2015 Mazda CX-3 2ltr AWD (148hp)

Launched last year (summer 2015), Mazda’s all new CX-3 is aimed at the small crossover / SUV market which includes the likes of the Vauxhall Mokka, Nissan Juke, Renault Capture, Fiat 500x, Peugeot 2008s the Ford Eco-Sport, and so on.

Since its release I’ve flirted with the CX-3 a number of times.  I drove both the 2ltr 2wd and the diesel version at the press launch, and the AWD model at another media day in Halifax (click link), and on both occasions I grinned like a Cheshire cat.

What is it?

While it shares an identical wheelbase with the latest Mazda2, the CX-3’s stylish exterior uses the extra height of a crossover body to create its striking presence. 

Doesn't it remind you of the 'Viper' from Battlestar Galactica?

Mazda wax lyrical about their design by saying, 'ln profile, the CX-3’s short overhangs, large diameter wheels and curvy door contours ensure the all-new Mazda CX-3 has a planted and dynamic stance on the road.' They continue,  'Rearward positioned A-pillars work with the flowing bonnet profile to emphasise a sense of forward speed, while the sweeping coupe-like roofline continues that sense of motion to and beyond the back of the car. Darkened rear glass* and black D-pillars contribute to a flowing profile that gives the impression of a wraparound glass surface that seamlessly blends into the shapely tailgate.'

In other words, the CX-3 is curvy, sporty and in my opinion, gorgeous!

On the road

If there’s any SUV that wants to be chucked around corners, it’s the CX-3, and thanks to Mazda’s new-generation all-wheel drive system, it really doesn’t matter what the weathers like, it’ll be in its element.

The suspension was firm, yet forgiving and did well keeping the CX-3 level through tight and twisty corners, and provided us with permanent grins.  If however, you want an SUV that handles the UK roads like a Rolls Royce, you may be disappointed as you’ll find the ride a little harsh.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking Lotus 7 harsh, but it handles well for a reason.  The steering deserves a mention too for being sharp and offering excellent feedback.

Off road

Yes, umm, off road… Well, just take a look at that approach angle, it’s ridiculous, the CX-3 isn’t an off-roader by any stretch of the imagination, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, Mazda’s new-generation all-wheel drive system does work a treat and handled itself well on greasy grass, mud and lifting a wheel or 2.  I would also imagine when faced with a snowy incline, the CX-3 wouldn’t let you down.

Interior

I really struggled here, not because I was uncomfortable or irritated by odd positioned button or switch, no, I struggled because I couldn’t to find anything that irritated me.  OK, the driving position was a little snug for me, but I’m 6ft 2” and almost 19 stone, that isn’t the cars fault.

Inside you’ll notice the neatly styled dashboard that’s carried over from the Mazda2, this means you get a simple, yet functional layout.  There’s lots to like about the interior, the retro styled eyeball air vents for example that reminded me of my old ’74 Mini.

The interior feels robustly screwed together and up to the task of keeping up with the rough and tumble of daily life.  With the addition of soft touch plastics and stitched coverings for the instrument binnacle, Mazda has tried, and in my opinion succeeded in giving the CX-3 a premium feel.

I have to applaud the comfort of the seats too, as well as being supportive in all the right areas, they are one of the comfiest that my backside has had the pleasure of sitting on.  The same can be said for the rear seats too, but a lack of legroom dictates that they’re only suitable for small people or children.  I found getting into the back was easy enough (gravity helps!), but getting out was a different matter. Have you ever seen a drunken teenager fall out of a taxi at 3am in the morning?  Yeah, that’s what I looked like!  In all honesty, this wouldn’t put me off buying the CX-3 as I’d always be in the drivers seat.

With the standard 60:40 split rear seats folded down, there’s a spacious 350-litre boot which is in-line with the Vauxhall Mokka and Nissan Juke, and with the rear seats upright, there’s still plenty of room for luggage.

Engines ‘n’ transmissions

When it comes to engines, you have a fairly simple choice, the 2.0ltr petrol is available with either 118hp or 148hp, or a 1.5ltr diesel lump that churns out 104hp.  For AWD variants, you can have the diesel with both 6 speed manual or 6 speed automatic, but the petrol AWD is only available in the 148hp manual.   

Safety Stuff ‘n’ Equipment

Where do I begin?  This for me is where Mazda stands out as all their models come with generous standard equipment, and the CX-3 is no exception. 

Standard across the range you get Hill Hold Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Dynamic Stability Control and a full complement of airbags, which includes curtain airbags.  SE-L and Sport Nav models feature Mazda’s Lane Departure Warning System and Smart City Brake Support.

All models get cruise control, while rear parking sensors are standard from SE-L grade onwards and Sport Nav models also benefit from a reversing camera.

Oh, did I mention that cruise control and an adjustable speed limiter is standard on all models too?  Other handy interior features found across the range include all-round electric windows, DAB radio and tyre pressure monitoring system. With SE-L models you can add heated seats and climate control air-conditioning, while Sport Nav cars come equipped with a digital speedometer and Bose® audio.

The Head-up display that comes as standard on Sport Nav is a segment first too.  And have I mentioned the smart keyless entry, automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers and LED lights?  I told you, the list goes on.

Mazda’s i-stop idle-stop system was developed entirely in-house and tailored specifically for Mazda’s new generation of SKYACTIV-Engines. It uses combustion energy for restarting the engine, and only requires an electric-powered starter motor to provide a small degree of momentum during the initial restart phase. It’s still the only combustion-powered system on the market.

Conclusion
As you can guess, I really like this car.  As an off roader it’s obviously pants, but it will certainly get you off a muddy field.

During the week I could only fault it for 2 things, the first being that it doesn’t have a full size spare, this came with a puncture kit, but I believe you can have a space saver, which, as I keep banging on about, is a worthwhile investment.

The second is that I wasn’t too impressed with the Sat Nav system if I’m being honest.  Muddy Madams senior and junior were staying at a hotel in Lytham St Anns and I was the designated taxi driver.  Unfortunately the Sat Nav wouldn’t let me use the postcode alone, neither did it recognise the street, so I had to resort to Navigon on my iPhone.

Overall, I love the look of the CX-3, I love the interior (as long as I’m not sat in the back!), I love the ride, I love pretty much everything about it, it’s a cracking car, and fortunately Mazda have made sure that beauty isn’t just skin deep either as it really is a hoot to drive.