Mazda CX-3 1.5 D SE-L Nav16 | 10 | 2015Scotcars rating

    Mazda bids to deliver something different into the ever-burgeoning world of crossovers

    THE CONTINUED EXPANSION of crossovers, which has captured the industry, into the Scottish market appears to be never-ending. But while the volume continues to grow, so too does the requirement for a model which sets itself apart from the humdrum competition. Step forward the Mazda CX-3.

    Mazda is on something of a roll at the moment. Hot on the heels of the latest Mazda6 and Mazda2, the recently-introduced MX-5 has once again wowed buyers keen to experience the wind-in-the-hair driving, so beloved of so many Brits.

    So, with the growing groundswell of support — ok, I acknowledge the CX-3 was launched before the MX-5, but the pre-launch hype for the iconic sports car was fairly lengthy and intense — the timing was perfect for Mazda's  downsized crossover.

    And I don't use that phrase — downsized crossover — lightly. It's accurate. The CX-3 is clearly a baby brother to the larger CX-5; but perhaps more significantly, it's a bigger, higher-riding, more meaningful brother not to the Mazda3, but to the impressive Mazda2 supermini.

    The sector has long demanded a cleverly packaged, good looking, affordable, usable and compact crossover which is fun to drive. In the shape of the CX-3, Mazda has delivered in spades.

    Tying all the recent Mazda models together is its Kodo design language, and in tandem with its innovative Skyactiv engineering philosophy, it's clear the Japanese manufacturer has another winner on its books.

    Buyers have the choice of three engines — two 2.0-litre petrol units, and the 104bhp 1.5-litre diesel we test here — and while four-wheel drive is available, the majority will be in front-drive format and a mid-level SE-L or SE-L Nav spec, the latter as tested here.

    Designed to go head-to-head with the likes of the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur, the Mazda2-based CX-3 manages to combine rugged looks, better interior space and penny-pinching running costs.

    Let's cover the two petrol models first. Both 2.0, the 2WD118bhp emits 136g/km, while the more powerful 148bhp is exclusively available with four-wheel drive. It's no mudplugger, but it does give that feeling of additional security on the road.

    Standard on all models is a six-speed manual gearbox, though a six-speed automatic is available as an option on diesel models and higher-powered petrols.

    Interesting, while Mazda believe the lower-powered 2.0 petrol on SE-L guise will be the bestseller, I far preferred the diesel.

    It's powered by the same 104bhp 1.5-litre SKYACTV-D engine which made its debut in the Mazda2 supermini, emits just 105g/km and returns 70.6mpg on the combined cycle in front-wheel drive.

    The diesel's also available as a 4WD, and here the figures change: emissions jump to 123g/km with the manual gearbox, and increase further to 136g/km with the auto 'box.

    Starting and stopping with no real audible sign that it's a 1.5 diesel, the CX-3 scampers from standstill to 62mph in 10.1secs, which is impressive enough, and generally outpaces its nearest rivals.

    Related: Roadtest — Mazda MX-5 1.5 Sport Nav

    As you'd expect with any Mazda, the gearshift is slick and quick, and on extended runs the long gearing makes for relaxed cruising.

    Interestingly — and perhaps as a result of the heavier diesel engine in the front — the diesel felt more compliant over the undulating road surfaces around Leamington Spa.

    Steering is light, direct and accurate, and body movement well controlled, plus there’s plenty of grip.

    The CX-3's design is certainly eye-catching. Though it shares the Mazda2's 2570mm wheelbase, the CX-5 is larger … though it's never looks, nor feels too large.

    Despite having a ride height just 40mm taller than its sibling, the CX-3 has a more substantial presence and the designers have maximised the Kodo theme across the car's intricate creases and surfaces.

    Externally, the CX-3 borrows many cues from Mazda’s smaller 2. There's a deep, shield-shaped grille with narrow headlamps either side that wrap around on to the front wings.

    It also boasts angled foglights, and the CX-3's sporty light signature is instantly recognisable in the dark and gloom. The most heavily-sculpted parts of the body are the front and rear bumpers, while the neatly designed bonnet almost acts as a hood for the headlamps.

    Related: Roadtest — Mazda2 1.5 90PS SE-L Nav

    The CX-3 also gets something of a rugged look thanks to the use of lots of black plastic body cladding around the wheelarches and door sills: altogether, it's a racy-looking wee number.

    Alloy wheels, body coloured bumpers and a subtle tailgate spoiler are standard on all models. Eye-catching LED front foglamps and privacy glass for the rear windows are added on the SE-L, while the flagship Sport Nav gets larger 18-inch alloys and LED headlamps. It also gets rear ‘signature' lamps and extra chrome for the sills.

    Inside the cabin, there's more room than the Mazda2.  Front passengers get a maximum 20mm additional leg room, while rear-seat passengers get an extra 30mm. There's also an extra 30mm headroom in the front.

    A widely adjustable steering column, combined with comfortable front seats ensure the driving position is good, while there's good additional storage points in the door pockets and the good-size glovebox, plus there are big upholders.

    Prices? The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol model starts at £17,595 and comes with 16in alloys, air-con, electric windows, DAB, cruise control and Mazda's 7.0in infotainment screen.

    At £20,995, the diesel SE-L Nav we've tested here adds rear parking sensors, climate control, heated front seats and the integrated nav. That makes it competitive with the similarly equipped Skoda Yeti SE and range-topping Captur.

    With its handsome, eye-catching looks, strong performance and economy, and versatility, the CX-3 is certainly worth checking out if you're in the marker for a new crossover … and want to stand out from the crowd.

    Related: Roadtest — Mazda6 2.2 SkyActiv Sport Nav

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    Jim McGill


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £20,995 / £21,655
    Engine / Power: 4cyls, 1499cc, front-wheel drive, diesel, 6sp manual gearbox / 105bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 10.1sec; / Max 110mph
    How big/heavy?: L4275mm W1765mm H1535mm / 1275kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 70.6mpg combined / 105g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / n/a
    Alternatives: Renault Captur, Skoda Yeti, Nissan Juke

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