The crossovers. Their exact origin is as blurry as the line they crossed between an everyday passenger car and a proper go-anywhere SUV. They exist because most people don’t venture off-road but they still want to look rugged anyway.
Just lately, they have been breaching into the compact car segment trying to distract the buyers’ attention away from normal cars. Previously if you’re upgrading from a small hatch, most likely you would go for a C-segment sedan, but today you also have these compact crossovers to consider.
Here we have two of the hottest subcompact crossovers currently on sale in Malaysia, the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3. The similarities of these two cars are uncanny, both are concocted from the same recipe where the basic ingredients consist of a B-segment platform and an engine from the C-segment. For the CX-3, Mazda has kept the six-speed Skyactiv-Drive gearbox intact with the 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G from the Mazda3, but Honda chose to swap out the five-speed automatic from the Civic’s 1.8-litre i-VTEC mill in favour of a G-Design Shift CVT.
|Name||Mazda CX-3 2.0L Skyactiv||Honda HR-V 1.8 CVT Grade V|
|Engine||1,998cc; 4-cylinder direct injection, DOHC||1,799cc; 4-cylinder direct injection, SOHC|
|Transmission||6-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic||CVT|
|Max Power||154 hp @ 6,000 rpm||140 hp @ 6,500 rpm|
|Max Torque||204 Nm @ 2,800 rpm||172 Nm @ 4,300 rpm|
|Price (OTR without insurance)||RM131,218.50||RM 117,933.59|
The HR-V can be yours from as low as RM99k, but the model we’re testing here is the Grade V with all the bells and whistles which will set you back for RM118k. Mazda only offers the CX-3 in one specification, and it’s a well-equipped one at that. The CX-3 retails at RM131k, and it doesn’t just cost dearer than the top spec HR-V in this test, it’s also the most expensive option among all the other subcompact crossovers on sale in Malaysia. Already have your eyes on these two but can’t decide which one to get? Join us to find out which of this duo suits you best.
It’s no secret that the HR-V is the bigger car here, measuring 19mm longer, 7mm wider, and 70mm taller than the CX-3, and it clearly shows when you put the two side-by-side. Honda’s Exciting H Design!!! (yes, with three exclamation marks no less) is said to emphasise on the grille design, proportions, and surfacing, while Mazda’s Kodo design ethos puts the “Soul of Motion” in the CX-3.
It’s pretty obvious that both cars are banking on their sporting intentions, but Honda might be trying a bit too hard by hiding the rear door handles into the C-Pillars in a bid to give the HR-V a coupe-like appeal. It works though, from some angle the HR-V does looks like a three door car and most people like the idea of being seen in a sporty car.
Extra dough can be spent on a couple of exterior styling kits, as seen with our HR-V that’s fitted with the “Tough Advance Package” costing around RM3,700. In return, Honda will slap on the bumper guards, extend out the side sills, and stick on some chrome garnish under the foglamps. Not sure about you, but we can live without the kit, thank you.
Mazda’s approach is more subtle, though. There’s no optional accessories to add on, but the good news is it doesn’t look like it needs any. Dual chrome tailpipes are standard fitment, likewise the swanky 18-inch wheels, which is by the way, a good couple of inches bigger than the ones fitted on the HR-V.
Despite their inherent differences, they do share some very similar traits. Both are sporting a shark’s fin antenna and an integrated roof spoiler, and both get LEDs for the headlamps and tail lights as well. Reverse camera also features just above the rear number plate on both cars.
On the whole, the HR-V looks very modern and butch with its heavily sculpted body panels compared to the more organic flowing lines on the CX-3. The HR-V is a good looking car on its own, but when parked next to the CX-3 we think the Mazda just edges it with the CX-3’s more refined styling.
The donor car’s interior has been carried over in the CX-3, which means it’s the same story as in the Mazda2. Honda on the other hand, went to great lengths to create a bespoke interior for the HR-V, and we praise their effort in doing so. The CX-3 has a solid interior and the combination of leather and suede upholstery gives it an upmarket feel. And yet, the ambiance in the HR-V is plusher, with the soft-touch leather-like material covering more parts of the interior than in the CX-3.
The two cars here utilise a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system, but we find the Mazda’s MZD Connect a much easier system to operate on the fly, thanks to the additional physical rotary knobs and buttons as opposed to the full touchscreen affair in the HR-V. Honda also went all touchy-feely with their touch sensitive air-conditioning controls in the HR-V, whereas the CX-3 stayed true to the good old trusty knobs.
The driver gets a multi function steering with audio and cruise control buttons and a sharp instrument cluster in the HR-V, while Mazda adds a couple of shift paddles on the steering wheel and a head up display in the CX-3. Seat adjustments are done manually in both cars, but the CX-3’s seat hugs the body better with a more generous bolster support.
When it comes to cabin space and practicality, the HR-V clearly trumps the CX-3. For the front occupants, there’s an almost-hidden compartment under the dashboard with HDMI, USB, and charging ports for their mobile devices, as well as a much needed covered cubby under the center arm rest that’s sorely missing in the CX-3. We heard some dealerships are giving the armrest for free, so be sure to make your dollar count if you plan to put your money down on the Mazda.
The extra 40mm in the HR-V’s wheelbase over the CX-3 translates to a more habitable back seats, so rear occupants will be happier in the HR-V than in the CX-3. Then there’s Honda’s Ultra Seat, which is the ultimate party piece in the HR-V’s cabin. You can fold flat the rear seats (60:40 split), just like the CX-3, but in addition to that you can fold up the seat base to accommodate all sorts of paraphernalia that you can think of.
The HR-V also has a bigger boot than the CX-3, offering a total of 437 litres, which is 85 litres more than what the Mazda offers. Honda’s tailgate opens much wider than the Mazda’s, and the low sill makes for a painless loading and unloading of your cargo. The only downside with the HR-V’s boot is perhaps the flimsy parcel shelf.
Meanwhile, the safety kit is equal on the two cars. It includes the stability control, ABS and EBD, six airbags, three-point seatbelts and ISOFIX anchors. Other goodies fitted on both cars are keyless entry and push start button, auto headlamps and auto climate control, although the tilting and sliding sunroof is only available on the CX-3.
Both contenders use naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engines, but the one under the CX-3’s bonnet carries a bigger displacement, resulting in a higher power output of 154 hp and 204 Nm. Compared to the 2.0-litre in the Mazda, the 1.8-litre lump in the HR-V delivers 140 hp and 172 Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels on both cars, but each car uses a different transmission.
A six-speed automatic is used in the CX-3, complete with Sport mode and manual override via the steering-mounted shift paddles. A CVT is fitted in the HR-V, but instead of a Sport mode and paddle shifters, it comes with an Econ button to encourage fuel-efficient driving. Mazda also has its own fuel-saving measure in the form of the i-stop system, which kills the engine when you come to a halt and restarts it back on when you lift your foot off the brake pedal.
Only the Honda provides the official fuel consumption figures, but both didn’t state the official century sprint time, or even the top speed. Although gathered sources from other publications indicate that both cars consume less than seven litres of petrol in 100 kilometers on average, they take around 10 seconds to get to 100 km/h from standstill, and they have a top speed that’s just shy of the 200 km/h mark.
From the get-go, the HR-V feels zippier off the line, but once on the move the CX-3 is the quicker car, and the in-gear acceleration with the Mazda’s six-speed auto feels more natural too. The 14 hp deficit on the Honda might not sound much on paper, but the HR-V does feel slower than the CX-3 at times. Getting up to speed with the CVT in the Honda is more strenuous if you mash the throttle pedal, but treat it gently and you will be rewarded with a smooth and steady progress.
Spirited driving on back roads suits the CX-3 better because the steering feels sweeter and the handling is tighter with less body roll than in the HR-V. Furthermore, you are given the liberty to swap the cogs yourself via the gear lever or the steering wheel-mounted paddles, so what’s not to like?
In city traffic, both cars exhibit almost identical ride comfort, but trundle along pockmarked roads. Your passengers in the back are slightly less shaken in the HR-V than in the CX-3 as the softer suspension setup and the higher profile tyres fitted on the HR-V buffer out more road imperfections from the cabin. Although both are highly manouverable cars in the city streets, and with light steering and reverse camera, parking either of the two cars in tight spaces is a cinch.
Highway cruising is calmer in the Honda. NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) is better suppressed than in the CX-3, whereas at higher speeds the CX-3 feels more composed than the bouncy HR-V. If the HR-V is a wobbly caramel pudding, the CX-3 is a firm jelly with fresh fruits bits; both are delectable sweet things but the CX-3 is more exciting and refreshing.
WHICH CAR IS FOR YOU?
If you have a small family and you’re looking for an all-rounder, the HR-V is the easier car to live with day-to-day. It offers more interior space and the extra flexibility is a boon to those who carries loads of stuff on a regular basis.
For those who don’t need the extra space inside but would like to get more involved with the driving part, the CX-3 is the car to choose. It’s more “car-like” to drive than the HR-V so the CX-3 doesn’t lollop about in the bends when being driven enthusiastically.
If you haven’t watch our video, please do! We also have an individual review on the HR-V and the CX-3.
|Mazda CX-3 2.0L SkyActiv-G 2WD||Honda HR-V 1.8 CVT Grade V|
|Type||inline-4, DOHC||inline-4, SOHC|
|Type||Electronic Power Steering||Electronic Power Steering|
|Front||MacPherson Strut||MacPherson Strut|
|Rear||Torsion Beam||Torsion Beam|
|Front||Ventilated Disc||Ventilated Disc|
|Rear||Solid Disc||Solid Disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyre||215/50 R18||215/60 R16|
|Wheels||18-inch Alloy||16-inch Alloy|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT|
|Max Kerb Weight||kg||1,211 kg||1,249 kg|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||Litres||350 litres||437 litres|
|Tank Capacity||Litres||50 litres||48 litres|
|Consumption||litres per 100km||N/A||6.6 litres|
|0 to 100 km/h||sec||N/A||N/A|
WHICH ONE WILL I BUY?
As much as we hate to say this, there’s neither a clear winner nor loser in this round of battle. There’s no right or wrong car, but for most people the HR-V offers better value for money. However, we at AutoBuzz.my feel that the CX-3 is the more polished and engaging car to drive, and therefore we unanimously pick the CX-3 as our favourite small crossover.
Mazda CX-3 2.0 SkyActiv 2WD
Honda HR-V 1.8 CVT V
Mazda CX-3 2.0 SkyActiv 2WD & Honda HR-V 1.8 CVT V