Can Mazda do anything wrong at the moment? The company missed out on the SA Car of the Year title with its Mazda2, but it would have been a very deserving winner had it taken the title.
Its new MX-5 was highly anticipated and deserves all the praise that has been heaped on it for retaining its real driver’s car character, as well as the fun factor so often missing in open top motoring these days.
From its 2 all the way through the range to the executive 6, Mazda is redefining itself and, in some areas, the segments in which it operates.
The CX-3 is no exception.
There is no sign that any element of the car was skimped on. The exterior bears the latest family resemblance and has plenty of attitude to ensure it stands out in the traffic.
It looks ready for adventure, whether in the city or beyond, although of course this is no off-roader and is not engineered to tackle more than a bumpy gravel road.
While the exterior design is superb, it is the interior that really sets it apart. The designers and engineers actually paid attention here.
Often we can see when the bean counters have had their way, but in the CX-3 it seems that design and quality won the day. I spent ages admiring just the door trims.
This is a small crossover, yet the door trim includes a mixture of soft touch plastic, leather and Alcantara, all of which are complemented on the top-end Individual model by Bose speakers and ambient lighting.
Many elements of course are similar to those on other models, such as the Mazda2 with which the CX-3 shares a platform.
This means a similar dash, instrument cluster and infotainment system. There is nothing cheap-looking about any element of the interior, except perhaps for the rather Tupperware-like airbag cover on the steering wheel.
The infotainment system is also one of the best, although the placement of the controls in the centre console can feel a little awkward at times.
Fortunately the combination of a touchscreen and buttons on the steering wheel mean you rarely need to use the control dial. The system can be linked up easily to your smartphone for streaming music, utilising apps and, of course, making telephone calls.
There are also some informative screens which monitor your fuel economy and tell you how much fuel the i-Stop stop-start system has saved you and how much extra mileage you have achieved from it.
It shows just how the technology of high end vehicles is filtering down into the lower end of the market.
Where the CX-3 does lack technology, though is in the engine. Yes, Skyactiv is a wonderful thing.
It works on the philosophy that the internal combustion engine traditionally wastes a great deal of power. Engineers have corrected that by getting more power and reducing the wastage, but there are still a few times when the lack of a turbo really shows.
Skyactiv has proven itself so well that even other manufacturers such as Toyota are buying Mazda’s engines, but the company needs to look at the trend in downsizing to produce small capacity engines with strong power and torque through turbocharging.
That is not to say that the CX-3 lacks in the performance stakes, at least not in general urban traffic conditions.
Settle into the driving position – which was clearly designed by a real driver – engage drive and the car pulls away well. We would have preferred a manual gearbox in this model though.
The auto is not great and we found it holding the gear and screaming through the revs on a number of occasions.
The company needs to address this as it does blot the CX-3’s copybook somewhat.
Noisy gearboxes aside, the cabin is well insulated with little noise intrusion from the outside world.
This adds to a general premium feel and the CX-3 even has great bootspace with the necessary flexibility in terms of folding down the rear seats when extra space is needed.
The suspension soaked up most of the bumps in the road and, as we have found with other Mazda models, someone who really enjoys driving must have been involved in engineering the dynamics of the vehicle because it handles very well.
The CX-3 finds itself in one of the most hotly contested segments of the market these days, where it has to take on models such as the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Ford EcoSport.
There are areas where it is beaten by its rivals, but as an overall package, the CX-3 tells its rivals to cross over and go play somewhere else. — BDLive
Engine: Four-cylinder Skyactiv petrol
Power: 115kW at 6000r/min
Torque: 204Nm from 2800r/min
Six-speed automatic or six-speed manual
Front wheel drive
Top Speed: 192km/h (auto claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 7.3l/100km
Warranty: Three-year/unlimited km
Service Plan: Three-year/unlimited km
2.0 Active: R277800
2.0 Active Auto: R294700
2.0 Dynamic: R303100
2.0 Dynamic Auto: R314700
2.0 Individual Auto: R355400