First Drive: Mazda CX-3 

Mazda CX-3Initial Ponderings
Over the last 12 months or so I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with the Mazda6 Tourer, the CX-5 and the nimble Mazda2, and with each vehicle being a genuine joy to drive, I can honestly conclude that I’m becoming a quite a fan of the marque.

They’re not just fun to live with either, with Mazda’s unique SKYACTIV technology and latest i-ACTIVSENSE safety systems, their whole range includes a generous amount of standard safety equipment.  So when I heard about Mazda’s venture into the hotly contested and increasingly popular segment of the small crossover / SUV market with their all new CX-3, I found myself getting all excited.

What is it?
As I’ve mentioned above, the all new CX-3 is aimed at the small crossover / SUV market that includes the likes of the Vauxhall Mokka, Nissan Juke, Renault Capture, Fiat 500x, Peugeot 2008 and the Ford Eco-Sport, amongst others. The CX-3 offers the driver comfort, practicality with a sporty performance and dynamic, responsive handling.

Engines ‘n’ transmissions
When it comes to engines, you have a fairly simple choice, the 2.0ltr petrol is available with either 118hp or 148hp, or a 1.5ltr diesel lump that churns out 104hp.  For AWD variants, you can have the diesel with both 6 speed manual or 6 speed automatic, but the petrol AWD is only available in the 148hp manual.

Safety Stuff ‘n’ Equipment
Where do I begin?  This for me is where Mazda stands out as all their models come with generous standard equipment, and the CX-3 is no exception.

Standard across the range you get Hill Hold Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Dynamic Stability Control and a full complement of airbags, which includes curtain airbags.  SE-L and Sport Nav models feature Mazda’s Lane Departure Warning System and Smart City Brake Support.  All models get cruise control, while rear parking sensors are standard from SE-L grade onwards and Sport Nav models also benefit from a reversing camera.

Oh, did I mention that cruise control and an adjustable speed limiter is standard on all models too?  Other handy interior features found across the range include all-round electric windows, DAB radio and tyre pressure monitoring system. With SE-L models you can add heated seats and climate control air-conditioning, while Sport Nav cars come equipped with a digital speedometer and Bose® audio.

The Head-up display that comes as standard on Sport Nav is a segment first too.  And have I mentioned the smart keyless entry, automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers and LED lights?  I told you, the list goes on.

Mazda’s i-stop idle-stop system was developed entirely in-house and tailored specifically for Mazda’s new generation of SKYACTIV-Engines. It uses combustion energy for restarting the engine, and only requires an electric-powered starter motor to provide a small degree of momentum during the initial restart phase. It’s still the only combustion-powered system on the market.

Inside you’ll notice the neatly styled dashboard that’s carried over from the Mazda2, this means you get a simple, yet functional layout.  There’s lots to like about the interior, the retro styled eyeball air vents for instance both work well and remind me of my old ’74 Mini.

The interior feels robustly screwed together and up to the task of keeping up with the rough and tumble of daily life.  With the addition of soft touch plastics and stitched coverings for the instrument binnacle, Mazda has tried, and in my opinion succeeded in giving the CX-3 a premium feel.

I have to applaud the comfort of the seats too, as well as being supportive in all the right areas, they are one of the comfiest that my backside has had the pleasure of sitting on.  The same can be said for the rear seats too, but a lack of legroom dictates that they’re only suitable for small people or children.  Being 6ft1 and 18 stone, I found getting into the back was easy enough (gravity helps!), but getting out was a different matter. Have you ever seen a drunken teenager fall out of a taxi at 3am in the morning?  Yeah, that’s what I looked like!  In all honesty, this wouldn’t put me off buying the CX-3 as I’d always be in the drivers seat.

With the standard 60:40 split rear seats folded down, there’s a spacious 350-litre boot which is in-line with the Vauxhall Mokka and Nissan Juke, and with the rear seats upright, there’s still plenty of room for luggage.

On the road
We spent most of the day driving the naturally aspirated 2ltr, 118hp petrol that’s coupled to the slick 6 speed manual ‘box and enjoyed it thoroughly.

The suspension was firm, yet forgiving and did well keeping the CX-3 level through tight and twisty corners and provided us with permanent grins.  The steering deserves a mention for being sharp and offering excellent feedback.

You’ll read in other reviews that pushing the CX-3 to the limit will result in a harsh engine note, personally I liked it and think that it encompassed its sporty attitude.

With all that being said, along with a credible 0-62mph time of just 9.0 seconds, official figures claim it’ll achieve between 38 – 57mpg, which isn’t bad at all. On the day however we averaged 44mpg, which considering what we put it through is pretty good.

After a cake and tea stop near Slaggyford (we love that name), we swapped the petrol CX-3 and jumped into the 1.5ltr, 105ps diesel.  It has the same 6 speed ‘box and being completely honest, we pined for the petrol version.  Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with it, and with official figures claiming it can achieve between 64 – 74mpg it will make more sense to some drivers, but we missed the handling and sportiness of the petrol.

Off the road
Unfortunately we didn’t get to play with the AWD model so we couldn’t venture off road, but from our experience with their CX-5, Mazda’s new-generation all-wheel drive system is impressive, and shod with the right tyres will surprise you.

Buying / Owning
For the 18-strong model line-up, prices range from from £17,595 to £24,695 on-the-road.

I loved it, well I loved the 2ltr, 118hp version at least and Mazda believe that it’ll be their best seller and predicted to account for around 60% of UK sales.  Personally I think it’s a gorgeous looking vehicle, and fortunately Mazda have made sure that beauty isn’t just skin deep either as it really was a hoot to drive.

My only problem with the model we drove is that I know lurking somewhere is the range topping 148hp AWD model, and I so want to drive it, watch this space…

About Damian

Writer, Photographer & Product Reviewer Extraordinaire!

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