HATCH OR SUV?
Buyers pay a premium for compact SUVs built on a shared platform
To SUV or not to SUV? That’s the question facing an increasing number of car buyers. Last year was the first time high-riding hatchbacks, fauxwheel-drives and genuine off-roaders — all grouped under the SUV label — overtook passenger car sales in Australia. There are no signs of the trend slowing. Are we being taken for a ride?
SUVs come with a price premium — even though they’re not necessarily dearer to manufacture — and often are smaller than their hatchback equivalents. To size them up we got reacquainted with the top two sellers combined: the Mazda3 and CX-3. Together, this pair narrowly outsells the Toyota Corolla and C-HR. Then we added two other pairs of common-platform siblings, Hyundai’s i30 and Kona, and Subaru’s Impreza and XV
To date there has been little cannibalisation of small car sales in favour of small SUVs.
So far this year small cars have dipped by 4 per cent while deliveries of small SUVs have jumped by 25 per cent.
What this exercise shows most of all, however, is that car-buying is not always a rational decision. Hatchbacks once regarded as sensible are now viewed as shopping trolleys.
Today’s buyers crave a car with outdoorsy styling that appeals to our sense of adventure — even when stuck in traffic with everyone else. As long as hearts overrule minds, sales of SUVs will continue to rise.
MAZDA3 v CX-3
As with rivals, the Mazda pair has a price gap, but it’s the slimmest margin in the business.
At $27,490 drive-away, the CX-3 Maxx Sport front-drive automatic is just $2000 more than its equivalent in the Mazda3 range.
For most other brands the price hike ranges from $3000 to an astonishing $7000.
However, there is a good reason for the Mazda’s modest price premium: it’s actually based on the cheaper and much smaller Mazda2 — even the dashboard is the same, albeit with a strip of soft-touch trim.
The CX-3 is a stunning piece of design but it doesn’t take long to measure up some of its shortcomings. Compared to the Mazda3, the CX-3 cabin is noticeably narrower, the cargo area is smaller and the knees of adult rear passengers touch the seat in front.
The perception is backed up by the figures in the brochure: the Mazda3 is roomier in all key dimensions than the dearer and smaller CX-3.
A recent update has brought worthwhile and noticeable improvements in the way the CX-3 drives.
Powered by a 2.0-litre engine and paired to a conventional six-speed auto, it’s the perkiest among its peers, even with slightly less power than the Mazda3’s 2.0.
Other small points of difference: the Mazda3