Ford B-max 1,0 Ecoboost Titanium
SMALL SUVS and crossovers are all the rage right now and prospective buyers are spoilt for choice. Faced with options from most major manufacturers, buyers can choose a model that perfectly suits their brand affinities, needs and tastes.
The latest entrant into the fray is Mazda which, for the first time in its history, will offer a small crossover to South African buyers. We had the opportunity to sample the all-new CX-3, which will go on sale in a few weeks’ time, in Japan.
As is the case with most of its rivals – the Ford Ecosport and Renault Captur being obvious examples – the CX-3 is based on the platform of one of its stablemates. In the case of the newcomer, the well-regarded Mazda2 light hatchback donated its underpinnings, right down to the wheelbase.
The CX-3’S exterior design is imbued with Mazda’s Kodo design language: the ornate headlamp clusters have striking LED accents, the cab-forward design is quite evident in profile and slim side-glass execution lends it a dynamic edge.
In keeping with the Suv-styled theme, the Mazda’s side sills and lower sections of the bumpers are clad in black plastic panels, which works particularly well in combination with a white paint finish. Suffice to say, the CX-3 has the prerequisite raised ride height and chunky wheels, and in my opinion this is one of the better-looking, if not the best- looking, vehicles in its class.
The CX-3 also borrows the Mazda2’s interior treatment – another boon – and the facia is both stylish and of high quality. The interior is not only very userfriendly and practical, but based on my initial impressions, arguably class-leading.
Mazda’s seven-inch full-colour MZD Connect infotainment
Mazda hits the sweet spot with its first small crossover
system is standard, but if you and your front passenger aren’t enamoured with touchscreens, then you can revert to using the rotary controller positioned between the front seats. The driving position is quite high and offers good allroad visibility.
Mazda Southern Africa will offer the CX-3 with a 2,0-litre, normally aspirated, inline fourcylinder engine. The powerplant is the same Skyactiv unit utilised by the Mazda3, develops peak outputs of 115 kw and 204 N.m of torque, and is mated with a sixspeed automatic transmission.
At Mazda’s Miyoshi proving ground, I drove a slightly lowerspec (88 kw) CX-3 that’s destined for the UK market. In terms of on-road manners, the newcomer impressed with its relaxed ride quality, which was probably flattered by the test unit’s high-profile tyres. The automatic transmission has a smooth shift quality and you can easily opt for a gear that you find suitable (rather than letting the ECU decide) by using the steering wheel paddles.
Even though this Uk-spec car produces 27 kw less than the model we will be getting, it offers as much performance as most small SUV buyers would expect and need. I have no doubt, therefore, that the 115 kw version will prove more than adequate for local conditions.
Mazda Southern Africa has been in ascendancy since the brand’s local distribution became independent from Ford a few years ago. Since then, we’ve seen a number of commendable product introductions from the Hiroshima-based manufacturer. The CX-3 is yet another model that will help Mazda re-establish itself as an alternative to locally proven, volume-selling brands on the South African market.
Not only is it very goodlooking, well specified and appreciably refined, but by offering buyers an automatic transmission, the Mazda will be one of a few self-shifting models in its segment, which could make it a popular choice.
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: the CX-3’S facia is shared with the Mazda2, which means quality is good; the touchscreen infotainment system is controlled with a rotary dial between the seats; the front treatment is influenced by Mazda’s Kodo design language; rear legroom is adequate rather than generous.