Menu
Lifestyle

Comparison test: Toyota C-HR v Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V

Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V.
Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. Cristian Brunelli

FOR the first time, "faux-wheel drives” are on the brink of overtaking passenger car sales here, adding the convenience of a park-anywhere hatchback to a commanding view of the road.

Unusually, the biggest seller of SUVs, Toyota, is late to the mini-SUV game but it has finally joined the scrum with a completely new model, the C-HR. Here's how it compares with a couple of class favourites.

Mazda CX-3.
Mazda CX-3. Cristian Brunelli

Mazda CX-3

Mazda's baby SUV has made a big impact in the two years since it went on sale. Sharp looks, even sharper pricing and the promise of "zoom-zoom” driving fun helped make the CX-3 the top seller in the segment last year.

Starting at $19,990 plus on-road costs and stretching to almost $40,000, the CX-3 has the broadest range, with petrol or diesel power, front or all-wheel drive.

We tested the front-drive auto petrol "sTouring” from $32,816 drive-away, adding the $1063 safety pack that includes automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning, bringing its tech closer to the other pair.

Standard fare includes built-in navigation, rear camera and rear parking sensors, digital speedo, head-up display on the windscreen, sensor key, cruise control and faux-leather seat trim.

To quibble a little, only the driver's window is one-touch auto-up (as well as auto down), whereas both front doors in the Honda and all four doors in the Toyota have "fast glass”. Unlike the others the driver's side mirror is not convex, making it hard to see what's in the adjacent lane.

Interior and cargo space are noticeably smaller than the other two but among this trio, the CX-3 has the most power in the smallest and lightest body. The engine is noisy and harsh, though, at times feeling as if it's trying to shake loose.

Unlike other Mazdas, this one doesn't like corners or bumps. It's the least polished in the Mazda line-up.

The steering is sharp but the suspension is underdone, crashing through sharp bumps and wallowing after others. The tyres were also noisiest among this trio.

Cheaper CX-3 variants, which have more sidewall cushioning in their tyres rather than sporty low-profile rubber, do a better job of dealing with the daily grind.

Honda HR-V.
Honda HR-V. Cristian Brunelli

Honda HR-V

Honda took a little longer to find its groove in this booming segment, mainly because its prices were initially too high. A year and a half after launch, the cost of the HR-V has come back to earth.

We had middle spec of the three variants, the VTi-S, priced from $31,593 drive-away. As proof these city hatchbacks have minimal off-road pretensions, all-wheel drive isn't even an option on the HR-V.

All models have petrol power and a continuously variable transmission driving the front wheels.

CVTs are becoming more common as they are slightly more fuel efficient than regular autos but most sound as if the clutch is slipping while the gearbox finds the optimum ratio to match the accelerator pressure.

Standard fare includes LED headlights, six airbags, automatic emergency braking, rear-view camera, blind zone camera under the left mirror, sensor key, cruise control and large touchscreen for the audio and aircon. Parking sensors are a dealer-fit option.

Presentation of the instruments and controls is more upmarket than the Mazda though the jury is out on the touchscreens (and the lack of knobs).

You need to take your eyes off the road to make basic adjustments - dangerously time-consuming on bumpy roads.

The cabin is the roomiest of this trio with ample space for people and cargo. Cleverly, the rear seats fold flat to create a massive load area and there are numerous cubbies.

As with the rivals, there are two Isofix attachment points in the rear row but, oddly, only two top tether points for child seats - the others have three top tether points, enabling the use of older-style baby seats in the middle.

The HR-V is not as zippy as the Mazda but it feels more comfortable over bumps, more composed in corners and quieter on the move.

Toyota C-HR.
Toyota C-HR. Cristian Brunelli

Toyota C-HR

Toyota started work on a high-riding hatchback seven years ago but delayed the introduction of the C-HR ("coupe-high rider”) to take advantage of a clean-sheet design.

It is new from the ground up, from the 1.2-litre turbo engine to the nuts and bolts - a revelation in an era when car companies mix and match different bodies on top of old hardware. This is why the C-HR immediately feels more grown up, despite being a tiny tot.

Toyota has also raised the bar on standard equipment, electing to start the range closer to $30,000 - the most popular price point for four out of five compact SUV buyers.

Our base model, front-drive automatic, from $32,975 drive-away was far from basic.

Standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control (a first for the class), lane keeping technology (another class first), blind zone warning, rear camera, front and rear sensors, seven airbags ... the list goes on.

Inside, the Toyota is much roomier than the Mazda and almost a match for the Honda. A shortcoming: there is only one 12V power socket and one (slow-charge) USB port.

In every other regard, however, the C-HR is such a step up in quality it feels like it bridges the gap between fleet Toyotas and Lexus luxury cars.

The instruments and dashboard have a high-end appearance, the materials are top quality and the driver's seat is by far the most comfortable of the trio.

Toyota's audio touchscreen has volume and tuning knobs. Hallelujah.

The steering and suspension are sure-footed. Compared to the other pair, the C-HR is much quieter and more refined.

Servicing is cheapest of this lot: less than $600 over three years with 12-month/15,000km intervals.

By comparison Honda servicing is $2100 and Mazda's is $1400 over the same period.

The one downside to the C-HR: if it's not supposed to be a race car but it's slow, even by class standards.

It will keep up with the flow of traffic but add a passenger or two, point it at a hill and progress will be slower than you might like.

The engine also demands premium unleaded.

Verdict

The Mazda has won the hearts of buyers but the competition has improved and an update (due this year) can't come soon enough.

A much stronger proposition now the price has been cut, the Honda is a worthy contender if you want the biggest among the small SUVs.

But the Toyota aces this test.

An impressive list of first-in-class standard safety equipment, a fun-to-drive chassis, exceptional build quality inside and out and Scrooge-like running costs are a winning combination for the C-HR.

Three-car comparison between Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR.
Three-car comparison between Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR. Cristian Brunelli

Honda HR-V VTI-S

Price: $31,593 drive-away

Warranty: 3 years/100,000km

Capped servicing: $2109 over 3 years

Service interval: 6 months/10,000km

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags

Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl, 105kW/172Nm

Transmission: CVT; FWD

Thirst: 6.9L/100km

Dimensions: 4294mm (L), 1772mm (W), 1605mm (H), 2610mm (WB)

Weight: 1347kg

Spare: Space-saver

0-100kmh: 10.1 secs (on test)

Towing: 800kg

Ride height: 170mm

Cargo: 437L/1462L

Mazda CX-3 sTouring

Price: $32,816 drive-away

Warranty: 3 years/100,000km

Capped servicing: $1398 over 3 years

Service interval: 12 months/10,000km

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 109kW/192Nm

Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD

Thirst: 6.1L/100km

Dimensions: 4275mm (L), 1765mm (W), 1550mm (H), 2570mm (WB)

Weight: 1226kg

Spare: Space-saver

0-100kmh: 9.3 secs (on test)

Towing: 1200kg

Ride height: 155mm

Cargo: 264L/1174L

Toyota C-HR

Price: $32,975 drive-away

Warranty: 3 years/100,000km

Capped servicing: $585 over 3 years

Service interval: 12 months/15,000km

Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags

Engine: 1.2-litre 4-cyl turbo, 85kW/185Nm

Transmission: CVT; FWD

Thirst: 6.4L/100km

Dimensions: 4360mm (L), 1795mm (W), 1565mm (H), 2640mm (WB)

Weight: 1385kg

Spare: Space-saver

0-100kmh: 11.0 secs (on test)

Towing: 600kg

Ride height: 154mm

Cargo: 377L/1112L

Topics:  honda hr-v mazda cx-3 motoring review road test toyota c-hr


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Footy dad: I can hold my head high

Geoffrey Whittaker says it's 'awesome' to see justice served after enduring a trial this week. He was found not guilty of assault.

'I'm glad I'm not the one that looks like the idiot any more'

Footy fight: Coach accused of spiteful, 'vicious' act

Geoffrey James Whittaker, who has pleaded not guilty to assault charges at a football carnival.

'Sometimes it's appropriate to defend oneself by striking first'

Dad 'head-butted' footy coach during kids' rugby carnival

Geoffrey Whittaker has pleaded not guilty two assault charges. The offences are alleged to have occurred during a children's football carnival in 2016.

Geoffrey James Whittaker pleads not guilty to two assault charges

Local Partners