Mazda are one of the latest manufacturers to produce a competitor for Nissan’s popular Juke crossover.  ★★★★

Called the CX-3, it promises a more upmarket feel inside and out when compared to the little Nissan or the Renault Captur. Beneath the distinctive styling is the platform of the Mazda2 supermini albeit without that car’s smaller engines.

While the CX-3 may be roughly the same length as the Mazda2, a more upright seating position gives noticeably more room front and rear along with a bigger boot. Even so, you wouldn’t want to cram three adults in the back for too long especially if they’re tall. Think of it as good for its size but bear in mind a similarly priced Skoda Yeti would give even more space inside.

The Skoda wouldn’t have quite the same level of style as the Mazda though. While the Yeti doesn’t look bad, the CX-3 is a handsome little thing (even in refrigerator white) that avoids looking like its trying too hard to be different like some competitors. Those looks are carried through to the cabin which proved to be a very pleasant environment to be in. There’s a good selection of high quality plastics and leather effect materials but a few too many hard and scratchy surfaces considering the £17,000 plus price tag.

The infotainment system is worth a mention though. The screen is touch sensitive but there’s also a rotary controller between the front seats similar to BMW’s iDrive system. It takes a little getting used to at first but proves much more accurate than prodding at a screen over bumpy roads. Menus are attractive and the sat-nav worked very well too; it all seemed a cut above systems from many rival manufacturers including premium brands.

While an unusually large 2.0 litre petrol engine is available with two power outputs, I selected a 1.5 litre diesel to test. This 105hp unit will likely be the volume seller of the range thanks to its combination of punchy performance and the promise of over 70mpg in front wheel drive guise. Four wheel drive is available but you really need to ask whether the economy and emissions penalty is worth it. Unless you live out in the country or down the end of a farm track, I’d argue it isn’t.

You might think 105hp isn’t a great deal of grunt but then the CX-3 doesn’t weigh a vast amount; this means 0-62mph takes just 10.1 seconds. It never feels fast but then it never wants for more power either. There’s plenty of grunt from low in the rev-range which makes for easy-going progress on motorways too. As with all cars these days, you won’t be matching the official fuel consumption figures but I still managed 50mpg over around 300 miles on a mixture of roads. I don’t hang about either.

Unfortunately, handling proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a fair amount of body roll but it always feels keen and willing to entertain around corners. Over long undulations at speed it feels quite soft and wallowy which lulls you into thinking this will be a comfortable car. Unfortunately over more pronounced bumps and rough surfaces, it tends to fidget and bounce more than you’d expect. A Renault Captur would be more comfortable for sure although I still preferred the Mazda’s sense of fun. It could be better though.

The Mazda CX-3 is a very likeable little car. I was impressed by the combination of real-world economy and performance on offer; it really was a surprise when compared to rivals. I also felt it looked great inside and out even though the colour did it no favours at all. Unfortunately it is expensive compared to rivals and doesn’t quite have the fit and finish inside to justify the price. I also felt the suspension setup seemed a little unfinished. The MX-5 shows Mazda can clearly make a car that handles, a little of that magic wouldn’t go amiss here. Even so, it’s still my favourite baby crossover.

Pros

Handling

Styling

Economy

Cons

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Expensive compared to rivals

Interior feels cheap in places

Pricey

The Lowdown

Car – Mazda CX-3 1.5 2WD SE-L Nav Diesel

Price – £20,995 (£21,535 as tested)

Power – 105hp

0-62mph – 10.1 seconds

Top Speed – 110mph

Co2 – 105g/km

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