Up with the sparrows one Wednesday I pointed the nose of the new Mazda CX-3 towards Johannesburg for a long-distance road test and a family celebration.
Brian Joss – Our overnight stop was at the Windmill Lodge and Casino in Bloemfontein, on the N1. The idea was to return home to Milnerton via Mossel Bay with a few days of R&R at Aloe Eden (firstname.lastname@example.org), near the Groot Brak. But life doesn’t always go according to plan. So we didn’t.
Onward and forward to the Windmill Lodge, through the toll roads, passing numerous container trucks, that politely gave way, and many auto carriers laden with new cars – which makes you wonder who is buying them – considering the reported decline in vehicle sales.
We arrived at the Windmill Lodge and Casino, owned by Sun International. The welcome was friendly and efficient and though you could order room service we had dinner at Sakura, a Japanese restaurant, a short stroll away from the hotel.
Next morning after a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast we headed for Johannesburg reaching the grid-locked Egoli at 11.30am. The traffic was chaotic and it was here that the six-speed automatic proved its worth.
The six-speed shifted smoothly through the ratios, up or down, with no noticeable hiccups. The auto transmission is well-mated to the 2-litre motor and it reacts quickly when you want to take the gap. The electric power steering gives you fingertip control for driving in clogged city streets or you can throw it around a bit on the open road.
Driving in Johannesburg the Mazda CX-3 performed admirably: it sailed over the pot-holed streets while the light and responsive steering made negotiating the traffic and the never-ending road reconstruction that much easier. The few days in Johannesburg soon came to an end, though not soon enough for me. Instead of taking the straight and narrow to Cape Town we decided to go home via Route 62.
Our overnight stop was at La Paix (www.lapaix.co.za) in Beaufort West where hosts Ian and Anneline, their 19-year-old talking (non-stop) parrot, and assorted dogs and a cat, made us feel at home. Anneline served up a tasty meal of lamb chops and a moreish “apple sponge poeding”.
Next morning we set out for home via Route 62: Oudtshoorn, Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Barrydale, Montagu, and then to Cape Town with a few pit-stops along the way and the journey was plain sailing.
The CX-3 automatic is powered by a 2-litre naturally aspirated, high-compression, direct-injection SkyActiv engine. Mazda has eschewed the turbo on the CX-3 which delivers 115 kW/6 000rpm and 204 N.m/2 000rpm, making it one of the more powerful units in this segment.
The Mazda CX-3 is a stylish looking vehicle and embodies the Japanese manufacturer’s Kodo design philosophy: the designers, said Mazda, studied everything from the movement in animals in their natural habitat to the energetic moment an archer releases an arrow “to create the muscular yet flowing lines” which gives the car its distinctive air. A lot of the interior comes straight from the Mazda2 which gives the cabin a sporty look. It includes an easy-to-use LCD infotainment screen and most of the driver data displays are grouped in a binnacle. Controls are on the steering wheel too. A good idea is the heads-up display that shows the speed you’re travelling: it’s especially useful when the bright sunlight shines directly on to the figures.
I was quite surprised at how well the CX-3 handled. It took the curves on the mountain passes with ease and it has a sporty feel to it. You can pilot it as if you’re a Sunday-Monday driver – just ambling along – or you can throw it around without feeling you’re going to lose it. The dynamics are that good. The ride too is supple and the CX-3 sailed smoothly over some of the more teeth-loosening roads. The CX-3 has a ground clearance of 160mm, if it had been more then I probably wouldn’t have squashed the tortoise making its slow way across the road on a curve near Ladismith. It was either the tortoise or me. And I was keeping to the speed limit. The efficient aircon gave some welcome relief, especially when the temperature outside hovered round the 36 degree mark. The excellent sound system provided music to drive by.
Upfront there’s plenty of room for the driver, who has a good view of the road, and passenger. But the boot is small (184 litres) even smaller than the Mazda2 (200 litres). Although the rear seats split 60/40 and you can fold them both flat it doesn’t quite make up for the small boot – not if you have a large amount of luggage.
There is also a lack of leg space at the rear and if you happen to be tall (er) then you’ll bump your head on the roof. The specs are excellent: climate control, electric windows/mirrors, infotainment system with CD/USB/aux/Bluetooth, parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, head-up display, cruise control, keyless entry and start, among others. The test car was also fitted with a reverse camera.
Some tech specs: engine:1 998; power: 115kW at 6000rpm, torque: 204Nm at 2 800rpm with a top speed of 200km/h, according to Mazda.
Fuel consumption on the journey was impressive. I recorded figures of 6.8litres/100km which included all sorts of road conditions: pot-holes, gridlocked traffic and the open road, not too far off Mazda’s claimed 6.1 litres/100km. The fuel tank has a 48-litre capacity. Although it’s academic the CX-3 can sprint from 0-100km/h in 10 seconds.
The Mazda CX-3 has a full list of safety features: dynamic stability control (DSC), traction control system (TCS), an anti-lock braking system, and more.
What I didn’t like was the lack of boot space and leg room for the back seat passengers and there was some intrusive cabin noise but not enough to be of concern. I liked the build quality, the fuel economy, the excellent sound system, the neatly laid out console and its stylish looks.
The CX-3 which incorporates the Japanese maker’s latest design and technology is proof that Mazda, after its divorce from Ford, has zoom zoomed its way to becoming a serious player in this segment of the market. It’s suitable for everyday commuting, and despite its small boot, for long-distance cruising. It carries a price tag of R355 400. It is also a finalist in the 2016 Car of the Year (COTY) competition.
Rivals are the Ford EcoSport (tested) and the Nissan Juke (tested).
The Mazda CX-3 has a 3-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty; 3-year roadside assistance, a 3-year service plan and a 5-year corrosion warranty.