I count myself fortunate to be allowed to drive all manner of cars. This week I had the experience of stepping out of a £72k luxury car and into a mainstream crossover costing just £20,000. Fortunately, this was less of a hardship than it first appears because the crossover was the really rather good Mazda CX-3 here presented in two-wheel drive guise.
The Mazda CX-3 arrived very late to the crossover party and many of the guests have already settled comfortably into the sector. On the other hand, attractive late-comers are always welcome as they bring a welcome bottle of fizz to top up the bar. I first drove this car last October in a higher specification and with all-wheel drive and was very impressed. You might want to have look here by way of comparing different models and trim levels.
I settled into this small SUV very quickly. I personally found the interior to be a bit too matt black and gloomy if I’m honest with hard plastic on the doors and would have preferred a few lighter touches like the smart red surrounds on the circular air vents.
There’s a fine line between taste and tacky but a little extra contrast would be nice; possibly some bright piano black instead of the pseudo-carbon fibre details. On the other hand passengers rather liked it as it is so that’s me told. You can see what it looks like from my snaps and a picture is worth a thousand words.
Although I would have liked a little more reach adjustment on the steering column I was able to accomplish a very relaxed and laid-back driving position. Front and rear the seats are comfortable although lanky folk in the back are a tad short on legroom but that’s the usual small car complaint.
The excellent seats, coupled with a high driving position and little wind noise from the attractively styled body all work in the Mazda CX-3’s favour. Ride is at its best when the car is fitted with a petrol engine and the standard 16” alloys. It’s a firm passage across our ruined roads but I personally don’t mind that and it is not so hard as to cause discomfort. I would steer clear of the fancy big wheels optionally available. They look good but ride quality, I would suggest, could be compromised.
All versions of the Mazda CX-3 come well-equipped as standard. Even the most basic of models gets Bluetooth connectivity and a DAB digital radio.
As you’ll know by now, Mazda eschew the ubiquitous turbocharger in favour of their ‘Skyactiv’ approach to vehicle design and performance. The Mazda CX-3 body is, according to the company, both lightweight and ultra-strong, providing enhanced fuel economy and outstanding crash protection. The technology extends to the chassis with the aim of providing the ideal balance between precise handling and ride comfort. Accordingly this lightweight construction, makes the Mazda CX-3 nimble with improved stability and linear handling.
SKYACTIV engines increase torque, provide low CO² emissions and outstanding fuel consumption, say Mazda. The 2.0L petrol engine is set up for economy over performance in the case of the version tested here, so if you want a livelier drive then you have to keep the revs right up at which point the car shows what it can do. There is more poke available from this engine in the 4WD version I drove last October.
On The Road
Based on the Mazda 2 supermini, this is a small crossover with a big heart. The Mazda CX-3 really stands out from behind the wheel, and I reckon it’s possibly the best crossover to drive with a decent steering weight for once. Great fun.
As mentioned there’s a choice of one petrol (118bhp rising to 148bhp in the range-topping AWD version) and one diesel plus a choice of front and all-wheel-drive transmissions.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine is quite vocal and has a rorty manner to it although it is by no means an unpleasant noise. The 1.5L diesel may well be more economical but I think the extra weight would compromise performance. My view would be stick to the petrol engines and still get over forty miles to the gallon delivered in an entertaining way.
If the Mazda CX-3 has an issue it is practicality. it does not provide enough room in the back and the boot, whilst adequate, really is not big enough for a growing family. It does however offer a little extra space thanks to a secret compartment. If that is the case it is not a hardship thankfully because buyers can always step up to the full-fat Mazda CX-5 SUV. No matter which model you choose, you get solid construction, quality materials, excellent design and a good driving experience.
Would I Buy One?
Certainly. It is a tempting idea. Mazda always deliver a great drive and certainly better than the opposition from offerings like the Juke, Captur and Yeti. In fact I owned the old Mazda 3 back in the day and, although it wasn’t a patch on the cars that the company deliver today, it was always a good steer. There’s a specification for this model at the bottom and, for the top of the range see the previous review. Not one for the burgeoningly fecund family but otherwise highly recommended. Geoff Maxted