 264L

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