Mazda CX-3 heats up SUV market

Observer writer

Friday, August 10, 2018

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THE compact crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV) market is a highly competitive one as manufacturers release new models at alarming frequency to keep up with consumer demand.

The 2018 Mazda CX-3 puts its best foot forward, bypassing its Asian rivals and infusing their own take on European luxury to keep it at the forefront of the many options.

From any angle, the CX-3 looks more like a modern reinterpretation of a classic Italian sports coupe. The long bonnet and curves that define the cabin blend with Mazda's corporate styling cues to create the illusion that the vehicle is lower and sleeker than it really is. This becomes even more evident with black-coloured mid and rear pillars. Opt for the right colour and the roof of the CX-3 seems to be floating as the pillars blend in. The only hints to its SUV function are the coloured protective guards that line the wheel arches, giving it the chunky styling the class is known for.

The CX-3 raised height means it's easy to slip into the comfortable and supportive leather seats. Once a proper driving position is found, one will be taken away by the quality of the interior. The interior is dominated by soft-touch materials liberally applied from the dashboard to the centre console, all set off by interestingly designed circular vents. Matching red stitching and highlights give the cabin an air not found in rivals — at the CX-3's $5-million price point. Upmarket it is. This theme continues further with the infotainment system that uses a centrally located rotary dial, or steering-wheel-mounted buttons for operation.

The third option is to use the screen itself via touch. but in a nod to driver safety, the touch function doesn't operate while the vehicle is in motion. Connecting to the system is also smooth via USB or Bluetooth.

Overall, front or back, the cabin comfort is high with plenty of practicality for a small SUV.

The Mazda CX-3 continues to set itself apart once on the road. A quick adjustment of the heads- up display (HUD) — another very upmarket addition unheard of in rivals — and the Mazda will fire to life in a refined manner. Ignore the HUD and the instrument binnacle shouts European with its centrally mounted rpm gauge. Speed is relegated to the HUD and the small digital display. To the left and right are also screens able to offer all the driving data necessary.

The engine and transmission work together in unison to deliver whatever the drive wants. Putter around town and CX-3 is as docile as a puppy; its i-STOP system attempting to save as much fuel from the SKYACTIV 2-litre motor as possible when engaged. Step into the throttle or switch to SPORT mode and it unlocks another side of the Mazda. The revs rise like a sports car, while power builds with a wonderful linearity allowing precision driving. Unlike other crossovers that get compromised by the increase in ride height, the CX-3 always feels agile, its suspension maintaining the fine line between comfort and stiffness for spirited driving.

The easiest way to sum up the CX-3 is in Mazda's own words Jinba-ittai, essentially Japanese for “the feeling of unity with the car”. For those looking for the advantages of a compact crossover suv, higher seating, more space, practicality, and the ride height to avoid the current state of local roads, the CX-3 easily meets those metrics. However, it tacks a very upmarket interior and driving pleasure on top of those other elements.

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