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Driven: Mazda's CX-3 goes for the top spot

Dreaming big: A four-model line-up and sharp entry level pricing is Mazda’s key to the top of the compact-SUV heap

Expectations are high for new Mazda CX-3, but local bosses predict a number one hit

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Mazda logo17 Mar 2015

By TIM ROBSON

MAZDA Australia has confirmed a sub-$20,000 starting price for its CX-3 crossover, and despite concerns that global demand will outstrip supply, the car-maker is bullish about the prospects for its all-new nameplate Down Under.

The model drops into a red-hot marketplace brimming with compact-SUV rivals, but Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders said he believes the CX-3 will be an instant hit.

“We expect the small-SUV segment to quickly grab 10 per cent of the total industry over the next two-to-three years, and we really do believe that CX-3 is the right product across many dimensions to help drive that appeal and capture more than its fair share of those new car buyers,” Mr Benders told journalists at the vehicle’s launch in Canberra this week.

“CX-3, as a totally new and incremental model to our range, does offer us a chance for another growth step in 2015. It enters what was the fastest-growing segment in 2014 with a strong and appealing product. Our goal will be to quickly move up the segment rank, supply permitting.”

Aimed at young urban buyers, the CX-3 is built in Japan on a modified version of the Mazda2 floorpan, and also marks the Australian debut of Mazda’s new SkyActiv-D 1.5-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine.

Offered at launch in 14 variants – although the entry-level Neo will not go into production until the second quarter of this year – the CX-3 can be configured with two engines – a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol and Mazda’s new 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel – across a four-strong range. A manual gearbox option is available on four cars, while all-wheel drive is available on five variants.

“We’ve looked at what the competition has done and kind of ignored it,” said Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak, “and instead we’ve followed a similar line-up that has given us market leadership in the light-car segment, in the small-car segment, in the medium-SUV segment, and import leadership in the medium-car segment. There’s a theme there.

“Starting from $19,990, plus on-roads for the entry model, our wide price range and choice will give us every opportunity to be number one in the small-SUV segment.”

As reported by GoAuto last month, a leaked document revealed CX-3 pricing ahead of the official launch, showing a starting price of $19,990, plus on-road costs for the entry level Neo in manual front-wheel drive spec, and Mazda's official pricing confirms this.

The Neo matched with an automatic transmission is $21,990, before rising to $22,390 for the manual Maxx ($24,390 for an auto, $26,390 for petrol AWD and $26,790 for diesel auto 2WD). The sTouring starts at $26,990 ($28,990 for petrol auto 2WD, $30,990 for petrol auto AWD and $33,390 in diesel auto AWD).

The range-topping Akari – a new variant name for Mazda – starts at $31,290 in petrol manual FWD, rising to $33,290 for petrol auto FWD, $35,290 for petrol auto AWD and topping out at $37,690 for diesel auto AWD.

Mazda Australia is predicting sales of 1000 CX-3s per month, with more than half of that volume comprising the Maxx (55 per cent). The Neo is expected to do 25 per cent, the sTouring 15 per cent and the range-topping Akari just five per cent.

The price spread will see it do battle against a wide range of competitors in the fast-growing segment that, with the recent launch of the Renault Captur and Honda HR-V, now has almost two-dozen entrants in the mainstream category, with more to come.

Built in Mazda’s Ujina plant alongside CX-5 and CX-9, and on the same platform as the Mazda2 compact hatch, the CX-3 measures 4275mm long, 1765mm wide and 1550mm high. It is 215mm longer, 70mm wider and 55mm higher than its hatch sibling, despite being on the same wheelbase.

The CX-3 seats five, with two Isofix baby seat mounts on the 60/40 split-fold rear seat. Luggage capacity behind the seats measures 264 litres, while a two-position floor plank allows for either hidden storage or more room.

Capacity grows to 1174 litres with the seats down.

Its suspension layout features MacPherson struts up front, matched to a torsion beam rear end on the front-wheel drive models and a de Dion arrangement rear on the all-wheel drives. Its steering is electrically assisted.

Brake rotors on the FWD cars measure 280mm up front, while AWD variants are 295mm in diameter. All rear rotors are 281mm in diameter.

The CX-3 range kicks off with the front-wheel-drive Neo, which can be optioned with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission. Powered by Mazda’s SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine, the Neo makes 109kW at 6000rpm and 195Nm at 2800Nm.

The longer-legged auto returns a fuel economy figure of 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres, versus the manual’s 6.3L/100km.

The Neo offers a basic, but solid spec level, which includes power mirrors and windows, Bluetooth phone connectivity, tilt- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, wheel-mounted audio controls and rear parking sensors.

A full suite of active and passive safety systems, including Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) and Hill Launch Assist (HLA) is included. Six airbags, including front-side and front/rear curtain bags, are also standard fare.

Because the Neo is the only CX-3 variant not fitted with Mazda’s MZD Connect system, a rear-view camera is not offered as standard. An aftermarket unit can be optioned in for $778. A $1030 Safety Pack, comprising Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) is available as an option on all variants except the Akari that offers it as standard.

“Eighty per cent of our range gets a rear-view camera, and our entry level gets a $19,990 price point and rear sensors,” said Mr Benders.

“The audio system has a half-screen without visual capability, but we do offer a rear-view mirror option.”

Sixteen-inch steel rims, push-button start, body-coloured bumpers and rear spoiler round out the Neo’s spec.

The Maxx steps things up a notch, adding 16-inch alloys, leather-trimmed driver controls, the MZD Connect Infotainment system, six-speaker audio, smartphone-based internet radio and radio data system (RDS) capability, satellite navigation and a reversing camera.

Mazda’s new SkyActiv-D 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel motor makes its Australian debut in the CX-3, and the front-wheel-drive Maxx is the cheapest way to get into it. The automatic-only powertrain delivers 77kW at 4000 rpm, and 270Nm at 1600 – 2500 rpm. Fuel consumption is rated at 5.1L/100km.

The Maxx is also available in AWD, but in petrol only. Power, torque and fuel figure claims remain the same, despite the addition of the AWD running gear.

Moving up into the unusually named sTouring, Mazda’s Active Driving Display (or head-up display) is standard, while the entire lighting system – including fog-lights, daytime running lamps, headlights and tail-lights – is comprised of LEDs.

The rims are upsized to 18 inches and are fitted with 215/50 R18 tyres, and auto wipers and climate-controlled air-conditioning also make an appearance.

The sTouring is available in four powertrain combinations, including petrol FWD manual and auto, AWD petrol auto and AWD diesel auto, but not in FWD diesel.

The range-topping Akera gains a powered sunroof, keyless entry, and leather/suede seat trimming, as well as the Safety Pack electronics as standard. The Akera also gets High Beam Control and Smart City Brake Support.

Similarly, the Akera can also be had in the same four powertrain variants as the sTouring.

Mr Benders was unequivocal when it came to predicting a strong year for the Mazda brand on the back of the CX-3.

“I don’t want to appear over-confident or arrogant, but I do believe we now offer one of the strongest and newest range of models in the core of the new-car buyers in the local market,” he said. “We’re very confident the CX-3 will deliver volume growth for Mazda.”Mazda CX-3 pricing*
Neo petrol 2WD$19,990
Neo petrol 2WD (a)$21,990
Maxx petrol 2WD$22,390
Maxx petrol 2WD (a)$24,390
Maxx petrol AWD (a)$26,390
Maxx diesel 2WD (a)$26,790
sTouring petrol 2WD$26,990
sTouring petrol 2WD (a)$28,990
sTouring petrol AWD (a)$30,990
sTouring diesel AWD (a)$33,390
Akari petrol 2WD$31,290
Akari petrol 2WD (a)$33,290
Akari petrol AWD (a)$35,290
Akari diesel AWD (a)$37,690
*Excludes on-road costs.

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