Mazda, as a brand, has come a long way in recent years with models such as the brilliant MX-5 cementing itself as one of the most fun, entertaining roadsters money can buy, provided you buy the manual derivative.
In recent years, the company has also proved itself to be a particularly strong contender in the crossover and SUV segment, what with the CX-3 and the CX-5 making significant inroads in their segments.
The CX-5, particularly the diesel derivative, is a great package and the range will be replaced by a new generation in May.
A rung lower perches the CX-3, a compact hatchback with pseudo off-road addenda in a similar vein to the Volkswagen Cross Polo.
In essence we can safely say the CX-3 is a Mazda 2 in adventure drag. It all comes together rather well though, with the model looking decidedly modern yet sporty, particularly in the Individual Plus specification of our test car. Kitted out in 17-inch alloy wheels with a chrome slatted grille and LED headlights with daytime running lights, the model strikes a contemporary pose and will appease those looking for a stylish hatchback.
Those stylish looks spill into the cabin where grey Alcantara/ leather seats offer good comfort and adjustment. Everything is well laid out, with the quality of materials worthy of mention as there is an air of premium sophistication imparted to the driver and passengers alike.
What makes the Individual Plus model stand out is the added convenience specification, including adaptive headlights, automatic folding mirrors, Smart City Braking Support, driver attention alert, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning — items that have until now been offered only in much more expensive segments.
I managed to put the blind spot monitoring and lane departure systems to the test, the former using flashing amber lights on the side mirrors to alert you of a car in the lane next to you, while the latter flashes a similar amber light in the instrument cluster together with a warning chime.
It would have been great to see how the Smart City Braking Support works, which is ideal for when reversing into or approaching, nose first, a busy road or intersection. Alas, I am so conditioned to paying attention to my surroundings while at the wheel that I never got around to putting this to the test, but it is great to know that it is there should the need arise.
As for the drive, I am still convinced that the Japanese marque needs to consider offering a smaller-capacity, turbocharged engine across the model range. In the instance of this flagship 2.0-litre Individual Plus on test, the engine offers lacklustre performance, no doubt further foiled by the sluggish-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox.
Fuel consumption hovered around the 8.0l/100km mark, which is not particularly frugal in this segment. As a stopgap, until the company develops turbo petrol motors, the 1.5-litre turbo diesel in the Mazda 2 would be a great offering in this segment.
The CX-3 is a fantastic package, a modern bastion of style meeting functionality and high-quality finishes. The price of R380 600 is somewhat steep for a car based on a Mazda 2 and not well endowed on the performance front.
The Toyota C-HR, admittedly with less specification, is a much livelier drive and that, for me, places the CX-3 second to the C-HR in this segment. – Lerato Matebese
Fast Facts: Mazda CX-3 Individual Plus
Engine: 1998cc four-cylinder petrol
Power: 115kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 204Nm at 2800rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual
0-100km/h: 9.5-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 192km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 7.3l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 146g/km (claimed)
Price: From R380 600