Small and Perfectly Formed - Catherine Pattison | Otago Daily Times

25 April 2015
Catherine Pattison | Otago Daily Times

With the nation's love affair with SUVs still in full swing, Mazda sees it as an opportune time to capitalise on this burgeoning segment by introducing the small but perfectly formed CX-3.

It is somewhat of a toe-in-the-water approach, as Mazda is proffering not only a new model, it is also venturing into a segment where it hasn't been represented before. One of the many offshoots of the SUV tree, the small SUV segment is relatively new, but Mazda New Zealand managing director Andrew Clearwater says it is blooming and the trend is forecast to continue.

"[It is] quickly becoming established as the fastest-growing segment in the New Zealand market, with a 9% share of the passenger market and this has basically doubled since 2010," he said.

The CX-3 will be available with either a 2-litre petrol or a 1.5-litre diesel engine. There will be one all-wheel drive and three front-wheel-drive variants in the petrol, priced from $31,195 to $38,595. The diesel models are both all-wheel drive, with the GSX version $38,695 and the plusher Limited topping the line-up at $42,595.

The all-wheel-drive options may not be winners as the CX-3 is targeted towards a mostly urban audience. Mazda's product planning manager, Tim Nalden, said that of the projected 1150 CX-3s to be sold annually, 77% would be front-wheel drive and 92% would be petrol, meaning the diesels are very much a minority option.

A six-speed automatic transmission is in all grades and for the petrol engines there is a sport mode available.

Both power plants feature an engine stop system when the vehicle is idling, which helps keep the fuel efficiency looking sharp for an SUV, albeit a small one. The 2-litre engines put out 109kW and 192Nm of torque, delivering fuel consumption of 6.1 litres/lOOkm (front-wheel drive) or 6.71/100km (all-wheel drive). The 1.5-litre diesel CX-3 delivers 77kW of power and 270Nm while consuming a frugal 5.1 litres/lOOkm.

Facts and figures aside, the CX-3 really is a little beauty, with its Kodo design features by its programme manager Michio Tomiyana and chief designer Youichi Matsuda, who both travelled from Japan to attend the launch.

Kodo translates as soul of motion, which while flowery does actually rather poetically capture the prettiness of the CX-3.

Tomiyana explained that with this vehicle, Mazda started development from scratch in terms of design and the CX-3 was four years in the making. The front half features one solid mass, with a line beginning at the front headlights continuing throughout the body to the back wheel, giving a nice flowing shape and the impression of length in what is essentially a wee SUV.

The CX-3 designers were aiming for the "sweet spot" with the vehicle's height and seating position, Tomiyana said. Appealingly for families, the rear seats are positioned 37mm higher than the front seats, which gives small people in the back a better view and makes it easier for those up front to hear them asking "are we there yet" 100 times a trip.

Inside the cabin is where the CX-3 really shines. The designers were aiming for the craftsman's touch and although it is obviously not in the luxury car price band, Mazda has done a stunning job of the interior. Soft materials break up the hard edges on the metallic-finish parts and a lot of thought has gone into the finer details, such as the gearshift being encased in a leather surround.

If you like the dark-red detailing present in all models, here's a little nudge to make sure you fully appreciate it: apparently the design boffins sifted through 100 different samples before settling on this particular shade.

The interior combines black as a base, with one of four co-ordinated patterns and materials in white, black or grey.

Features-wise, the driver display on the GSX and Limited models shows real-time driving data: (speed, navigation directions and safety information) directly in front of the driver.

There is also the seven-inch display screen on the centre dash, housing the navigation, communication and social-media interfaces.

Across the CX-3 grades, the Mazda2's safety technologies are present, with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert in the GSX, while the Limited includes another raft of features, such as lane departure warning and high-beam control. Although the CX-3 has no safety rating yet, Nalden is confident of five stars.

He told those attending the launch the CX-3 had received the biggest pre-launch interest of any Mazda model, and judging by its looks and features I can see why. As it hits the nation's dealerships, how many of the masses take to this small fish in a new pond will show whether buyers put their money where their mouths are.

At a glance MAZDA CX-3 Price: $31,195 to $42,595 Engines: 1998cc DOHC, direct injection four-cylinder petrol, maximum power 109kW@6000rpm, maximum torque 192Nm@2800rpm; 1499cc DOHC turbo common-rail direct-injection diesel, maximum power 77kW@4000rpm, maximum torque 270Nm@ 1600-2500rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic Brakes and stability systems: Disc brakes, ABS, DSC, EBD, TCS, ESS, hill launch assist Wheels, tyres: Alloy wheels 215/60 R16 to 215/50 R18 tyres Fuel and economy: 6.1 litres per 100km (petrol front-wheel drive), 6.71/100km (petrol all-wheel drive); 5.11/100km (diesel engine) on combined cycle; capacity 1998cc, 48 litres; 1499cc, 44 litres Dimensions: Length 4275mm, width 1765mm, height 1550mm

BT-50 commercialcare disclaimer

** is also available to new BT-50 owners where every scheduled service completed by Mazda specialist technicians for a 3 year/100,000km term (whichever wherever occurs first) will cost no more than $200 (incl. GST) per service for models built after 1 November 2012. *** 3,350kg applies to earlier models.

* whichever occurs first