MAZDA’S CX-3 IN MARKET NICHE THAT GREW 25% IN LAST YEAR
While Mazda New Zealand is moving into the small SUV segment with its CX-3, that area of the market is proving a Kiwi favourite.
The company expects to sell 1500 CX-3s this year in a category that has increased 25 per cent in the past 12 months.
Mazda NZ reckons it will be competing against Nissan’s Juke, Suzuki’s S-Cross, Ford’s EcoSport, the Holden Trax (see page 10) and even VW’s Tiguan.
There are six variants in the CX-3 line-up with two engines — a 2-litre petrol (producing 109kW of power and 192Nm of torque) and 1.5-litre (77kW/270Nm) diesel.
The sculptured line from the bonnet to the rear wheel arch gives a sophisticated look.
Both powertrains are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel and all-wheel-drive available across the range.
On sale in New Zealand this month, the CX-3 range starts with the GLX ($31,195) and GSX ($34,695) front-wheel-drive petrol models.
The GSX AWD petrol is priced at $36,695 while the AWD diesel is $2000 more.
The top spec Limited models are available in the petrol front-wheel-drive ($38,595) and the diesel AWD ($42,595).
The GLX sits on 16-inch tyres while the GSX and Limited are bumped up to 18-inch, with black wheel arch mouldings across the range creating the appearance that the CX-3 is larger than it is.
Mazda NZ expects the GSX range to be the popular picks for the company, making up 65 per cent of sales.
Like the recently launched Mazda2 and Mazda3, the CX-3 has an impressive array of safety features for products in this price range — and like the aforementioned cars, competitors should take heed as customers will be expecting the same in their products.
Across the CX-3 range are reversing cameras (a big tick for Mazda NZ), front, side and curtain airbags, plus ABS and traction control.
The GSX has the addition of rear cross-traffic alert (which produces an audible warning if something or someone moves behind the vehicle as you reverse) plus blind spot monitoring.
The Limited also gains such i-Activesense safety technology as lane departure warning (a feature I’m still not sold on), and smart city brake (it stops the car in low-speed driving automatically).
At 4275mm long, 1765mm wide and 1550mm high, the CX3 sits between the Mazda2 and Mazda3. Across from Japan for the recent New Zealand launch was the CX-3’s chief designer, Youichi Matsuda, and programme manager, Michio Tomiyama.
The pair stressed it was a stand-alone product for the company with a new platform but included the company’s SkyActive chassis, body and engine plus Mazda’s now famous Kodo (meaning “soul in motion”) design, seen in the Mazda2, 3, 6 and CX-5.
The CX-3 has a bespoke look, not shared with any other product in the Mazda line-up and took inspiration from a sports coupe: large wheels, long nose and narrow cabin windows.
“We don’t want to make a small CX-5,” he said. “The CX-3 has a presence that defies categories.”
First interviewed by Driven at the international launch of the CX-3 at the Los Angeles motor show late last year, designer Matsuda said he was so impressed with the vehicle he was going to buy one for his family.
So nearly five months on, does Matsuda own one yet?
“No, in June it arrives,” he told Driven, “but my 13-year-old daughter wants me to get the Titanium Flash (light brown) CX-3.”
As car designers work three years in advance, Matsuda will soon be concentrating on the facelift of this small SUV, but at this stage he says he’s still focused on the international launch. And the product is a focal point for the brand.
Tomiyama said the CX-3 had the “important role of taking the brand to the next level”.
The three key factors for the creation of the small SUV were “a powerful presence” plus “genuine beauty in cutting-edge style” said Tomiyama. “Mazda has gone for a sophisticated look.
“We also began with a blank seat and wanted the ideal seating position. The driver has a high seating position and the seats are designed for cabin conversation.”
Testing the GSX and Limited petrol and diesel models in the launch, I was then given the Limited diesel for a week-long first test drive. The little Mazda proved a winner with my non-motoring colleagues when I parked it in my work basement space.
Like me, the passersby were impressed with the sculptured line that ran from the bonnet to the rear wheel arch, which gives it a sophisticated appearance.
And two Driven staff members who got behind the wheel also agreed with me that the refined handling, ride and the clean interior design belie its price bracket.