Mazda’s ur­ban war­rior

BRIAN BAS­SETT ex­plores Hill­crest in the Mazda CX- 3

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

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