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2016 Mazda CX-3 Akari Review

2016 Mazda CX-3 Akari petrol road test and review.

So much of life and the success of a car comes down to timing and Mazda could not have timed things better than the 2015 release of the Mazda CX-3.

This is the vehicle that so many Australian car buyers are looking for right now and I’m pleased to say that while it isn’t perfection on wheels, it does prove a pretty likeable companion.

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 range is priced from just $19,990, right up at the other end of the range is the CX-3 Akari, an offering available with either a 77kW/270Nm 1.5 litre diesel (4×4 and auto only) and a 109kW/192Nm 2.0 litre petrol, available as either manual or auto with 2WD and auto-only should you opt for the AWD.

I had the petrol version with the 4×4 drivetrain and (naturally) the auto transmission – a combo that will cost you from $35,290.

I guess the first thing that struck me with the CX-3 was how much it is like the Mazda2, sure, they share the same platform underneath, but the cabin and the feel on the road is almost exactly the same.

50 Series tyres on the standard 18” alloy wheels on the Akari grade equates to a good looking wheel/tyre combo, though the ride can be a but unforgiving when a pot hole or road crack is found and I approached a speed bump just a bit too fast and felt a not subtle “thud”.

The engine moves the CX-3 along just on adequately. It is on the slightly underpowered side and this means highway driving especially sees the transmission looking for a lower gear whenever any sort of incline is being negotiated. Really put your foot down and the engine becomes noisier than I might have expected, especially in a car this size that is on the other side of $35,000.

Sharp steering and a good turning circle are positives though and the fuel economy is very good, I averaged 6.9L/100km in my week of city driving and a couple of long highway stretches.

The seating position is good, though like the Mazda2, I thought the wing mirrors took some getting used to (both positioning and size) and beware, the chunky rear pillars creates a worse than expected rear ¾ blind spot.

Inside the cabin of the Mazda CX-3 you will find almost exactly the same layout as the Mazda2. The Akari grade though features an absolutely top quality leather trim and the attention to detail on the seats and door trims is excellent.

This grade of CX-3 gets a head-up display with a nifty little screen that folds up and down when the engine is switched on or off. The display is clear and easy to read and is a great feature. This grade of Mazda also comes with cruise control that can be incrementally adjusted by 1km/h and your set speed is displayed on the head up display (though it does disappear after a number of seconds).

This fingertip speed adjustment, both up and down, is a feature I always enjoy as it allows you to reduce your speed through freeway roadworks etc. without having to cancel the cruise control or be distracted making sure you are at the right speeds if you are driving ‘manually’.

Another great feature is the Mazda MZD infotainment system. Easy to use, especially with the centre console mounted buttons, joystick and knob, it is a real highlight. I also really like the stereo volume knob being located here, different, but convenient.

On the other side of the coin there seemed to be a couple of things missing from this flagship model in the CX-3 range – heated seats and a centre armrest. Sure, not everyone is in love with heated seats, but in a model at this price, I (and a lot of potential buyers) would expect them.

The lack of a centre armrest seriously affects comfort levels, especially on longer journeys and of course you have no real centre storage area either. The glove box though is reasonably well-sized and the door pockets adequate.

You also miss out on digital radio and that’s a shame. Though there is no shortage of other features in the Mazda CX-3 Akari, they include:

  • Tilt and reach steering adjust
  • Push button ignition
  • Key in pocket central locking
  • Blind spot monitors
  • Sat-nav
  • Reverse camera
  • Electric sunroof
  • Lane departure warning
  • 18” alloy wheels

While cabin space is generally adequate I felt that rear seat passengers could have been better accommodated for leg and knee room and getting three adults across the rear seat would be cosy.

Boot space though, especially with a removable false floor, was better than expected. Mazda also doesn’t charge any extra for premium paint in this grade of CX-3, except if you choose the popular Soul Red Metallic, this carries a $200 premium.

All grades of 2016 Mazda CX-3 come with a five star ANCAP safety rating.

Summing it up: It’s a solid and well-built little car and as I said at the outset the Mazda CX-3 is exactly the car for the times. Couples without children or retirees who don’t really need a lot of space or performance will be at home in the CX-3.

If you aren’t overly enthusiastic about having AWD and some of the other luxuries, then the entry-level Neo looks like great value. With the same engine as the Akari, the CX-3 Neo just lacks some of the class but starts at only $19,990!

Spending less than the Akari’s hefty price tag would also make me much happier about missing out on things like a centre armrest and heated seats.

NUTS and BOLTS – 2016 Mazda CX-3 Akari

Engine: 2.0 litre petrol producing 109kW and 192Nm or 1.5 litre turbo-diesel producing 77kW and 270Nm

Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic

Safety: Five star

Warranty: Three years

Origin: Japan

Price: Akari from $31,290 (2WD/manual)

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About Joel Helmes 3742 Articles
Joel is the founder and CEO of Behind the Wheel. Joel has a background as a radio broadcaster with on-air roles at 4BC, 4KQ, 2KY, 2LT and 2UE amongst others, as well as a news editor and program director. Joel’s relationship with cars stems back to his early childhood learning to change oil and brakes with his father and uncle. This continued on into his driving years owning an assorted collection of cars.

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