For other brands entering this segment, it’s an example of how it should be done.
On the move, you’ll find that Mazda’s SKYACTIV chassis technology has made this car light and agile. As a result, it’s as happy as a golden retriever puppy when the roads get twisty. The extra performance of the SKYATIV-G petrol engine lets you enjoy that to the full too. At 2. 0-litres in size, offering a choice of either 120 or 150PS, it’s a larger and more powerful unit than you might expect to find in a car of this size but the payoff is performance on another level from most rivals. The 105PS 1. 5-litre SKYACTIV-D diesel isn’t quite as peppy but it’s still energetic enough to allow you to enjoy yourself. The ride quality’s quite firm, but refinement’s good enough to make longer trips possible.
All too often, Crossovers in this class look too gawky, stubby, tall and narrow, with strange, ‘hall of mirrors’ dimensions. In contrast, this CX-3 just looks right thanks to its cab-back body and long bonnet proportions. The overall effect is anything but cutesy and the coupe-like roofline gives it a real sporting stance.
Time to take a seat behind the wheel – where it’s much more obvious just how much of this design is derived from that little Mazda2. Everything around you is familiar from that little supermini but the key difference with this CX-3 is this Crossover model’s 50mm-higher driver’s eyeline, delivering the loftier driving position and better all-round visibility that customers in this segment expect. For me though, it’s the seats that are most important here, height-adjustable of course and carefully designed for excellent support. In short, getting comfortable in this Mazda is as easy as you could ever imagine it would be in a car of this diminutive size.
Once you’ve completed that process and taken a look around, there are a few things that’ll stand out. First up is the deeply-cowled motorcycle-style central dial.
The other defining interior feature lies not in what’s included but in what’s been left out. There’s no centre stack dividing the front of the cabin – so no mid-mounted display screen or stereo system. That infotainment display has been re-sited onto the very top of the dash where it’s placed more precisely into your field of vision.
There’s certainly a greater feeling of spaciousness than there would be in a Mazda2, courtesy of a bit of extra roof height and the fact that the seats have been placed further apart. Parents will find that makes turning round to their rear-seated offspring that little bit easier.
Talking of a seat in the rear, two adults will be certainly be fine here, thanks in part to the efforts made by the designers in creating these slimmer front seatbacks that feature concave sculpting that frees up space for your knees. If you need more room than that, then you probably need to walk over to the other side of your Mazda showroom and try the brand’s slightly larger CX-5.
The same comment applies when it comes to cargo space. Lift the light tailgate and this CX-3’s 350-litre boot is inevitably dwarfed by the 503-litre capacity offered by its larger stablemate but that total is sufficient to match the modest standards set by the class leader, Nissan’s Juke.
On the move, this Mazda will prove as affordable to run as nearly all of its direct rivals, while offering sprightlier performance than any of them. To prove the point, I’ll tell you that the 1. 5-litre diesel-powered CX-3 is a second quicker to 62mph than rival Nissan Juke and Renault Captur models – and offers more pulling power too. Yet it still returns 70. 6mpg on the combined cycle and 105g/km of CO2.
In its own way, this little CX-3 is just as pleasant a surprise as its larger CX5 Crossover stablemate was. As with that model, this one matches the highest standards in the segment for driving dynamics. Plus with a CX-3, you get more performance than most rivals can offer, so you can enjoy this car’s joie de vivre to the full.
Yes, there’s a price to pay for all this attention to detail, one that may mean you having to stretch our budget a little further than you might have expected to for a car of this kind. We think this CX-3 is good enough to justify that though, a fashionably late entrant to the little Crossover class but undeniably, a very complete one.