First drive: Mazda CX-3

Mazda CX-3

Fair play to Mazda. They're on a bit of a roll at the moment. In fact, they have outperformed the market every year since 2012 by doing things a bit differently. The company focuses heavily on design, technology and value for money and as a result, increasing numbers of drivers are being attracted to the Japanese brand from premium rivals. The latest addition to the Mazda line-up is the all-new CX-3 crossover, which the company hopes will succeed in the crowded B-SUV segment. But does it stand a chance?
What is it?

In a nutshell, it's a small SUV from Mazda, which the company hopes will help it achieve record-breaking sales figures for 2015. With a flurry of new vehicles arriving in showrooms this year (the new version of the company's iconic roadster MX-5 will be with us a bit later) they could well pull it off. However, CX-3 doesn't have the compact SUV segment to itself. The Nissan Juke, Vauxhall Mokka, Renault Captur, Fiat 500X, Mini Countryman, Peugeot 2008... they're all out there fighting for market share. Don't bet against Mazda though. There seems to be a bit of a buzz around the brand at the moment and the CX-3 should do well. It arrived in showrooms last week (June 19 to be precise).

What's under the bonnet?

Buyers have a choice of one diesel and two petrol variants. Offered with either 118bhp or 148bhp, the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre petrol engine is predicted to account for around 60 per cent of UK sales. Available in all five trim levels, and in both manual and automatic guises, the 118bhp engine with front-wheel drive powers most of the cars in the line-up. However, at the top of the petrol range, the 148bhp engine is matched exclusively to all-wheel-drive and is equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox in Sport Nav trim.

Having made its debut in the all-new Mazda 2 supermini, the 104bhp SKYACTIV-D 1.5-litre diesel engine completes the engine line-up. As with petrol versions, front-wheel-drive versions make up the majority of the range, although a four-wheel-drive version is offered in the top trim level. With CO2 emissions from just 105g/km, the front-wheel-drive SKYACTIV-D has an official combined economy of 70.6mpg.

What's the spec like?

Generous. This really is where Mazda scores highly, especially in the areas of tech and safety. Entry-level SE cars come with 16-inch alloy wheels, power-folding door mirrors, 'coming home' lights and manual air-con. We liked the seven-inch colour touch screen, and the car has a great-sounding audio system with six speakers, CD Player, plus the usual iPod, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Safety-wise, there's hill-hold assist, to prevent you rolling into the car behind you during a hill start, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Move up the range and more goodies are thrown into the mix of course. A lane departure warning system, smart city brake support and rear privacy glass are added at SE-L level, while a smart keyless entry system, head-up display, digital speedometer and reversing camera are included in range-topping Sport Nav models.

First drive: Mazda CX-3
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First drive: Mazda CX-3

Any rivals?

Just a few, as we have mentioned. Where Mazda might score here though is that they have produced a really good-looking car, whereas quite a few of its competitors are a bit Marmite. And its generous list of standard equipment should also help get the party started. The company will certainly be hoping that CX-3 can hit a 'sweet spot' like the bigger CX-5 did a few years ago. We were told Mazda UK sell every CX-5 they can get their hands on, incidentally, and have done for four years.

What's it like to drive?

We had a spin in the car expected to be the best-seller, the 118bhp 2.0-litre front-wheel-drive petrol version in SE-L trim and were pretty impressed. Cabin refinement is good, the car holds the road well with minimal body roll and the engine is willing and responsive. A three-and-a-half tour around Scotland-England border country flew by and even after such a long drive, we exited the vehicle without any aches, pains or tiredness - very comfortable. Design-wise, it's certainly a good-looker, but we thought the dash looked a tad drab and the readouts lacked a little clarity, with both being a bit on the '50 shades of grey' side.

The AOL Cars verdict

Mazda should have another winner on its hands with the CX-3. AOL Cars was told that the company received 'an incredibly rich mix of pre-orders' before the arrival of CX-3 in showrooms last week, with 80 per cent so far for the top-spec Sport Nav. And with a car as accomplished and likeable as this, it's not hard to see why.

The knowledge

Model: Mazda CX-3 2.0 120ps 2WD SE-L Nav
Price: £19,595
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 118bhp, 204Nm
Max Speed: 119mph
Economy: 47.9mpg (combined)
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Emissions: 137g/km CO2

Author: Dave Brown
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