One-Day Test: Mazda CX-3 2.0 Dynamic Auto
Mazda’s independence from Ford, which has seen the Japanese automaker establish an independent presence in South Africa, together with a dedicated dealer network, has already borne significant fruit.
The Mazda model range has never been stronger, with the Mazda2 and Mazda3 making a strong case in their respective categories, while the Mazda CX-5 is a best buy in the compact SUV sector. And let’s not get started on the MX-5, which epitomises the modern lightweight roadster better than most.
Enter the Mazda CX-3, a subcompact crossover with chunky SUV looks that please the eye from every angle, and a spec sheet that’s pretty comprehensive, even on the mid-spec 2.0 Dynamic Auto tested here.
The Mazda styling team has certainly got the design spot on. The proportions are just right: the relatively long nose with that big Mazda grille is a sleek counterpoint to the pert rear, while short overhangs and wide tracks add visual composure.
But there’s more to this Mazda than pretty cosmetics. Step inside, and you get an interior that’s both more spacious than expected, and executed in the clean, contemporary style already familiar from the Mazda2 and Mazda3 hatches.
The switchgear is cleverly minimised, utilising a central controller and a generous, seven-inch colour screen, and even the instrumentation is pared down and functional, centred around a single analogue display, accompanied by digital readouts.
It’s a cockpit you feel instantly at home in, with no urge to read the owner’s manual, while the execution is smart and above average, with stitching and materials that look and feel special.
Let’s not forget that this is the mid-spec Dynamic – not the flagship Individual – and yet, you don’t feel short-changed by a standard equipment list that includes climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control, keyless start, dual USBs, decent sound and more.
Rear accommodation is adequate, with decent legroom, but at just 264 litres, the boot isn’t exactly generous, and you’ll need to fold at least part of the split rear backrest down to fit in anything bulky.
The power plant under the bonnet may appear to be the only let-down. Just about the entire motor industry is opting for small-capacity turbo engines in the quest for economy and reduced emissions … except Mazda.
The CX-3 gets a normally aspirated two-litre petrol engine, rated at 115 kW and 204 Nm – figures that are average at best, and are on offer at relatively high engine speeds. Which means you’ll need to explore the full rev range of the four-cylinder mill.
The surprising thing is that there’s no hardship in doing just that. The engine feels smooth and willing, and the gear ratios are well spaced, while the auto box’s shifts are equally slick, making progress zesty and fuss-free, if not downright sporty.
Mazda refrains from stating a 0-100 km/h sprint time, but it’s probably in the mid-10 sec bracket, while top speed is a claimed 192 km/h. The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure is 6,1 litres/100 km, but at Johannesburg’s altitudes, where the engine needs to be exercised with a little more intent than at sea level, expect around 8,5 litres/100 km in mixed driving conditions.
While Mazda would like to think of the CX-3 as a small SUV, its probably better described as a crossover. The 160 mm ground clearance is not much better than many road-going hatchbacks, and while it’s quite at home on gravel, the limited ride height and road-biased tyres suggest that paved roads are its more natural habitat.
Still, that shouldn’t detract from a package that gets most things right – not least of which is the price. At R302 200, the CX-3 Dynamic AT represents a very strong value proposition. To our minds, the manual gearbox model, priced at R291 200, is an even better buy, and likely to be more satisfying from a driver involvement perspective, too.
Either way, the Mazda CX-3 deserves serious consideration in a growing, and increasingly competitive segment. And yes, it’s not only a sensible choice, but one you’re bound to enjoy driving, too!