Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test: 2016 Mazda CX-3 GT - October Update

Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jacob Black and Jonathan Yarkony

Odometer at pickup: 25 km
Odometer now: 11,398km
Costs: $98.57 – first service.

First, a confession: I might have blown past the 8,000km first service marker – by a little bit. Maybe by a couple of hundred kilometres, or so. One and one is two, right? What about when they’re next to each other?

Okay, so I blew past the mark by 1,100 km and got my first service at 9,135 km.

By now, we’ve clicked over the 11,000 km mark in this mighty little 2016 Mazda CX-3 and I’m more in love with her than ever. Sure, “mighty” is a stretch, this little rig is frisky, like a Jack Russell, not powerful, like a Boxer. More on that shortly, but first, the service experience.

This is my first time getting one of our review cars serviced, and indeed the first time I’ve ever done a dealership service. I took this one to Airport Mazda. I called on Wednesday afternoon and drove in on Thursday morning.

I was in and out so fast I walked back through the fart cloud I’d left just outside the door.

I parked the car in the well-marked carpark, walked through the doors, clambered over mountains of waiting winter tires (seriously guys, go get them on now please) and spoke to the gentleman behind the service desk.

“Yep, we’ll get that service done. If you like you can wait over there, we’ll be about 45 minutes”.

I had already called our illustrious Senior Editor to come and get me, we had car swaps to do.

“Can I come back later this afternoon for it please?”

“No problem at all, see you later.”

I was in and out so fast I walked back through the fart cloud I’d left just outside the door (#karma).

When I returned some time later, the gleaming Soul Mica Red CX-3 was back exactly where I’d left her, the only hint that something had changed was the shiny clean paint – they’d even washed it for me.

Chalk one up for the dealership experience, even if this dealership did have bird nests in its Mazda logo.

You might be wondering, did the CX-3’s oil change make any difference?

It did. Probably because I’d blown past the scheduled mileage, but the little Mazda had begun to feel a little less peppy in the days and weeks before the service; a little less keen on getting going, a little less smooth and a lot less playful. It’s hard to explain but I think you get a sixth sense when the car you’re driving is not quite its best. I think a car overdue for an oil change feels a little like you do when you first start to get a blocked nose.

After the service though, the CX-3 seemed to perk up. The startup got that fraction of a second quicker, the engine felt freer and everything just felt better. The oil change and systems check didn’t unlock any extra power or torque, mind you, it just seemed to clean the engine up. It even idled better.

After 11,000 km I’ve been listening for signs of rattles and creaks and signs the car is beginning to lose its new car lustre, but I’ve been unsuccessful. I thought briefly I’d uncovered an issue with the glovebox, and was delighted to be able to tell you all about the ill-fitting glovebox door I surely wouldn’t notice on a short-term test. Then I noticed a suspicious bit of poking out from the gap the bulging door had opened up. A closer look revealed my daughter’s stuffed toy crammed in the glovebox – so no, no issue, just a child who was about to be reunited with one of her lost stuffies!

Jumping in and out of the Mazda day in day out, often in juxtaposition with other cars of varying quality and expense, has given me a good perspective on the CX-3’s various flaws and virtues.

“Wind noise, while better than a Mazda 3, is still a little much for me,” was one note I found in my little journal. There was a note on the previous page too, from the day before. “The Lexus NX is like a tomb it’s so silent”. So you know – dose of salt.

The interior has held up to the abuses of my young family. The seats are still stain-free despite the combination of my driving style and my daughter’s love of hot chocolate, the suede inserts are not showing any signs of pilling, scarring or fading, the seats still supportive and firm.

Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony took another CX-3 on a road trip through BC and he found it a worthy steed for swallowing miles. “This trip again highlighted its dynamic and long-distance prowess, proving once again that it is a car built for the city, that can still run in the mountains and the roads of the open wild,” he said.

I agree, but there is a definite penalty for taking a small car with a matched engine to the country: Fuel economy suffers. I’ve done one trip under the speed limit where I saw 5.7 l/100 km on the trip monitor, but once you do traffic speeds you’re swallowing well into the sevens.

At the moment, and bearing in mind I spend 55 minutes a day sitting in stop-start traffic at an average speed of 30 km/h, we’re sitting on 8.6 l/100 km. That compares well to our experience with other hatches, but I feel like it could be better. I also wonder why SkyActiv hasn’t included an auto stop-start function.

Road trips for apple picking and pumpkin patch raiding and other family adventures helped keep the number out of the nines, thankfully.  Worth noting: The trip computer at this point has never once been refuted by the hand-measured calculations we do from time to time.

From the beginning: Arrival, June, June Supplement, July, August, SeptemberWrap-Up

There are niggles that keep rearing up, however.

The lack of a height adjustment on the passenger seat bugs me every time I get in that side. The inability for me to tune stations – only presets – via the steering wheel controls irks me, and I have to admit I’m running out of places to safely store my stuff – a console bin would be welcome.

The other problem I have is with my daughter’s booster seat. She likes to buckle herself in, and I like it too, but the seatbelt is too close in, so I always have to scootch her booster seat to the door, then slide it back in order for her sit safely and securely. More hip room in the outboard seats would be good, even if it came at the expense of the needlessly wide middle seat.

When gassing it to get out into gaps in traffic I find the engine spools up fast but with a lot of noise. At first I thought it sounded growly and sporty, but as time has passed it has lost its allure and now I wish it would quieten down. More power/torque down low would really help seal my adoration for this little CX-3 by smoothing out those moments of hard acceleration and giving me a drivetrain that matches the adorably energetic chassis.

At 11,000 km in I still love hustling the hatchback/CUV through corners or even through traffic, where I imagine the little pop-up screen for the head-up display is the crosshair vane on an old fighter plane.

My favourite part of this car is how much easier it is to park than almost everything else I drive. The mirrors are large and therefore extremely effective, the steering is light at low speeds and the back-up camera with guided lines makes any crooked parking attempt totally unforgiveable. Mostly, I like how good the turning circle and small the overall footprint is. After a day or two backing anything else into my tight condo parking bay, whipping the Mazda into its spot feels like home.

Pricing: 2016 Mazda CX-3 GT with Technology Package
Base Price (GX): $20,695
Base Price (GT): $28,995
Options: $1,500 (Techology Package: Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and satellite radio)
A/C Tax: $100
Freight and PDI: $1,895
Price as Tested: $32,490