Mazda CX-3 2.0 Sport

Nav SKYACTIV-G

Mazda CX-3, side
Mazda CX-3, front, static
Mazda CX-3, nose
Mazda CX-3, static
Mazda CX-3, rear
Mazda CX-3, boot
Mazda CX-3, interior
Mazda CX-3, rear seats
Mazda CX-3, head up display

IT is becoming more and more difficult these days to define premium/executive class.

Manufacturers previously considered middle of the road have upped their game considerably, producing brilliantly designed, high quality products which are now challenging established premium brands.

Mazda is a good case in point. A firm always known for its reliability and value for money, when the Mazda6 appeared over a decade ago, it proved a game changer for the Japanese firm.

Its latest raft of models featuring the firm's SKYACTIV efficient engine technology are hoovering up various industry awards and target most sectors of the market, the with the CX-3, the larger CX-5 and even larger CX-7 tapping into the all important crossover market.

In a fiercely competitive segment where most brands offer practicality and decent economy, head turning looks could prove the deciding factor.

There is no doubt in my mind that the CX-3 is one of the best looking around, if not necessarily the cheapest. All models however, and there are plenty of them, are well equipped, with entry level model featuring electric windows and door mirrors, alloy wheels, cruise and climate control and radio/CD player. Move up the range and the better the toys and goodies.

Despite the need for space and practicality and sitting high off the ground, it has sharp swooping lines, smart LED headlights with daytime running lights, signature rear light cluster and sits on attractive 18 inch gunmetal alloy wheels.

The interior is just as tasty with high-quality soft touch trim and chrome inserts, a neat, logical dash layout and hi-tech touchscreen which controls sat nav, infotainment and connectivity systems via a knob on the console between the two front seat passengers.

The top of the range model also the neat, multi-function steering wheel, an aircraft-style head-up display and seven-speaker BOSE sound system, reversing camera as well as the usual electric aids.

Head and legroom is good for a smallish car and the leatherette seats on this model are firm and supportive.

On the road, the two-litre SKYACTIV petrol engine is a firecracker. Smooth and refined, it offers warm-hatch acceleration through the smooth six-speed gearbox and a claimed 48-ish mpg. It hits 60mph from a standing start in nine seconds and pulls well through the gears.

It cruises comfortably while the ride is firmish, but composed. It feels agile on corners and has nicely weighted steering.

It scores heavily in the practicality stakes where the stowage area with the the rear seats folded is a very impressive 1,260 litres.

Even with the seats in place, 360 litres is more than adequate to cope with everyday life, while there is also an underfloor compartment.

All Mazdas are safe and this model features the reversing camera, all round airbags, traction control and hill hold and lane departure warning.

FAST FACTS

Mazda CX-3 2.0 Sport Nav SKYACTIV-G

Price: £20,495

Mechanical: 120ps, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 119mph

0-62mph: 9 seconds

Combined MPG: 47.9

Insurance Group: 17

C02 emissions: 137g/km

Bik rating: 22%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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