Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Review: 2017 Mazda CX-3 AWD Activ


Mazda is on a roll and everything they make from the diminutive Mazda2 to the iconic MX-5 drive like winners. As impervious as they seem, they’ll have to stumble at one point as praises for KODO and Skyactiv can’t go on forever. And though it’s more of a misstep than an outright fall, it has finally happened and it’s with the CX-3. To be fair, it’s unequivocally the best to drive in its segment; heck it’s even more captivating than most crossovers a segment up. Yet, taken in the greater context of the Mazda automotive universe, the CX-3 feels more of a good story than a great one.

With the small crossover segment booming globally, Mazda has followed the lead of its competitors and based their CX-3 off the Mazda2. Yet, understanding that raising the ride height would alter the center of gravity and consequently, the driving dynamics, counteractive measures were put in place. Along with firmer bushings and re-tuned springs/dampers, the CX-3’s platform is stiffer. Made of 66 percent high-strength steel, it has about the same rigidity as the larger Mazda3. The resulting experience behind the wheel is good, but not perfect.




The CX-3 remains, like all Mazda vehicles, an intimate and rewarding driving experience.  It doesn’t drive like a tall car and that may be off-putting for some; yet the car-like feel mean it’s a more capable long distance cruiser and occasional corner carver. Despite the “cruder” torsion beam axle, the CX-3 remains a joy in the bends. The revised steering, with a 7 percent slower ratio than the Mazda2’s, is well matched to the chassis. It offers a direct, nice on-center feel and progressive response during cornering.  Weight transfer, be it side to side or front to back, is handled well with minimal body roll.

Surprisingly, Mazda is making the CX-3 available with all-wheel drive, only of two in its segment to do so (the other being the Subaru XV). The i-ACTIV AWD uses a smaller and lighter differential that manages to slot in-between the torsion beam. What’s more, it’s a predictive system that uses 27 different sensors to check engine, transmission, steering, braking, and even weather data at a rate of 200 times a second. It then sends power to the wheels that need traction a split-second before it actually needs it. It’s a transparent system: no lights, no levers to pull or switches to push; you just know it’s constantly looking out for you.




But in as much as the CX-3 has dialed in the driving dynamics to a tee, it comes with a big trade off and that’s with the ride quality. Compared to other Skyactiv-generation vehicles, including the MX-5, the CX-3 is sensitive to prevailing road conditions and tire pressures. The ride can go anywhere between plush and crashy depending on where you drive it and how much PSI is in the tires. On smoother or even slightly rougher surfaces, the CX-3 cushions unwanted impacts, yet on larger obstacles like ruts and humps, they shudder through almost unfiltered. Thus, caution must be exercised when tackling Manila Water diggings. If taken at speed, the rear occupants will complain of tremendous chassis hop. Meanwhile, sticking to the prescribed no load tire pressure of 33 PSI results in a well-mannered ride, but bump it up to the prescribed high load tire pressure of 38 PSI and it becomes unbearable.

In addition to the CX-3’ sensitivity to road conditions, it’s also worth noting that its move from hatchback to crossover hasn’t really increased its ground clearance. Stuck at a deceptively low 155 millimeters, it’s just 3 millimeters higher than the Mazda2 on which it’s based on. This can cause the CX-3 to embarrassingly scape through some poorly designed driveways.




It’s the same sort of experience with the drivetrain. The CX-3 is powered by a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder engine shared with the Mazda3 and CX-5 yet it loses some 9 horsepower and 8 Nm of torque in this particular application. Though still more powerful than Honda’s 1.8-liter mill in the HR-V, the performance of the CX-3 isn’t enthralling. Though lovely when poked (there are paddle shifters and a Sport mode to help), but without provocation, it doesn’t move with the same kind of verve you’ve come to expect from the zoom-zoom brand. The accompanying 6-speed automatic produce snappy enough shifts, but they aren’t exactly what you call smooth. Equipped with i-Stop but no i-ELOOP, this AWD variant manages just 7.69 km/L at an average speed of 13 km/h, respectable but not good.

As always, Mazda has nailed the styling on the CX-3. Instead of going cutesy, oddball, or bland, this crossover is attractive from every angle. The trademark cues: long hood, cab-rearward design, small overhangs, and tight rear proportions are all there. Yet because it’s a bigger canvas compared to the Mazda2, designers have drawn more attention to details like the LED accents in the head- and taillights and the huge wheel arches filled with 18-inch alloy wheels.




The biggest highlight of the CX-3, however, is its interior which is wonderfully upscale and highly ergonomic. It mimics the Mazda2 with its slim, flowing design accentuated by three circular vents and a slat-type one hidden beneath a chrome piece. There’s a wonderful play of color and texture going as well with tasteful red and metallic accents, contrasting stitching on the seats and dash, and even suede inserts on the seats and doors. Meanwhile, the horse-and-rider-as-one philosophy is intact equating to an easy-to-drive experience. There’s absolutely no learning curve and the driving position is spot on perfect. Even the seats, well the front ones, are supportive and the visibility is great.

Imagining that the CX-3 and Mazda2 have the same interior space given the same platform and wheelbase is partly right. Thanks to higher hip points, the CX-3 gains more legroom (20-mm up front and 30-mm at the back) compared to its passenger car counterpart. Even the rear bench itself has been raised theater style affording better visibility for the rear occupants. However, these changes don’t sound like much and quite frankly, they aren’t. Though sitting at the back feels slightly better than in the Mazda2, it’s still best left for smaller folks and children. It’s the same for luggage space which can carry a weekend’s worth but not more. It’s nowhere near the levels of versatility expected of a crossover.




And in the end, that’s exactly what’s lacking with the CX-3. Would-be buyers are expecting a lot of things in a crossover nowadays—space, versatility, comfort—traits that are absent in this particular Mazda. There’s no questioning that the CX-3 is a Mazda through and through with solid driving dynamics, a premium interior, and attractive styling, but unless you’re an empty nester or resigned to being single for life, this formula feels stretched to accommodate the typical small crossover segment buyer. Add to that the P 1,480,000 price tag and that niche becomes even smaller. In the end, you can still applaud Mazda for what they do and there will always be someone out there who’d want this kind of car, but for the vast majority of small crossover buyers out there, the CX-3 may be just a bit too Mazda for their taste.

2017 Mazda CX-3 AWD Activ
Ownership 2017 Mazda CX-3 AWD Activ
Year Introduced 2016
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Normal Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 148 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 192 @ 2,800
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 7.69 km/L @ 13 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,275
Width (mm) 1,765
Height (mm) 1,535
Wheelbase (mm) 2,570
Curb Weight (kg) 1,290
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Toyo Proxes R40 215/50 R 18 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear with Camera
Other Safety Features No
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Leather/Suede
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
DVD
MP3
Aux
USB
Bluetooth
# of Speakers 6, Bose
Steering Controls Yes

63 comments:

  1. As a mazda fan and a mazda 3 2017 owner as well, I researched and knew that the Mazda 3 R or Speed is the better buy than the CX-3. The 3 has better interior materials, more power, more organic steering, updated interior design, and a better multi link suspension. The only advantage that the CX-3 has are its crossover styling, AWD, and 100mm higher ride height. My Mazda 3 has less legroom and headroom in the second row as compared to the competitors but you'll get used to it in less than 3 days. It's not a big deal anymore after 3 days and I'm five foot nine inches btw.
    I'm surprised that this review is quite negative, whereas reviewers even in Europe and North America are very positive. Still, I really like this author's honesty and integrity as compared to other local reviewers.

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    1. M3 is a much better choice. Good decision sir.

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  2. Kudos to Uly for an honest review! I was beginning to think he was a fanboy of Mazda but am glad to be proven wrong.

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    1. I'm not a fanboy of anything. I just say things as they are.

      Mazda vehicles of late have set a very high bar so expectations are pretty high for the CX-3. Let's just say it does a pretty good job of offering good driving dynamics, but it's just too expensive and too cramped for family use. It's still good as a car for empty-nesters and such, but not for the typical target market of crossovers in the country.

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  3. If you've got loads of money to burn and don't give a damn to the world, this car is for you.

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    1. The CX-3's pricing is alright, considering that the HRV and the XV are even more expensive than the CX-3. The other competitors, the trax and ecosport, don't offer the same level of power, quality, and equipment. The ASX on the other hand has loads of equipment, but refinement and quality are not on par with the CX-3, HRV, and the XV. On a glance, the HRV EL Mugen is the one which is clearly overpriced, with just a 1.8L engine and not AWD as the CX-3 and the XV. In the local market, it seems that the main competitor of the CX-3 is the XV, if you look at the equipment and the price.

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    2. Why include the ecosport? They dont even share the same price segment.
      Even the totl variant of eco is still 400k cheaper than CX3.

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    3. I compared the ecosport because they are in the same class(subcompact crossover).

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    4. I think they have the same space as the Ecosport. The HRV and the XV have more liveable space than the CX3. Both of these can fit a stroller at the boot or the child seat at the back but not the CX-3. I think those are the primary buyers of these class of vehicles. I wonder where in the world the CX-3 are selling well?

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    5. The CX-3 is selling well in Japan, Europe, and North America. Their niche seems to be single people or couples who has no children but want a car that is small(easier to maneuver in the city) and has a higher ride height than typical sedans.

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    6. North America? There are 17 million cars sold in North America for 2016 and the CX-3 is a very slow selling car in the US, barely a fraction of the more practical HRV or XV.

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    7. Actually, the HR-V is in fact cheaper than the CX-3. Forget about the EL Mugen, that's just the EL trim with an added body kit which only a few would really consider. If you compare the E and EL variants to the CX-3's Pro and Sport respectively, the HR-V is cheaper by 42k (plus discounts). Bump it up to 142k if you throw in the CX-3 AWD. And the XV is pretty much on par with the CX-3; only cheaper by 2k. With this, it's clear that the CX-3 is the priciest in its segment.

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  4. 148hp x 192nm only???
    Againts the Everest 200hp x 480nm?
    Not even half the torque? Sisiw pa!

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    1. May Gatas pa sa Labi ang CX3 na yan !
      Let's wait for the Toyota CH-R..

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    2. Lol, ranger 3.2 same power as your everest, hindi hmubra sa expressway, ubusan kami, 210 kph ako siya, 200 lang, weak, ASX sasakyan ko, same power as cx-3

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    3. The problem with American cars is their weight. They may have more power but are significantly heavier, so the power advantage is nullified.

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    4. Yeah, you're right bro, they only base it on paper figures, you cant base a vehicle's performance on raw power alone, there are many factors to consider. And by the way, diesels are made to pull, petrols to race.

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    5. Seriously gago talaga. Why compare an suv to a crossover.

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    6. Read these anology: CROSSOVER vs SUV

      54HP Power difference is equivalent to half the power of the Mazda 2.

      While 250NM Torque difference is the ASX's whole Torque.

      So how can Crossovers defeat SUV's on-road and off-road?

      You mean to say the Mirage can outrun the Montero due to Power to Weight Ratio? Come on...!?

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    7. Haha, nag analogy pa, ambabaw naman ng basehan, really now, tanga talaga. Hindi yan ganyan kadali boy, you cant base on power and torque alone

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  5. 1.4M? Seriously? Thats already SUV money right there.
    It seems the M3 is a much better choice too.

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    1. SUV money? You mean the base variant SUV's? No equipment, nothing. A fleet car. And not everyone wants or need a big PPV.

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    2. What's the point in this SUV? Low ground clearance, limited storage and passenger space (tighter and more expensive than a compact). If you want handling get a compact car and not an SUV.

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    3. I think subcompact crossovers are made for people who want something small which is easy to maneuver in the city but also want a higher ride height for them to have a more commanding presence of the road. This is designed for first world countries, so they don't have a problem with the poor roads and flooding in here. I for one, bought the Mazda 3 R, than the CX-3. Only women and people who doesn't know anything about cars will buy it over the Mazda 3, or maybe they might buy it for the AWD and styling. But it is premium car, those who are looking for a premium car but doesn't want to pay for those overpriced german cars might buy this.

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    4. Eh? What's wrong with the base variant SUV?
      The current gen SUVs are better equipped now compared to the previous gen.
      You can already get a TOTL 4X2 MUX under 1.5M, GLX Montero for 1.4M, GLS 1.55M minus the promos and discounts that they are offering.
      Yes there are many that would prefer smaller crossovers than a midsize SUV but the problem with the CX3 is just its poor for a crossover. Just what the heck with that 155mm ground clearance? The current honda city is even higher? lmao
      For that price just get a TOTL M3 sedan/hatch or an ASX,XV for a proper crossover, CX3 is just a waste of money.

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    5. It's a lot of money for a small car. But you have to realize the CX-3 does offer a lot of luxury and sometimes luxury doesn't necessarily have to be of "quantifiable value" vis-a-vis cost of competing products. For instance, my Rolex Explorer costs twice as much as an equally brilliant Grand Seiko SBGJ001 with a mechanically and technologically superior Spring Drive mechanism. But it's a Rolex, and the brand name alone carries a lot of weigh in luxury a Seiko simply cannot, even if Seiko can actually churn out technically superior watches.

      If we quantified everything through specs alone, then the Kia Soul would rule the roost with its 136 HP, 300 nm 1.6 turbodiesel and 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Stab the accel pedal and it will easily destroy its fellow small crossovers, the HR-V, CX-3, XV, Juke and Ecosport in a straight line. Best fuel economy too. But there are other metrics most miss such as driving feel, and if you've driven a Kia or Hyundai recently, they all feel the same steering-wise: very light, but numb and unfeeling. Sure, it'll demolish the more expensive CX-3 in a straight line and fuel economy, but it just won't drive as fun in a mountain pass (think Ternate-Nasugbu path, if anyone else here has been to Pico de Loro). The Soul, while arguably better value by virtue of having best-in-class performance and relatively low price, doesn't have a leather-stitched dashboard or an integrated satnav system that adds to the luxury. And has anyone actually noticed how nice the 'Soul Red' paint on the Mazda is? Really high metallic flake content and iridescent red-orange hue is eye-catching. This is also a luxury, and so is the AWD system. Straight line performance isn't always the first thing people look for and the Soul's boxy shape is a love-it or hate-it thing. In its segment, the CX-3 is the "most premium" small crossover with a premium price to match. I'm not saying the Soul is crap next to the CX-3. It actually has better NVH and ride quality than the CX-3. But from a regular person's perspective, the CX-3 is definitely the classier, "premium" choice.

      Lastly, don't compare those similarly price, big, lumbering, ladder-frame based SUVs. We all know they have much more power. But they're big, heavy, and most of them ride like crap compared to crossovers like the CR-V and Tucson. They don't offer enjoyment either on twisting mountain roads because of how tall they are. Basically, those SUVs are 'cheaper by the dozen'. Don't compare your 1,000 Php KFC 4-6 person family meal to my 1,000 Php teppan grill for 1 person meal at Kimpura.

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    6. Since when did Mazda become a luxury car? If you own a luxury watch like a Rolex, you wouldn't be in the market for this Japanese manufacturer of budget cars. You would drive a BMW or a Merc. If you have a Seiko or Casio on your wrist, probably you would drive a Japanese car.

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    7. Mazda offers products that match or even exceed the quality, feel, equipment and technology that the germans offer without being overpriced. The only thing luxurious about the germans is the badge. The cheapest "luxury" german car is the Audi A1 at 1.85m. At 1.85m, you could buy the Mazda 6 wagon which is a superior car than the Audi at the same price. The germans are simply overpriced to compete with the Japanese, and are just hanging on to their badge and the so called "german engineering" bs.

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    8. Damn, the mazda fanboy sure got crazier. Thinks even his mazda can beat premium german models. I wonder just what the fuck is wrong with this guy? He seems delusional. Typical crazy mazda fanboy who thinks his car is better than anyone else.

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    10. I didn't say that Mazda is better overall than the others. What I'm saying is that Mazda offers a premium product that has better value than the german marques.That said, mazda's only tangible weakness is interior space. Also, I'm not the same anonymous with the long comment. Can't handle the truth?

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    11. Mazda makes good affordable cars. Equating it to German luxury brands is like comparing a G-shock to a Rolex. People buy Rolex not because they tell time better than a Casio or Seiko but because its exclusive. When you wear that watch, everyone assumes you are really rich and successful.

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    12. Very good analogy on the Grand Seiko and Rolex. Only a WIS will understand. Having a Rolex does not mean, you have to get a BMW or a Merc. You wouldn't imagine how plain a Rolex is in the WIS world! BMW or Merc can easily wear a Patek an AP or an ALS!

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    13. Yeah but since forum is for car nuts and not wics lets stick to the vanilla of luxury watches since some may not know what a vacheron or bruguet is

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    14. Yes. Too many plebs here. Given the comments so far, most of them don't even know Seiko also makes luxury watches. Plebs who can't tell the difference between a Seiko 5 and a Grand Seiko won't understand the analogy I made above.

      And fyi, I own several Rolexs and other watches that are typically considered "luxury" (but not Patek or Audemars level) and I drive a Toyota, Suzuki, Hyundai, Kia. We also have a Merc and Audi. Does that make me stupid owning a bunch of non-luxury marques when I own a luxury watch? Why? Because "it doesn't match"? It's not the price! It's about being able to identify that certain exemplary qualities exist in products, regardless of price. For instance, our C230 simply doesn't offer the same thrill through a mountain pass as our Swift which is much tighter-handling, driver-oriented. In contrast, our C230 simply wallows through the road unfeelingly, to put it simply.

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    15. Btw, to the fools who are saying the Mazda is being compared to BMW or Audi: please learn to read. I'm comparing the CX-3 to other small crossovers from other non-luxury brands. The CX-3 has a lot of luxury items not found on competing small crossovers. Have you even been inside the CX-3? The quality of the dashboard and interior materials alone is definitely a step above its competition. These people who have the reading comprehension of a 13 year old don't know how to define levels of luxury and the qualities that define a luxury product. Simply goes to show they've never gained true appreciation for luxury since they've never owned luxury goods before.

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    16. ^True. And they always bash Mazda while they're at it.

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    17. Before anything I own a mazda car and it's my only car lol.

      I get what the other guys are pointing out. Most here doesnt even know a single micro watch brand. I own a Helios Tropic to all the watch lovers by the way.

      Comparing the Japanese car makers and their sub compact crossovers, we can all consider CX-3 as one of the most luxurious if not the most luxurious of all. You guys can all read right? Cx-3 might aswell be targeted to those consumers who prefer luxurious crossovers that aren't euro brands,those who want premium cars but still JDM. The only other JDM premium brand I can think of is Lexus which has all their cars at the same price range of the euro's. We all have to admit that since Mazda used the Kodo design they went to a more premium approach to the market.

      I just can't stand all the bashing lol. To many fanboys around.

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    18. I don't get why mazda is a luxurious brand. Its the same as honda and toyota. Subarus are more expensive on average with no car less than a million. Maybe you're just blinded by your fanboy obsession

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    19. This kinda reminds me of the 90's Honda prestige everyone was laughing about. It's happening now with Mazda. In the future, people will laugh about this too.

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    20. You just don't get it do you? Compare the CX-3 with the HRV, XV, etc, and you will see that it offers a more luxurious design, quality, and feel than the others. Toyota is the worst, their interiors are cheaply designed and material quality is just cheap.

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    21. The funny thing is the HRV also feels premium inside. I mean just look at the interior of the HRV, the thing is almost covered with fucking leather inside. The stalks feel durable and the doors closes with a solid thunk. And most of all, it has an ARMREST muthaf***a!

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    22. Aanhin naman ang luxurious kung walang interior space. Kakahiya namang me sakay ka sa likod tapos ang sikip pati yung boot space. Hindi kasya yung golf clubs mo.

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    23. To the guy asking why Mazda is a luxurious brand, that too also piqued my curiosity why even brand like Lexus or Acura exists.

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    24. You buy a crossover for its practicality, not how luxurious it looks in the inside. Those padded leathers can be done by a good upholstery shop and still you will save a lot more.
      And as for practicality CX3 definitely lacks of it. Poor interior space, boot space and alaughable ground clearance for a crossover.
      HRV looks good inside and out and far more practical than a CX3.
      Still they are priced too high IMO for a measly 140hp 1.8 engine.

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    25. The problem with CX3 interiors is that they lack character, while the materials feel premium the cabin looks too familiar because it shares the same design with the mazda 2 and that for me will get boring really fast.

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    26. You're probably not in the CX-3's target market.

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  7. 155mm of ground clearance? Pathetic. That's the same as the Mazda 3. Makes you wonder why you'd even get this one.

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  8. Replies
    1. Yeah. At 1.4M, this thing has no freaking armrest. One point fucking four million pesos and has no armrest. Yup. Let that sink in.

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    2. and the space of a B segment car, kaya pala nilalangaw ito sa showroom

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    3. It's a disappointment that it has no armrest but it's basically a B-segment crossover, so there's no fault with that. Have you ever been in a Mazda showroom for you to say that nobody's interested in the CX-3? Most Filipinos would definitely buy a mid size SUV, but there are some who wants a small crossover like the CX-3.

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    4. Never been inside a CX3 but I bought an SUV last year and one of my choices was the CX5. While it was pretty good, I was disappointed with the interior, my compact car was a bit roomier especially in the second row. Bought an Explorer instead even though I didn't need the third row. Maybe that's why even though reviews speak glowingly now of Mazda products, they aren't selling more vehicles as expected. People are used to bigger space in their current cars. Maybe it can attract first time buyers or if you came from a Swift or Vios. But if their previous car was a Civic or Elantra they would look at the space and see it as a downgrade.

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    6. Mazda should just sell this failure of a crossover under 1.1 Million. Waste of money to buy it in 1.3M-1.5 Price segment because there are far more better choices.
      Make it compete with the Ecosport, Juke, Trax probably it would fair better compared to those. lol

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  9. A shame that everyone sees the shortcomings of the CX-3, especially in interior space, but fail to see the positives. Even the author failed to mention the awesome sound system of the CX-3.

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    1. Since you mentioned it, I beg to differ. The 6-speaker Bose sound system on the CX-3 sounded awful. It's Bose in just name, but sounds like the regular sound system of the Mazda3.

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    2. Even if it sounds awesome anyone can upgrade sound system aftermarket while you can never upgrade the really tight interior space

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    3. Actually you can't. The Bose-equipped Mazdas (and I presume all other brands carrying the Bose sound system) uses a different wiring harness. You simply cannot retrofit the Bose speakers into a car unless you plan to gut it out and replace the wiring harness as well.

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    4. So you mean to say that the stock sound system on the Mazda 3 R sucks?

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    5. It's alright, but far from a typical Bose setup. Poor bass, lots of distortion. The whole sound doesn't feel as full as the Bose setup on the Mazda3, CX-5, or Mazda6

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  10. The CX3 is a good subcompact SUV but has far too many limitations. The biggest may be too small backseat and storage for an SUV. At that price better get a CRV, CX5 or Tucson.

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