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Mazda CX-3 draws closer

2 for the money: A sub-compact SUV might not have been confirmed by Mazda, but if given the green light, it will be based on the upcoming Mazda2 light car.

Compact SUV “not confirmed”, but Mazda Australia ready for entry level crossover

7 Aug 2014

MAZDA this week gave its strongest hint yet that it will enter the burgeoning sub-compact SUV segment, with the company's local chief pushing hard to add a Holden Trax rival to its line-up.

The long-mooted 'CX-3' crossover would, if given the green light, take the fight to the growing number of entrants in the sub-compact SUV segment that, apart from Trax, includes the Ford EcoSport, Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Suzuki S-Cross and Mitsubishi ASX, as well as the upcoming Renault Captur and re-born Honda HR-V.

A Mazda2-based crossover would sit under the CX-5 and CX-9 as the entry-level SUV in the car-maker's line-up.

GoAuto previously reported that Mazda was deep into development of the CX-3 and that it was likely to debut in Australia at some point in the second half of 2015, powered by a range of 1.5-litre petrol and turbo-diesel engines.

Speaking to local reporters this week, Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders said that while production of the tiny SUV was still “not confirmed”, the Japanese car-maker had the capability to produce such a vehicle.

“We have said all along that we want to get into it,” he said. “On our last visit to Japan, it was confirmed that we could do one.” The CX-5 is Australia's top-selling compact SUV this year with 12,901 sales in the first seven months of 2014 – a 10 per cent increase over the same period last year.

Mazda's high-riding hero is more than 2000 units ahead of second placed Toyota's RAV4 (10,654 sales), and has nearly 5000 sales on the third-placed Subaru Forester (8032).

The success of the CX-5 and the Mazda2 hatch – the country's second best-selling light car to the end of July this year, just three months out from the introduction of a new-generation version – points to an opportunity for Mazda to get a slice of the light SUV segment, which Mr Benders is keen on.

“We do want to get into that small-SUV segment,” he said. “So that’s an incremental opportunity for us at some point. We think we will be pretty happy about that.”

Mazda Australia public relations senior manager Steve Maciver said any potential compact crossover would likely be based on the Mazda2, but that the company would try to approach the market differently to other brands.

“It makes sense to base it on a 2 – that’s what everyone else in that segment is doing,” he said. “But that said, we have to look at it with a fresh set of eyes and work out what everyone else is doing and think, 'well does that work?' We need look at it differently.

“We have always said that segment is one of the ones, not just here but globally, on the rise. We'd be mad not to look at it.” While the number of compact crossovers is growing rapidly, results have been mixed.

Hyundai's larger ix35 is the sales leader with 10,506 units shifted so for this year, followed by Subaru's Impreza-based XV with 6565 and Nissan's Dualis, which was recently replaced by the Qashqai, on 6064 and Mitsubishi's ASX on 5312 units.

In terms of the new brigade of light-car-based alternatives, sales are not as strong, with the Holden Trax the most successful so far with year-to-date sales of 3648.

Nissan's quirky Juke has sold 1455 units to the end of July, while Suzuki's S-Cross has only managed 1083 and Ford's Fiesta-based EcoSport is sitting on 1031 sales for the year. Peugeot's 208-based 2008 found 305 buyers in that period.

Mr Benders said the segment was made up of some diverse offerings and that consumers were yet to understand some of the benefits of the tiny high-riding hatches.

“The thing in that segment is there are lots of odds and sods in there. From a consumer point of view, I don't think they have got a clear idea of what it is at this point. They have got the upright tall Trax, the very odd-shaped Juke and the more wagon-like 2008. They're quite different.

“Until the design and the idea of SUV settles in their mind, I think it will be a little shaky. It's going to happen. The downsizing of cars and what an SUV does, it gives people a bit more pragmatism in a small car.”*Lower image - Mazda Hazumi concept sketch

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