Thursday, 22 March 2018

Whatever they call it, Mazda’s a looker

ONE thing is for certain — the new Mazda CX-3 is a looker.

ONE thing is for certain — the new Mazda CX-3 is a looker.

Its handsome lines would not disgrace the finest kind of sports cars that have come out of Italy — and when it comes to design the Italians have produced the best.

These days, of course, carmakers’ designs are more in line with each other to appeal to the all-powerful global market.

Yet on the evidence of the Mazda CX-3, which is new to the UK market, its Japanese designers have come up with a standout “look” for this new, smaller crossover vehicle. I was struck by these thoughts the moment I set eyes on the test model — a CX-3 1.5D 2WD Sport Nav — in its deepest blue livery.

The CX-3 made its European debut at the Geneva Motor Show and went on sale in Britain in June.

I’ve written before about what some might consider Mazda’s rather highfalutin’ description of its new design “family”. This is the so-called Kodo design, which in Mazda’s words is its “soul of motion design language” employed to get the consistent “look” of its new models across the range.

I told you it was a bit grandiose.

Yet the thing is, whatever Mazda likes to call this new design ethos, I think it works rather well.

The Kodo design theme is seen now in the Mazda3, Mazda6, Mazda CX-5, all-new Mazda2 and all-new Mazda CX-3.

It certainly works on all these cars in the range — especially the new Mazda6.

And from what I have seen the new Mazda MX-5 — a total reworking of that wonderful classic — displays a handsome new 21st century panache.

I shall report back to you soon on the new MX-5.

Mazda says the CX-3 “still offers the more commanding view of the road favoured by SUV customers”.

Now this is interesting. When I first got behind the wheel of the CX-3 I faced a dilemma.

Until I adjusted the rake of the steering wheel and my sitting position — making the seat back more vertical and moving closer to the accelerator and clutch pedals — I wasn’t sure whether this car thought of itself as a “car” or an SUV (sports utility vehicle).

What you get in consequence is a high-driving position — a prerequisite of any SUV — and a more laid-back seating stance you would normally associate with a conventional car.

After a while I grew to like this “combination” — high road position but also what you might call “normal” car comfort.

I think this is accentuated in the CX-3 because it is a smaller SUV.

But this is not a bad thing — by the end of the week and with some 250 or so miles of driving the CX-3 I was won over.

It is no accident then that the CX-3’s sweeping a-pillars and coupé-like profile give it a sporty stance on the road, and that with a 50mm higher ride height than the all-new Mazda2, it is just the ticket for SUV fans.

The interior of the test car was impressive. Smart in black-and-white upholstery with tasteful flashes of wine-coloured trim.

With a choice of 11 petrol and seven diesel variants, the CX-3 comes with good standard equipment.

SE models have 16-inch alloy wheels, plus heated and power folding mirrors, while SE-L models add rear privacy glass and front LED fog lights.

At the top of the range, the CX-3 Sport Nav — the car I drove — is the first car in the class to come with LED headlights.

So we have here another Mazda that complements the growing impact of the new model range.

For me the CX-3 sets a benchmark design-wise for this type of smaller SUV that other carmakers should heed.

Let’s hope they do just that.

Mazda CX-3 factfile:

Test car: Mazda CX-3 1.5D 2WD Sport Nav

18-strong all-new Mazda CX-3 model line-up priced from £17,595 to £24,695 on-the-road

Five level grade structure — SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav

SKYACTIV powertrains — petrol with 120ps or 150ps plus 105ps diesel

Offered with both front-wheel drive and Mazda’s new-generation all-wheel drive system

Choice of automatic transmissions

All models feature MZD-Connect with seven-inch colour touchscreen and multimedia commander

Sport Nav models feature Active Driving Display — a segment first head-up display system

Maximum speed: 124mph

Acceleration: 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds

Fuel consumption: up to 70.6 mpg

CO2 emissions: as low as 105g/km

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