Ford B-max 1,0 Ecoboost Ti­ta­nium

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Sud­hir Matai Ban­za­imatai

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.

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