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Driven: Variety key to Mazda CX-3’s success

Vector Prime: Mazda’s refreshed CX-3 will launch with G-Vectoring Control as standard, but the in-house technology will contribute to the new range’s price rise on some variants.

Mazda persists with 14 variant CX-3 line-up despite slow selling diesel and manual

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Mazda logo12 May 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN

MAZDA Australia says the extensive spread of price and specification on its refreshed CX-3 will help retain the model’s small-SUV sales crown as it introduces more standard safety equipment, an upgraded interior and mechanical tweaks for its popular crossover.

While the changes will come with a cost – Neo and Maxx grades rise $500, and the top-spec Akari jumps $200, while sTouring remains static – Mazda is still offering a mix of petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmissions, and front- or all-wheel drive – resulting in 14 variant line-up.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the updated model, Mazda Australia managing director Vinesh Bhindi said the extensive variant range is crucial to the CX-3’s sales success and the emphasis would remain on private customers.

“It is a new segment, so it’s important we do make sure customers… have got options, and they are coming into our showrooms thinking ‘well I want this’ and to say ‘no you can’t have that’ is a difficult conversation and a let down to a certain extent,” he said.

“So we believe it’s the right thing to do. Now, it will settle down at a level and we will all know what customers would like, willing to buy and requesting, but we think it’s important to offer it (variety).

“Mazda leads the segment with very strong interest in this segment from private buyers, which is where our focus remains.”

An instant critical and commercial hit for Mazda when it was launched in March, 2015, the CX-3 has since sold 36,740 units in Australia, with 12 out of the past 26 months as the best-selling small SUV in the country.

However, since its release, the small-SUV segment has morphed, with the Hyundai ix35 moving up a segment in the form of the Tucson and Volkswagen following suit with its new-generation Tiguan.

Toyota has also entered the competitive market with its C-HR, along with Jeep’s Renegade and the Fiat 500X, while Hyundai is waiting in the wings with its incoming Kona.

Although Mr Bhindi acknowledged that there was more competition in the changing segment, he said Mazda would continue to chase sales potential no matter how small.

“The segment is still evolving, it still has customers thinking and saying ‘is this for me?’, but also each brand is looking at their offerings,” he said.

“Most others are not at that wide variety that we have, and whether they do or don’t see an opportunity – that’s something you’d have to ask them.

“But we say… with small sales, we still see an opportunity and offering. So no, we’re okay with our strategy and our product offering.”

Despite manual sales accounting for only 11 per cent of overall sales, Mazda continues to offer a three-pedal CX-3, a contrast to its Honda HR-V rival which comes exclusively equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Similarly, all-wheel drive remains in the CX-3 range with only a 16 per cent adoption rate, while the diesel powertrain continues in spite of the oil-burner accounting for only three per cent of sales.

Of the overall CX-3 sales mix, Mr Bhindi revealed that the most popular variant is the mid-spec Maxx, with the entry-level Neo only accounting for nine per cent of sales.

“It is important to understand what price bands Australians are buying small SUVs in,” he said. “Some of our competitors claim that the small-SUV buyer is spending more, so in the upper price brackets toward medium SUV offerings.

“Our research tells us that the vast majority of customers consider vehicles in the $20-$30,000 price point in this segment. The Mazda CX-3 has been a success because we have a variety of grades, engines and transmission types.

“We have something for everyone, whether it be price point or spec-driven customers who want a small SUV.”

The new Mazda CX-3 range mirrors the outgoing version, with the line-up kicking off with the six-speed manual, front-wheel drive, 109kW/192Nm 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder Neo for $20,490 before on-road costs, a $500 price increase as previously mentioned.

With the same drivetrain, moving up to the Maxx will cost $22,890 (+$500), while the sTouring and top-spec Akari will wear respective pricetags of $26,990 (no change) and $31,490 (+$200).

Six-speed automatic versions across all four grades will cost an additional $2000, while the petrol, all-wheel drivetrain is paired exclusively to the self-shifting transmission and can be found on Maxx, sTouring and Akari variants for $26,890, $30,990 and $35,490 respectively.

Buyers looking for a diesel option have a choice between the $27,290 front-wheel drive Maxx, the $33,390 all-wheel drive sTouring, or the $37,890 all-paw Akari – all mated a six-speed automatic transmission and powered by a 77kW/270Nm 1.5-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder unit.

Fuel economy remains unchanged at 6.3 litres per 100km in manual, petrol, front-wheel-drive versions, while the automatic transmission drops the figure to 6.1L/100km.

Front-drive, diesel automatic variants return a 4.8L/100km rating and all-wheel drive versions are slightly thirstier at 5.1L/100km.

Although drivetrain options remain unchanged, Mazda has included new safety features as standard across the CX-3 range to justify the small price rise.

Mazda’s version of autonomous emergency braking (AEB), called Smart City Brake Support, is now included on every variant, and utilises a windscreen-mounted laser to detect objects in front and ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles when reversing.

Moving up to the Maxx grade also nets buyers blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while sTouring and Akari grades gain a Driver Attention Alert system and Traffic Sign Recognition, with the latter also acquiring adaptive LED headlights and front parking sensors.

Across the range, Mazda says it has made improvements to noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels with changes including increased foam insulation in the B-pillar, thicker seals in the C- and D-pillar, amplified weight in the floor mats and boosted density in the tunnel insulator.

Diesel-equipped vehicles also gain a High-Precision DE Control Boost system to deliver power more smoothly and a Natural Sound Smoother and Natural Frequency Control to reduce engine knocking and minimise engine noise.

The CX-3 also gains Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control to help improve driving dynamics, as well as updates to suspension for improved steering response and ride comfort.

While the refreshed CX-3 looks identical to the outgoing model from the outside, Mazda has fitted a new steering wheel modelled after the CX-9’s unit, as well as updated instrumentation, front seats with added lifter function and, where applicable, made the head-up display easier to read.

Standard equipment in the entry-level Neo includes power mirrors, a rear spoiler, cruise control, four-speaker sound system, 16-inch wheels, push-button start, hill start assist and rear parking sensors, while the Maxx gains leather-wrapped gear knob, steering wheel and handbrake lever, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, digital radio, satellite navigation, six-speaker sound system and reversing camera.

Moving up to the sTouring nets buyers daytime running lights (DRLs), LED foglights, headlights and tail-lights, automatically folding and heated side mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, head-up display and keyless entry. Top-spec Akari variants gain power-adjusted heated front seats.

2017 Mazda CX-3 pricing*
Neo FWD 2.0L petrol$20,490
Neo FWD 2.0L petrol (a)$22,490
Maxx FWD 2.0L petrol$22,890
Maxx FWD 2.0L petrol (a)$24,890
Maxx AWD 2.0L petrol (a)$26,890
Maxx FWD 1.5L diesel (a)$27,290
sTouring FWD 2.0L petrol$26,990
sTouring FWD 2.0L petrol (a)$28,990
sTouring AWD 2.0L petrol (a)$30,990
sTouring AWD 1.5L diesel (a)$33,390
Akari FWD 2.0L petrol$31,490
Akari FWD 2.0L petrol (a)$33,490
Akari AWD 2.0L petrol (a)$35,490
Akari AWD 1.5L diesel (a)$37,890
*Excludes on-road costs

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