Mazda’s small­est cross­over might not be the most prac­ti­cal of util­ity ve­hi­cles, but it does com­pen­sate with its dy­namic abil­i­ties, says wheels’ Sony Thomas

Friday - - Travel -

n global ve­hi­cle sales rank­ing, Mazda stands at a lowly 15. Even when you look at where Ja­panese brands stand, it trails not just Toy­ota, Nis­san and Honda, but even Suzuki. But this Hiroshima-based car­maker seems to have a much clearer prod­uct plan than any of its big­ger com­pa­tri­ots. None of them, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Nis­san, cover as many bases in the lu­cra­tive util­ity ve­hi­cle seg­ment as Mazda does.

From the good old seven-seater CX-9 and the CX-5, to the cur­rently China-only CX-4 and the CX-3, it of­fers the widest choice for cus­tomers in the mar­ket for an SUV or a com­pact cross­over. It’s also dif­fer­ent from its fel­low Ja­panese brands in that it doesn’t skimp on the qual­ity of ma­te­ri­als or tech­ni­cal good­ies to keep prices down, and hence doesn’t leave the cus­tomer feel­ing short-changed.

The CX-3, which is cur­rently the brand’s small­est cross­over, is no dif­fer­ent. It fol­lows the same styling direc­tion as the rest of Mazda’s good-look­ing range. With the sig­na­ture grille, sleek head­lights, and sharply creased sheet metal, the CX-3 man­ages to look bet­ter than most of the other com­peti­tors in class like the Re­nault Cap­tur, Ford Ecosport or the Nis­san Qashqai.

In­side too, the qual­ity of ma­te­ri­als used and build qual­ity com­bine to make it look and feel more ex­pen­sive, but even so you’ll be ex­cused for think­ing you stepped into a Mazda 2, as it looks iden­ti­cal in there.

The lay­out of the dash­board is pretty much the same as the su­per­mini’s, with a tablet-like screen tak­ing cen­tre stage. Like in many Mercedes mod­els, the in­fo­tain­ment screen does look a bit tacked on, but the in­ter­face is eas­ily con­trolled via the ro­tary knob and but­ton placed con­ve­niently on the trans­mis­sion tun­nel. The front seats of­fer am­ple space, with gen­er­ous head-, shoul­derand legroom for two adults. How­ever, the rear seats are highly com­pro­mised when it comes to over­all space, and will feel cramped for even pas­sen­gers of be­low-av­er­age height.

While it’s not the most util­i­tar­ian of crossovers, the CX-3 is with­out doubt

one of the most en­joy­able to pi­lot in this seg­ment. It def­i­nitely helps that the un­der­pin­nings are shared with the peppy lit­tle Mazda 2.

It does feel a bit heav­ier than the hatch, and isn’t ex­actly as lithe. But for a cross­over, the CX-3 dis­plays impressively taut body con­trol, and the well-weighted steer­ing of­fers pleas­ingly ac­cu­rate feed­back. Th­ese, com­bined with the sprightly 2.0-litre Sky­ac­tiv four-pot that’s good for 148bhp and 192Nm of torque, and the smooth-shift­ing six-speed auto ’box, make the CX-3 a more en­ter­tain­ing ve­hi­cle to drive than most oth­ers in this class.

Seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive, even at the back. Ride qual­ity is also good, firm with­out be­ing too stiff, and com­fort­able with­out be­ing too soft, and pitch and roll are kept to the min­i­mum even when driven en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. And as with ev­ery Mazda that’s come out in re­cent years, the CX-3 is also gen­er­ously equipped with com­fort and safety fea­tures that you usu­ally find in cars from more pre­mium brands. Th­ese in­clude adap­tive cruise con­trol, which lets you set the dis­tance be­tween your car and the ve­hi­cle in front, a head-up dis­play, a blind spot mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, smart brake sup­port, anti-lock brakes with elec­tronic brake­force dis­tri­bu­tion, dy­namic sta­bil­ity con­trol, and front and side cur­tain airbags.

It’s equipped with an in­tel­li­gent all-wheel drive sys­tem, mak­ing it a proper soft-roader, but as you would imag­ine, with its low ground clear­ance, it won’t be able to han­dle se­ri­ous off-road du­ties. But what it is, is a slightly more ver­sa­tile al­ter­na­tive to a com­pact hatch or a su­per­mini. The CX-3 finds it­self in a com­pet­i­tive seg­ment that has mod­els from most of the main­stream man­u­fac­tur­ers from Asia, Europe and Amer­ica. But with prices start­ing at Dh70,900 for the base front-wheel drive GS and go­ing up to a hefty Dh94,900 for the GTX, this lit­tle Mazda of­fers more value for money in base trim than most of the other of­fer­ings in this class. With its great looks, im­pres­sive fit and fin­ish, and abun­dance of fea­tures, this is a non-pre­mium cross­over that can com­pare with the likes of the Mercedes GLA.

As with ev­ery MAZDA that’s come out in RE­CENT years, the CX-3 is also gen­er­ously EQUIPPED with com­fort and SAFETY fea­tures that you usu­ally find in CARS from more PRE­MIUM brands


With am­ple space in the front seats, smart looks and a two-litre en­gine, the CX-3 is one of the finer ve­hi­cles in its class

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