Bigger still better

for smaller Mazda

Mazda CX-3, front action
Mazda CX-3, front action 2
Mazda CX-3, front action 3
Mazda CX-3, rear static
Mazda CX-3, rear action
Mazda CX-3, boot 2
Mazda CX-3, rear seats
Mazda CX-3, dashboard
Mazda CX-3, boot 1
Mazda CX-3, upright static

MAZDA isn't being panicked by the current torrent of demand to ditch diesel and petrol and switch us all on to electrically powered cars - at once.

The Japanese car maker is convinced that even in 2035 the vast majority of cars will still have a conventional combustion engine (you'd guess a petrol one) helping out an electric motor.

If that sounds a controversial take on the way we'll power our personal transport consider what Mazda does now - rowing against the conventional tide by using bigger engines that don't have to work so hard.

The car you see here is a good example; a smallish SUV, the Mazda CX-3 in its wildly most popular form has a 2.0-litre petrol engine doing the work when you might expect something half that size in some rivals.

Using the highest compression ratio of any petrol powered car on sale, it gives near diesel economy with less noise and must be more economical to build (and sell) too.

An open road workout showed 45.1mpg, which is encouraging and pretty close to the 47.9mpg figure Mazda quotes officially. Close enough to explain why so few CX-3 buyers take the option of the dearer 2.0-litre diesel.

All the very latest CX-3 models have been given a modest makeover with more soundproofing and revised suspension setting with the aim of adding quietness and taming the ride.

Well, the car is certainly never loud enough to notice, even when stirred along enthusiastically with the best manual gearchange in the business. High revs bring a not unwelcome note of throaty enthusiasm from the unchanged engine.

The ride, on the other hand, does make itself felt - literally - on poor surfaces, where the Sport part of the car's title is a little too obvious for comfort. The upside is a tallish car that handles bends with aplomb in a manner not managed by every SUV.

Cosmetic changes to the outside of the GT Sport (£22,895 with 120 horsepower petrol engine) include new 18ins alloy wheels, a gloss black tailgate spoiler and the choice of two metallic paint options (ceramic or grey mica) that are usually a £550 option.

Inside, you'll immediately notice new trim in dark brown leather and suede, adding a touch of class to a cockpit that exudes the usual no-nonsense approach to driving that Mazda adopts across its ranges. That means cleanly designed dials and well placed buttons and a pleasing lack of clutter.

You can have your petrol engine with either 150 or 120 horses, the latter much the more popular and fitted to the test car. It results in class competitive performance (119mph top speed and 9.0 seconds to 62mph) and the already mentioned fine economy figure - along with 137g/km of CO2 from the tailpipe.

There's plenty of room in the front seats but more of a squeeze in the rear if larger adults are involved. A well shaped boot looks big enough for family duties and comes with a drop in floor to make it flat for easier loading.

Standard kit on this high end model includes reversing camera, LED headlights, climate control, satellite navigation, Bose sound system, heated front seats and cruise control.

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