Mazda CX-3 up with

the best

Mazda CX-3, side
Mazda CX-3, front
Mazda CX-3, front
Mazda CX-3, front
Mazda CX-3, front
Mazda CX-3, front
Mazda CX-3, rear
Mazda CX-3, rear
Mazda CX-3, boot
Mazda CX-3, interior
Mazda CX-3, interior

DRIVING rain, oncoming night and jams wherever I looked made a journey to Derbyshire's Peak District hellish until I scoured the map and found a lovely B road route across the moors.

At least I was then out of the gallingly slow and dangerous traffic and could travel at a reasonable speed allowing for the conditions.

The following day, all was changed for the return trip, with clear blue skies and dry roads making a marvellous backdrop.

I thoroughly enjoyed the drive home in Mazda's excellent CX-3 soft roader - until I got back to the motorways.

The CX-3 really is a cracking car for the driver in every way and close to the top of the smaller SUV sector that includes cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage.

It also shows that Mazda's SKYACTIV ethos of keeping everything as light and aerodynamic as possible and improving the efficiency of engines, really pays off.

Where most manufacturers are using small petrol engines with turbochargers to reduce emissions and improve economy, the CX-3 middle offering is a 120bhp 2.0-litre without a turbo in sight.

This is the same excellent engine used in other cars from the Mazda range and it's a gem. It delivers smooth and quiet cruising, sweet, easy revs for good performance and excellent economy with low emissions.

Across Derbyshire that morning - on my usual minor A and B-roads of course - the front wheel drive Mazda performed marvellously. As with most such crossover SUVs, four wheel drive only comes on a few models.

The engine sounded wonderful when it was revved and was very willing, giving plenty of urge when needed.

The six-speed gearbox is sweet and slick and there's decent acceleration in all five of the lower gears.

It had a comfortable ride over some very rough roads and the road holding, for a tallish car, is superb, with little roll and tremendous grip.

Handling too is right out of the top drawer, with excellent steering and predictable responses from the chassis at all times.

The official government combined economy figure is 47mpg and without trying too hard, it returned 44 on that trip, which is very, very good.

The SE-L Nav spec in the mid-range comes with sat nav, Bluetooth, traction and stability control, DAB stereo, climate, alarm and alloys.

There's a big boot and plenty of room for four or five with excellent rear legroom.

FAST FACTS

Price: £19,750

Mechanical: 118bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 119mph

0-62mph: 9 seconds

Combined MPG: 47

Insurance Group: 17

C02 emissions: 137g/km

Bik rating: 24%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

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