Mazda perfects CX formula

Mazda CX-3

Mazda CX-3 - Credit: Archant

The Japanese marque has followed its bigger CX-5 with an even better smaller brother to shake up the small SUV sector

There is more than a whiff of alchemy about creating a sales-winning car, but Mazda has found the right formula for the fast-expanding small SUV sector.

The Japanese marque’s newly-launched CX-3 (from £17,595) simply nails what most buyers should want: style – thanks to Mazda’s swooping ‘Kodo’ house design - smart and airy interior, nimble handling and, above all, low running costs from lively front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD) powertrains.

Should badge snobbery influence the buyer then Mazda also deflects that neatly, because the brand sits nicely between mainstream and premium, rather like VW and Honda.

The CX-3 has the winning ingredients needed by an all-new model in a sector that is brimming with competition. Many others would charge extra for generous features such as steering wheel-mounted controls and electric/heated/folding door mirrors; there’s even an intuitive seven-inch touchscreen and multi-media control system as standard.

But you’d already be loving the CX-3 as you walk towards it; it oozes style, with none of the pseudo off-roader bulk of rivals such as the Vauxhall Mokka, Ford Ecosport or Nissan Juke’s ‘Marmite motor’ eccentricity. Its closest rival on style is Renault’s Captur and the CX-3 soon trounces that for interior class and driving appeal; there’s a robust quality feel about fixtures and fittings, and the car swoops along and corners with the same fluidity as the car’s lines, aided and abetted here by sporty yet refined engines and slick six-speed manual gearboxes, although there is an auto option from £18,795.

With the CX-3 appealing primarily to private buyers, Mazda expects the 120 and 150PS (119 and 148bhp) 2.0-litre petrol models to dominate sales, but the 105PS (104bhp) 1.5 diesel is worth the £1,400 premium for its smoothness, low down response and 70.6mpg (combined): I averaged into the 60s on my first outing in the front-wheel drive version.

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It feels incredibly secure and harks back to the ‘4x4 GTi’ label earned by the original Toyota RAV4. How the mighty have fallen.

If you want even more grip and a smidge of off-road ability then the diesel CX3 also comes with AWD (£22,695).

Not that the petrol options are shabby; the 120PS comes only with front-wheel drive and, not surprisingly, feels a little lighter and less precise on the handling front. It also sounds less refined than the diesel, but I enjoyed the well-planted 150PS AWD version (£22,495).

Mazda has highlighted a tremendous UK recovery after several hammer blows and sales and market share have risen steadily lately; last year, it increased sales by 21 per cent. This recovery has also been driven by making cars that people really want to buy, with models like the CX-3’s impressive CX-5 big bro’, the slick new Mazda3 family hatch, and the equally smart Mazda2 launched earlier in 2015. The Mazda6 fleet and family saloon/estate was also facelifted this year, and the crowning glory is the new Mazda MX-5’s arrival this month; a legend entering its fourth generation, looking better than ever.

Mazda CX-3

Price from: from £17,595

Model featured: 105PS 2WD SE-L Nav Diesel £20,995

Power: 104bhp and 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds

Engine: 1,499cc turbodiesel

Fuel consumption: 70.6mpg combined cycle

Road tax: £20/year (zero year one)

Best rival: Renault Captur


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