Andre De Kock
When evaluating test vehicles, this writer is expected to be impartial, not letting pre-conceived notions influence my findings.
Being human, I do not always manage that. For instance, I have always loved Mazdas. Not the incredibly deep, beyond measure, massive, indescribable, past religious, utterly consuming love that illegal cigarette smugglers have for Mama Zuma. Nothing in the universe could equal that.
But, I was always partial to Mazdas. Like the Capella Rotary and MX-6 race cars, the triple rotary 323 “Mazda-Rati” that Ben Morgenrood raced here, plus the 787B Rotary that Mazda took to the 1991 Le Mans 24-Hour race victory. Then there was the RX-8 – offering a rotary engine and rear-wheel drive up to 2012, when both those things were deemed unfashionable.
I own a 20-year old diesel-engined Mazda bakkie which cheerfully clatters me from place to place without the slightest fuss. And today, when most hatchbacks, crossover and SUV vehicles look pretty much the same, Mazdas stand out as beautifully designed, almost sculptured, cars. Like the CX-3 2.0 Individual Plus we recently had as a house guest for a week.
Pitched as a small crossover, the CX-3 carries that vehicle category’s visual impairment of trying to be two separate cars at the same time. But, it does so in a manner that makes it look slightly cartoonish – like a Hot Wheels offering. Adding much to that look are its all-new 18-inch spoked alloy wheels in 215/50R18 rubberware and Soul Red Crystal colour– look at the photographs herewith and decide for yourself.
Being old and old-fashioned, this writer favours Mazda’s penchant for large, naturally aspirated petrol engines, as opposed to almost everybody else’s current love affair with small, turbocharged units. In the case of the CX-3, the powerplant is a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre unit, that produces 115 kW of power at 6 000 rpm and 206 Nm of torque at 2 800 rpm. It is married to a six-speed automatic transmission that transfers the grunt and twist to the front wheels.
Active safety systems include ABS with electronic brake assist, traction and stability control, hill start assist, rear parking camera, lane departure and blind spot warning. If, despite all of the above, you still crash it, the Mazda will try to keep you safe via front, side and curtain airbags.
Inside, the Individual Plus tag ensures full leather upholstery, a multi-function steering wheel, an onboard computer with head-up display touchscreen, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, Bluetooth, a USB port, a satellite navigation system, air conditioning, cruise control, electric windows all round, remote central locking, keyless entry, electric handbrake and rain sensor automatic wipers.
The CX-3 was easy to drive, with ample torque from the powerplant giving it smooth cruising ability – it would run at 120 km/h on the highway in sixth gear all day, with 2 400 rpm on the clock. The gearbox can be utilised in full automatic mode, via the gearshift or using paddles behind the steering wheel, but this writer soon figured I could not ever do it smoother than the auto box itself, and left well alone while driving with the two pedals only.
Performance is adequate for a vehicle of this type – Mazda claim acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h in under ten seconds plus a top speed of close to 200 km/h and we have little reason to doubt them.
We did not get brave around corners, but the handling seemed smooth and undramatic – the CX-3’s target market customers would be unlikely to indulge in street racing. What they will be interested in is comfort and space, both of which the vehicle provides. The rear-view camera and a turning circle of 10.6 m makes it a doddle to park.
Finally, while not trying to save fuel, the CX-3 returned an average petrol consumption figure of 8.2L/100 km. Driving with a lighter right foot would doubtlessly result in lower figures. At a price of R442 600 the vehicle comes with a three-year unlimited kilometre service plan, a three-year factory warranty, three- year roadside assistance and a five-year corrosion warranty.
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