By: Jesse Adams
Johannesburg - It’s getting pretty darned crowded in here. The compact crossover segment that’s oh-so-fashionable right now is producing high-riding versions of almost every hatchback on the market, and Mazda’s now in the fray with its new CX-3.
Set to battle it out with other cross-ified hatches such as Opel’s Corsa-based Mokka, Honda’s Jazz-based HR-V, Renault’s Clio-based Captur, and Ford’s Fiesta-based Ecosport, the CX-3 is, as you may have guessed, a higher-riding version of the Mazda2. Mazda itself goes as far as calling it a small SUV, but that’s a bit of a stretch, technically speaking. Park this and the Mazda2 side by side and it’s easy to see proportions are inflated by a few centimetres in width, length and of course height, but visual similarities are also still clear as day.
As with most vehicles in this class, claims of outdoorsy adventuring are made, and while ground clearance is set at a reasonably high 160mm, the CX-3 is probably not the best choice of cars for dinkum offroad excursions. Gravel game park roads, maybe, but not much more. Overseas an all-wheel-drive version is available, but here, for now anyway, front-wheel drive is the only choice.
Where the Mazda2 it’s based on comes with a dainty little 1.5 engine, the CX-3 instead gets a bigger 2-litre petrol with peppy 115kW and 204Nm outputs. It’s a relatively simple naturally-aspirated unit in comparison to higher-tech turbos fitted to most of the aforementioned competitors, but at the media launch held last week in Cape Town it impressed with decent punch and snappy responsiveness. Maybe a little noisy at the upper end of its rev range, but impressive nonetheless.
The CX-3’s ride is firm, but I’d stop short of calling it harsh. If anything it’s set up for agility, and it’s a fun little performer when the roads twist. I leant on it quite hard in some fast-paced curves and for the most part it handled admirably. It’s certainly more adept at nimbleness than some of its squishier market rivals.
CABIN SMALL BUT SMART
The cabin’s small but comfortable and smartly laid out with all controls placed neatly in ergonomically convenient places, although a rotary control knob between the seats is redundant in high-spec versions with touchscreens. Back-seat space is what you’d expect from a small hatch, and the same goes for the boot, but oddment stowage is plentiful and there’s a total of six cup/bottle holders.
Only one interior colour is available, and it’s black on black with black accents. Actually, there’s a bit of red too, but as with most current Mazdas the ambience is rather dark and moody. Materials are relatively upmarket, and I’d happily rate this as one of the most premium-feeling cabins in the segment.
Mazda’s kept the lineup simple with three trim levels. Bottom Active models come with cruise control, 16” alloys, a basic stereo system with four speakers, Bluetooth phone pairing, cloth seats and four airbags. A middle-spec Dynamic variant adds two speakers, rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, auto headlights, a fancier climate control system, and a 7” full-colour infotainment touchscreen. Both of these models come with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, but strangely only the autos come with dynamic stability control (DSC).
Top Individual spec CX-3s get seven-speaker Bose sound systems (a subwoofer’s mounted inside the spare wheel), leather seat bolsters, navigation, a head-up display, rear view camera, and 18” wheels. The individual is sold with an auto gearbox only.
2.0 Active - R254 900
2.0 Active AT - R270 400
2.0 Dynamic - R277 900
2.0 Dynamic AT - R288 400
2.0 Individual AT - R325 900
All models are sold with three-year/unlimited km warranties, service plans and roadside assistance.