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Compact SUV Mazda CX-3 – Classy, compact and appealing

The Mazda CX-3 offers a design of the finest quality and style thanks to the KODO – Soul of Motion design language. It adopts the full suite of SKYACTIV Technologies to deliver performance that can be enjoyed without reservation. A fifth model in Mazda’s line-up of new-generation vehicles, its size and packaging aim to make it easy to use in a wide variety of situations.

The CX-3 is a completely new model with a boldly inspired exterior, a stylish interior as well as dynamic performance and sporty handling. With a combination of Mazda’s latest technology and design, maximised fuel efficiency and the latest active safety and connectivity technology, the compact crossover is a successful combination of engineering, design and a flexible driver oriented approach.

Striking design 

The CX-3 shares the many KODO – Soul of Motion traits with other Mazdas, from the sculpted, flowing lines to the compact rear-leaning cabin, the compact SUV’s bold face, large wheels, side mouldings and high beltline also unmistakably express its go-anywhere SUV character. Up front, the high-nosed grille with seven silver fins and chromed signature wings extending into the sharp headlamp signature clearly show the way forward for the Mazda brand. The glinting predator-like eyes feature full LED headlamps with light-guiding technology, which illuminates the portion of the wing within the headlamp unit.

Indeed, all KODO models are characterised by a strong footing, but the CX-3 takes this a step further with substantial 18-inch aluminium wheels. The shiny-machined outer surface finish of their five sets of three-dimensionally contoured spokes contrasts sharply with the gunmetal grey metallic contour surfaces. Around back, the cleanly crafted tailgate design featuring a number plate recess emphasises the CX-3’s short overhang, at the same time concealing the rear-parking camera. The combination taillights stretch from the sides of the car into the tailgate. Complementing the headlamps, they feature a unique brand signature with a slim upper line and three-dimensionally contoured brake lamp. The details underscore the rear end’s sporty SUV durability, right down to the prominent dual exhaust pipes.

Great performance

At the heart of the CX-3 beats a SKYACTIV-G 2.0 in two power outputs, with power transferred to the front or all four wheels via six-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic or SKYACTIV-MT manual transmissions. The direct-injection SKYACTIV-G 2.0 is offered with either 88kW/118hp for FWD models or 110kW/147hp for AWD CX-3s, both at 6,000rpm, and 204Nm of torque delivered at 2,800rpm.

Both six-speed gearboxes offer smooth yet responsive shifting, from either the SKYACTIV-MT or the SKYACTIV-Drive automatic. A “proper” torque-converter unit, the automatic in “sport” mode, squeezes more out of the CX-3’s petrol engines on demand at the flip of the Drive Selection switch on the centre console next to the gearshift.

Sporty Ride

The SKYACTIV-Chassis’ front MacPherson strut and rear torsion-beam suspension is bolstered with stronger, firmer suspension bushings and retuned springs and shocks. The electric power-assisted steering, meanwhile, has a high steering gear ratio in the name of a better balance between steering feedback and vehicle response. Finally, the rear brakes received solid discs rather than drums to go with the ventilated front discs.

Clever AWD

Part of the CX-3’s surefootedness is based on Mazda’s new-generation AWD system that provides power when and where it’s needed, and the driver need not flip a single switch. Its intuitive front-wheel slip warning detection system utilises 27 sensor signals to monitor road conditions as well as driver intentions.

Instantly determining how much grip each wheel needs, the active torque control coupling sends the right amount of torque to each wheel, even when road conditions are constantly changing. Because the system prevents tire spinning and excessive rear-drive operation, it saves fuel while ensuring superb drivability and vehicle stability

Classy interior

The interior design echoes the exterior’s go-anywhere style in many ways. The decorative panel on the passenger side, for example, emphasises the width of the dash and by extension the CX-3’s solid footing. A discreetly slim horizontal vent offsets the three round climate control louvers. The instrument cluster hood is finished in a stitched leather-grain look. The solid-metal form of the door trim complements the striking dark red soft door trim material and matching kneepads on the centre console. The seats feature sporty half-leather upholstery with a quilted central section.

The 7-inch touchscreen display located on the dash above the centre stack is the hub of the infotainment zone – and the gateway to CX-3’s MZD Connect smartphone connectivity system. Controllable with minimal effort using the rotary commander on the centre console (or voice command for many functions), the setup is designed to keep the driver’s eyes on the road while enjoying online content via the BOSE premium sound system, for example.

Like all new Mazdas, the CX-3 is driver oriented and driving focused. Behind the wheel, it offers class-beating adjustability to make the experience a pleasure for people of all sizes. Together with the symmetrical pedals, optimally positioned gauges and controls, and top-class front shoulder and legroom, this also helps prevent fatigue on long trips. The compact SUV’s high eye point provides drivers with an excellent view of the road. The layout and abundance of glass also delivers good rearward visibility, even diagonally – helpful when changing lanes or reversing out of parking spaces.

Boot space  

The CX-3’s 350-litre boot expands to 1,260 litres with the 60:40 split rear seatbacks folded. One highlight is its flexibility, featuring a two-way cargo board, which can be placed at two different levels according to needs. The higher location flattens the large load surface with the rear seats folded, offering enough room underneath to store items such as a folding camping table or sporting equipment like tennis gear or a skateboard. The lower position, meanwhile, creates enough room for two large suitcases with the rear seats occupied. Either way, the high tailgate opening and small bottom lip simplifies loading and unloading.


The CX-3 reprises its role as the spunky, fun alternative in the subcompact crossover segment. It is Mazda’s entry-level offering, and is one vehicle that comes highly recommended. The CX-3 combines the currently fashionable tall ride height of a crossover with sporty handling and undeniable style inside and out. Few crossovers this inexpensive are this much fun. The Mazda franchise is under the able hands of CMC Motors Group Limited. The firm is located along Lusaka Road, Industrial Area in Nairobi County.


Value: 4

Presence: 3

Interior: 4

Styling: 4

Equipment: 3

Overall: 4


Quote: Instantly determining how much grip each wheel needs, the active torque control coupling sends the right amount of torque to each wheel, even when road conditions are constantly changing.

What we like    

  • KODO design
  • Quiet interior
  • Economical engines

What we dislike

  • Cramped rear seats
  • Rivals offer more boot space
  • Pricy optional extras