Mazda’s urban warrior
BRIAN BASSETT explores Hillcrest in the Mazda CX- 3
SOUTH Africans love crossovers. They drive like a car, have excellent luggage space and keep your petrol bill fairly low, while their flexibility allows for use as a mom’s taxi and a car for family holidays. Manufacturers have responded to this demand in the marketplace and the crossover segment has consequently become quite a crowded place.
Mazda’s offer in this fray faces the likes of Opel’s Corsa- based Mokka, Ford’s Fiesta- based Ecosport, Renault’s Clio- based Captur and Honda’s Jazz- based HR- V, to name but a few excellent competitors.
The Mazda CX- 3 uses the Mazda2 platform as its base and bears a considerable resemblance to that vehicle in silhouette. Since its introduction in December 2015 the car has become so popular that there is a waiting list and it has been difficult to obtain a demo model to drive from the dealerships. I am therefore grateful to my friend Michael Porter, a Hillcrest resident, who offered me his two- week old CX- 3 for a Sunday morning in order to experience firsthand the driving enjoyment he found in the vehicle. Michael is both a mathematician and an engineer by training, is married to Estelle, who runs her own home- based business and they have two children, a girl and a boy — so a typical South African middle class family.
Michael has an office car to use as transport during the week and the family’s requirement was for a mom’s taxi, which could also be used on the weekend and on holidays.
Their CX- 3 is in red and we walked around the car before moving off with Michel pointing out the design which first attracted them to the vehicle. The Mazda is a good looking, slightly squat vehicle, with a typical Mazda grill at the front, flanked by sliteyed, halogen headlamps and fog lights placed on either side of an air scoop under the Mazda grill. Two strong design lines give the bonnet a powerful character and the bonnet lines sweep towards the molded rear end, with its large rear light clusters and two exhausts, which add a feeling of power and strength.
Obviously the CX- 3’ s looks sold it to the Porters, but I was told “just wait until you see the interior”. So I opened the front door with its electric, colourmatched side mirrors and had a look around.
My first thought was that the black colouring of the interior made it a little gloomy and what was needed was the power slide and tilt glass sunroof, which comes as standard with the Individual spec. But that small criticism aside the interior is one of the best in its class and speaks to fine materials, quality and craftsmanship. All controls are ergonomically well placed, and the dash is dominated by a seveninch, full- colour touch screen display, which can also be operat- ed by a command wheel in the centre console. The multi- function steering is a pleasure to handle and has the usual sound, Bluetooth and cruise control buttons and is also completely adjustable. Air conditioning in the Dynamic spec is automatic and there are rear parking sen- sors.
The seats are comfortablet ble and I am told easily wiped down.
Rear space is what you would expect from a small hatch, as is the boot, but there are lots of small storage spaces in the car and the baggage area nearly doubles in size with the rear seats folded down in 60/ 40 fashion.
The six- speaker Audio/ USB system is pleasant and suits most needs. As a small business owner Estelle likes the ease of o operation and flexibility of the CX- 3, while Michael as an engineer is concerned with safety and performance. In both cases the CX- 3 does not disappoint. There are six airbags, driver, passenger, side and curtain. ABS with EBD, Emergency Brake Assist, Side Impact Bars, Dynamic Stability Control, Hill Hold Assist, seat belts for all and remote central locking with alarm and engine immobiliser.
These are but a few of the long list of safety measures on the car.
When it came to driving in the pleasant leafy environment of Hillcrest Michael, who has never been much of a petrol head, was proud of the performance of the peppy, two- litre, naturally- aspirated, 115 kW/ 204 Nm petrol engine. On tar the car is responsive, almost eager and I did not miss the almost regulation turbo that most of the opposition installs.
The steering is responsive and the car holds the road well when cornering as fast as the civilised road system of Hillcrest will allow.
In fact it is remarkable that a vehicle marketed as a hatchback could be so sporty. The ride is harder than expected, but still comfortable and adds to the nimbleness and the fun of driving. The car I drove had an auto sixspeed gearbox, which comes with Dynamic Stability Control.
The manufacturer suggests that 0- 100 km/ h takes around 9,5 seconds and Michael tells me that he gets around 8 l/ 100 km.
The CX- 3 entry model comes in at R255 000, the Dynamic Auto, reviewed here, at about R290 000 and the Individual spec ( only in auto), will cost around R330 000.
There is a three- year, unlimited mileage guarantee with roadside assistance, as well as a threeyear, unlimited mileage service plan.
You should also select several other crossovers and evaluate them against the CX- 3 before making a final decision.
Mazda’s marketing manager Doreen Mashinini warned at the local launch of the CX- 3 ( top) the brand will not continue building on the cheap and cheerful legends of the 323 ( right) and Mazda halftonner bakkie, but will be based on aggressive pricing for its three passenger cars, all with the group’s proven Skyactiv petrol and diesel engines and — more importantly — a three- year, unlimited- kilometre warranty and service plan.