Driving through the mountains in Chiang Mai is an enchanting experience in the crossover
Last year, the Mazda2 subcompact was one of the most talked-about cars in Thailand, and this year, Mazda is continuing the tradition with the launch of the enchanting CX-3 crossover.
Entering a rather new but fast-growing subcompact crossover market, the CX-3 is expected to be highly successful against competitors that include the Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke and Ford Ecosport.
And while the HR-V is the current market leader, the CX-3, with its remarkable Kodo aesthetics and Skyactiv performance, is expected to strongly challenge Honda’s reign.
Officially launched earlier this month, the CX-3 is priced from Bt835,000 to Bt1.045 million for the four gasoline models. Meanwhile, the top model is the diesel, which is priced at Bt1.155 million. All are front-wheel-driven as the all-wheel-drive version is not offered here.
Mazda was quick to stage the test drive event for the CX-3 gasoline in Chiang Mai, giving auto journos a good impression of what the car is like. The diesel version will be driven in another event to be staged at a later date.
Many people are concerned about the performance or practicality of the CX-3, wondering whether it is able to compete against others. While Mazda has made sure that the CX-3 actually sets the segment benchmark in many ways, its strongest point is the design.
The “Kodo: Soul of Motion” concept applied to the CX-3 is probably the most dramatic Mazda has ever done with a passenger car. Apart from the fluid and post-modern design that makes it look like a concept car, the CX-3 also has outstanding proportions and a purposeful stance. A lot of people will buy the CX-3 just for its looks.
The 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G direct-injection engine, which is basically borrowed from the Mazda3 and slightly modified for use in the CX-3, develops 156hp and 204Nm. With Mazda’s Skyactiv technology that concentrates on lowering the weight of the vehicle as well as squeezing out more performance from normally-aspirated gasoline engine.
Despite its large capacity, the engine is efficient, offering a fuel economy of 16.4km/h. Although the CX-3’s power plant is powerful, acceleration may seem sluggish once you initiate a kickdown, with the car taking time before catching its pace.
But that seems to be the only minus you’re going to find in the CX-3’s performance. The steering is direct and precise, and the suspension offers plenty of grip. Driving through the mountains in Chiang Mai was a piece of cake for the CX-3, despite its high ride height. The car seems composed at all times, even while going through multiple corners.
Mazda has never made a car with a spacious interior and the CX-3 is no exception. But to say that may be harsh, as the CX-3 doesn’t lack the space, offering adequate legroom for everyone. It’s just not a spacious vehicle so for those that space is a priority, the HR-V may seem like a better choice.
Sometimes, great designs come with compromises, and in this case passengers at the rear may feel a little claustrophobic due to the tiny window area. The small windows make the CX-3 look great from outside, but short rear passengers (or kids) will not be seeing much of what’s happening outside.
The interior features similar console design as the Mazda2, but with lots of leather and a more upmarket feel. Seating position is also nice, whether as a driver or passenger.
In terms of safety, the CX-3 definitely sets the benchmark again with a comprehensive package including Advanced Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Departure Warning System, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Smart City Brake Support, High Beam Control, as well as the usual ABS brakes with Brake Assist, Dynamic Stability Control, Hill Launch Assist, dual front airbags, side airbags and windowbags, etc.
The infotainment system is also top-notch offering everything (navigation, voice recognition, Bluetooth) plus online connectivity.
Mazda plans to sell about 6,000 units of the CX-3 in Thailand annually, and says that the new model will play an important role in helping the company achieve sales targets in a year that has seen the market decline by almost 15 per cent.
Mazda CX-3 2.0 SP
Engine: 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve
Bore and stroke: 83.5x91.2mm
Compression ratio: 14.0:1
Max power: 156ps/6,000rpm
Max torque: 204Nm/2,800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Average fuel economy: 16.4km/l
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut, stabiliser/torsion beam
Steering: electrically-powered rack and pinion
Turning circle: 10.6 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/disc
0-100km/h: 8.8 secs
Top speed: 197km/h
Track (f/r): 1,525/1,520
Wheels: 18-in alloy
Tyres: 215/50 R18
Fuel tank capacity: 48 litres
Price: Bt1.045 million
Distributor: Mazda Sales Thailand Company Limited