Mazda hits another sweet spot
It’s often been said that success breeds success, and any impartial observer of the motor industry would be hard pressed to find good reason to argue that Mazda doesn’t deserve the success it’s currently experiencing.
It doesn’t happen by chance though, particularly in the auto industry where buyers are spoilt for choice with great new products coming to market from almost every manufacturer with each new model that’s launched.
New territory for Mazda
Entering a completely new segment for any manufacturer can be a risky business, although with more and more buyers hankering after SUV ride height regardless of vehicle size, it’s a safe bet that the Mazda bean-counters aren’t losing any sleep as their engineering and marketing people beaver away, bringing their new and smallest SUV, the CX-3, to market. While Mazda haven’t had an offering in this space before, it’s hardly uncharted territory.
Attending the New Zealand launch of the CX-3 were Programme Manager Michio Tomiyama and Chief Designer, Youichi Matsuda and while great product speaks for itself, hearing engineers and designers at the pointy end of the game explain how certain features evolve from the drawing board to the production line, joins the dots for those of us less well-versed in engineering and design to otherwise understand why a particular styling feature seems so appealing, or how one maker’s gizmo is so much easier to use than another’s.
Michio Tomiyama started by explaining that the initial brief for the CX-3 was plain and simple. “We started this project with a clean sheet, not allowing ourselves to be captured by convention. With the interior we wanted to pay close attention to detail, producing an environment that is high quality but edgy.”
Not too high, not too low
“We wanted to build a vehicle with an ideal seating position for all occupants. There are advantages of sitting high and advantages of sitting low – but not too high or too low” he said. Too high and it makes it difficult for shorter people to get in and out, too low and the taller ones struggle, so despite being a relatively tall vehicle, every aspect has been designed with people of all sizes in mind.
Youichi Matsuda explained the effort that went into achieving optimum comfort and ease of use in all aspects of the design. There’s the ideal driver’s eye height point to consider, and detailed ergonomic studies found that 1,250mm from the ground provides the driver with a clear view of the surroundings.
The optimum hip point position has been set at 599mm for the front seats and 640mm for the rears. Being higher than the front seats, rear seat passengers get a bird’s eye view, with a good line of sight to the front aided by the front seats being located 25mm further to the outer edge of the vehicle.
No stone has been left unturned, with each control device being positioned in accordance with ergonomic studies of human bone structures, with the pedals, shift lever, all switchgear and the command controller being positioned where the driver can operate them intuitively.
Perfect blend of hi-tech and style
From a styling perspective, Mazda continues on its KODO “Soul of Motion” design language that began with the CX-5, through to the Mazda6, Mazda3 and Mazda2, and the sleek lines and blacked out “D” pillar add to the stylish look.
With the choice of a 2.0 litre 109kW/192Nm SKYACTIV-G petrol engine or a 1.5 litre 77kW/270Nm SKYACTIV-D diesel unit, there are choices of Front Wheel Drive (FWD) and All Wheel Drive (AWD) and three grades of specification (GLX, GSX and Limited). All use a six speed automatic transmission.
The quality of materials used in the cabin is of a particularly high standard, with the CX-3 punching well above its price-point weight in terms of cabin ambience, comfort and the afore-mentioned ergonomics.
Deep red highlights and accents are used against a backdrop of dark cloth, deluxe leatherette or leather, depending on which of the GLX, GSX or Limited grades is chosen.
A 7 inch touch screen with a good quality reversing camera, push button engine start and a vast array of safety features including Hill Launch Assist (HLA), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Emergency Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and ISOFIX child seat anchorages are provided across the range.
GSX and Limited models come standard with Sat-nav, Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), automatic headlamps and wipers, leather wrapped gearshift knob, handbrake and steering wheel, rear parking sensors and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and the GLX’s 16 inch alloys are upgraded to 18s.
The CX-3 Limited has leather trimmed seats, a Bose premium quality sound system, LED lighting systems front and rear with Daytime Running Lamps (DRL), Smart City Brake Support-Forward (SCBS-F), Secondary Collision Reduction (SCR), Land Departure Warning (LDW) and rear privacy glass.
Braked towing capacity is rated at 1,200kg for petrol models but only 800kg for diesels. We did query this as given the unbraked ratings are 680kg and 720kg for petrol and diesel respectively, we wondered if there was a misprint, reasoning that a diesel engine would normally pull more than a petrol, and wondering why the diesel's braked rating only betters the unbraked number by 80kg.
But we're told that it relates to thermal efficiency, which is critical for a diesel to run efficiently. So a larger capacity cooling system that would be required to haul more load would compromise the little diesel's efficiency. So, contrary to the norm, if you need to tow a heavier load, go for the petrol.
Pricing ranges from $31,195 for the CX-3 FWD 2.0 GLX petrol through to $42,595 for the range-topping CX-3 AWD 1.5 Limited diesel.
Ride quality, driving dynamics, noise levels, handling and overall build quality are all of the highest order. The CX-3 is the ideal car for modern city environments, open road cruising and for drivers of all ages, shapes and sizes.
Like all recent Mazda product, there’s 3 years free servicing as well as a 5 year warranty and Roadside Assistance. The CX-3 is hard to beat in its sector – a sector currently on a surge, and we’ve no doubt they’ll have no trouble finding buyers for every single one of the 1,150 units they predict they’ll sell per year.