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£19,835 when new
“We didn’t benchmark rivals when we created the CX-3, because there were no rivals.” Yeah right, Michio Tomiyama. So, the project chief in charge of Mazda’s Juke rival reckons his new baby stands apart. Big surprise. “But we have been developing the CX-3 since 2009.” Ah. That’s a year before Nissan’s bug-eyed, genre-defining crossover appeared. Maybe Mazda isn’t simply following the herd. That said, the recipe for Mazda’s new jacked-up supermini is far from revolutionary. Under the bodywork and below the bonnet sit the underpinnings and engines from the Mazda2, a rock-solid base – lightweight, agile and very chuckable. Beside a 40mm roofline swell, the CX-3 trumps the 2’s boot size by a useful 100 litres and offers optional all-wheel drive that fewer than 10 per cent of UK buyers will select. Adult-adequate rear space beats that of rivals Juke and Vauxhall Mokka, but the CX-3 suffers similarly patchy rear visibility. The dashboard arrives wholesale from the 2, complete with bulbous air vents, crystal-clear instruments and erect touchscreen that evoke the new MX-5. The design we like; the bad-habit Japanese textured plastics, less so. But we often forgive Mazda its faux-carbon finishes for the fun it injects into humdrum cars, and the CX-3 bears that standard with pride. The steering has a refreshing weightiness about its ideally sized, multi-adjustable wheel, and the gearshift could teach several hot hatches a lesson in tactility. While you’re obviously loftier in a CX-3 than in a 2, you still feel properly integral to the car. So at last we have a crossover that’s as deft as a Juke, but without the vampire bulldog bodywork.
The pay-off is a ride that’s firm rather than fluent, and the petrol engines require a lot of driver input too. Having no turbos and a ‘rightsizing over downsizing’ 2.0-litre capacity means there’s no low-down stack of torque; and the SkyActiv four-pots are thrashy at high revs. Of course, you could spec the 199lb ft, 70.6mpg diesel instead… After six years in the works, the CX-3 is more than just decent. Michio Tomiyama’s dislike of benchmarks had better change, because his team has actually created one.
£14,935 – £27,345
It's divisive but, judging by sales, in a good way. Another Nissan crossover success.
£17,929 – £22,429
Nice-looking Vauxhall mini-MPV has a neat interior and that's about it. Can't hold a candle to a Yeti
£18,450 – £23,110
Citroen has made the C4 Cactus more mainstream, yet conversely it's become a more niche choice in the process