Recently I spent some time with the 2019 Mazda CX-3 SkyActiv D. It’s the diesel version of Mazda’s popular small crossover. Powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, with 85kW and 270NM of torque. Mazda claim a combined 5L/100km of fuel economy and the 1.8 diesel only weights 50kg more than the 2.0-litre petrol

However, Mazda doesn’t offer the CX-3 with a diesel option in New Zealand which I found weird since diesel vehicles still enjoy some popularity in the market. But perhaps Mazda knows best and maybe found buyers of a small urban crossover wouldn’t need a diesel engine. So here are five things I liked about the diesel CX-3 and five things I didn’t really like.  

Five Things I Liked:

1). During my time with the CX-3 diesel I took it on a 1200km+ road trip and only needed to fill its 48L tank up once (I picked it up with a full tank of diesel). Most of the trip was on the motorway but I was by no means attempting to drive it like a saint. Even around town with the stop/start system it was quite frugal. Certainly for long trips I could see the appeal for this engine and body combination, it was just nice not having to stop for fuel during a road trip. 

2). It’s a crossover, yes but it doesn’t feel like one. Instead it felt more like a larger hatchback. The version I tested did come with AWD but a front-wheel drive version is also offered in Japan. I liked that it didn’t feel like a traditional crossover or SUV because it meant it was more fun to drive. It was certainly easier to drive through smaller countryside towns in. 

3). The CX-3 has been around for a couple of years now and has Mazda’s current Kodo design language. In terms of passenger cars I’d argue Mazda don’t make a bad looking car. Sure one could argue they make one design in different sizes but if it looks good then it looks good. 

4). This might be the “entry level” crossover in Mazda’s lineup but you can still get it with a raft of safety tech and gizmos we’ve come to expect from the Hiroshima-based brand. The CX-3 test car I had was the equivalent to the Limited trim level in New Zealand and had all the tech you’d need such as a reversing camera, blind spot assist, radar cruise control, cross rear traffic alert, and a heads-up display. Neat.

5). The interior is just like other Mazdas. If you’ve been in any modern Mazda from the last five years the interior of the CX-3 will be a nice familiar place to spend time in. Everything is easy to use and the most of the materials you see and touch are quality. Yes, there are some cheap plastics down the bottom of the interior and the rear door trim isn’t as posh as the ones up front but that’s to be expected at this price range. For the most part, it’s a smart interior. 

Five Things I Didn’t Like: 

1). Mazda’s 2.2 SkyActiv D engine is a true powerhouse with plenty of power, torque, and fuel economy for daily use. It’s also quite a refined engine. But the 1.8 isn’t quite as refined as its larger sibling. At low speeds the agricultural diesel sound is noticeable and the stop/start can be quite jarring. Best keep that off for smoother starts in stop and go traffic situations. 

2). Yes it’s a crossover but no, it’s no load lugger. The boot is quite small and while rear passenger space is ‘okay’ it’s not class leading. You wouldn’t want to have tall passengers in the back for long trips though, you might not be able to fit four people’s worth of luggage in the boot. 

3). If you’re buying a crossover because you want a high driving position, this isn’t the one for you. It’s not unique to the diesel variant, the CX-3 just isn’t as tall as other crossovers. Some might not like that but personally I didn’t mind it much. 

4). It’s not the new kid on the block. The CX-3 has been around since 2015 and the CX-30 is a much newer, albeit larger, crossover sitting on the same platform as the recently launched Mazda3. The CX-30 slots between the CX-3 and CX-5 in the range but shares the CX-3’s 2.0-litre petrol and 1.8-litre diesel engines as well as the Mazda3’s larger 2.5 petrol. 

5). If you want a diesel CX-3, you can’t buy one new in New Zealand. But you know what, after spending a few days with it you’re not missing out. The only reason why you’d get one is if you do 1000km drives everyday. That’s a very niche market to target so for everyone else the petrol engine provides enough all-round usability for most buyers’ needs. I guess Mazda do know best.  

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Ken Saito
Words cannot begin to describe how much I love cars but it's worth a try. Grew up obsessed with them and want to pursue a career writing about them. Anything from small city cars to the most exotic of supercars will catch my attention.



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