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THE MAZDA CX-3

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There is no mistaking the Mazda family heritage and KODO design language of the CX-3. In fact, if you had to leave the CX-5 in the wash too long, it would probably shrink down quite nicely into a CX-3. Translation: it is as masculine and arresting as any Mazda product, maybe even taking the style lead over the lithe Mazda6 sedan. Look closely, and the CX-3 hints at what the next-generation Mazda2 will look like, with which it shares its architecture.

The highways and curvy byways of the Western Cape was the chosen launch venue for the CX-3 in November 2015 and, across every inch of it, the CX-3 behaved as could have been predicted from our experience with every new Mazda product. Surprisingly for such a compact car, the driving experience is dynamic and rewarding, while being compliant enough for everyday commuting. Although the seating position does not feel as high as some of the CX-3’s rivals – it feels more like a hatchback in this respect – the upside is an engaging drive under all circumstances.

Just as all other new Mazdas, the CX-3 employs the brand’s signature SKYACTIV engineering technology that brings all of the car’s major components – engine, transmission, chassis, and body – into efficient harmony, thereby reducing running costs in general and fuel consumption in particular.

While the concept works well enough in practice to keep the stats in check, Mazda could take a leaf from other manufacturer’s smaller capacity turbo engines that generally tend to deliver similar, if not better, efficiency results, with the added bonus of not losing normally aspirated oomph at altitude.

IT HAS GO

Six derivatives in three trim levels, with two gearbox options and one engine choice are now available. The car’s SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre 4-cylinder mill does the job, but felt somewhat harsh under hard acceleration. Although it was redeemed by the smooth-shifting 6-speed auto ‘box (of the only derivative I drove at launch) our follow-up test of a manual version (expected in the March 2016 edition) will hopefully not disappoint.

Although the 6-speed automatic boasts a decent Sport mode, it took some motivation to get the 2.0 Active Auto CX-3 performing at its max, especially considering that peak power output of 115 kW only truly comes on-stream at 6,000 r/min. While it trumps the Opel Mokka 1.4-litre Turbo Enjoy Auto’s 103 kW on paper, the latter reaches maximum go at 4,900 r/min, creating the illusion of slightly faster acceleration. It is worth a mention, though, that the CX-3 knocks nearly R33,000 off the Mokka.

INTERIOR

Where the CX-3 does lead the pack with a clear margin is in its interior, which is as upscale for an entry-level vehicle as they come. The CX-3 clearly mimics the Mazda2’s upmarket aesthetic and backs it up with quality materials across all three trim levels: Active, Dynamic, and Individual. Classy, metallic accents, contrast stitching, and supremely comfortable seats are the cabin highlights of this car.

Standard specifications are also particularly high, with even the entry-level Active derivatives getting a start button, Bluetooth telephony, cruise control, and height-adjustable driver’s seat, to name a few. Dynamic models have two additional speakers added, along with Mazda Connect with commander, parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, auto on/off headlights, as well as leather-clad steering, gear lever, and handbrake. At the top end, Individual models are endowed with a Bose 7-speaker sound system and integrated navigation, electric sunroof and privacy glass at the back, a rearward camera, and head-up display.

Solid interior ergonomics make for easy use of all systems, regardless of derivative and spec level, although larger passengers sitting at the back might feel a little inhibited in the head- and shoulder-room department.

LAST WORD

The Mazda CX-3 lives up to the high standards of build quality that we expect from all Mazda’s. This standard is backed up by a 3-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty. You also get 3-year roadside assistance, a 3-year service plan, and a 5-year corrosion warranty included in the sticker price. It simply is great value.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG  |  Images © MAZDA SOUTH AFRICA

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