MAZDA tends to be a brand that does things well so when it announced the introduction of its first compact crossover back in 2015 we expected a big deal - and we weren't disappointed.
The CX-3 was a beefed-up, high-riding version of the highly rated Mazda2 supermini and soon became an accomplished smaller sibling to the Mazda CX-5.
Now, three years down the line, the car has been given a refresh.
The exterior has been spruced up, there is a new-look cabin, improvements to the ride and handling, lots of extra safety kit as standard and, most recently, the introduction of a striking limited-edition Sport Black+ version that's limited to just 500 units.
It is based on the 2.0-litreSKYACTIV-G petrol 121ps 2WD SE-L Nav+ model and comes in manual or auto guise priced at £22,195 and £23,195 respectively.
We opted for the manual version which can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds, tops out at 119mph and, according to official figures, can deliver combined fuel economy of 45.6mpg with carbon emissions of 141g/km.
But the Sport Black+ model is all about appearances and its dripping in eye-catching design cues.
There is a revised grille and more blacked out windows and pillars to give the car a more menacing look. And that theme continues with a brilliant black roof spoiler, a roof mounted shark fin antenna, brilliant black door mirror caps and 18-inch silver alloy wheels.
The interior is clutter free yet rich in technology with leather upholstery, a head-up display, sat nav, a great sound system, heated powered seats, a heated steering wheel and Mazda's MZD-Connect in-car connectivity system with a seven-inch colour touchscreen that sits high on the dashboard.
Most of the car's functions are accessed via a controller dial, but the multi-function steering wheel also offers access to many features so you don't have to take your hands from the wheel.
Mazda has improved comfort levels with the introduction of high-damping urethane foam cushions in the front seats and the latest CX-3 is better protected against any noise intrusion thanks to chunkier sound insulation in the doors, improved glazing, upgraded door sill trims and a thicker headliner.
When it comes to performance, the CX-3 delivers on all counts.
It fizzes through the six speeds with plenty of power on tap at all times. The road holding is confident and assured and it's a car that's happy on motorways cruising at national speed limits.
In town centres, it's an agile car to manoeuvre and the light steering is an added bonus with lots of twisting and turning.
Comfort levels within the car are high if you are lucky enough to sit up front. If you're relegated to the back it gets a tad cramped, especially if the front seats are pushed back. But it's ideal for a couple of youngsters to travel in comfort.
Storage options are good, but not the best in the sector with a boot capacity that starts at 350 litres and increases to 1,260 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. There is a handy double boot floor which is ideal for hiding stuff away from view.
There are numerous convenient storage compartments scattered throughout the car, includingdecent-sized door bins, a partially covered central cubby with a single cup holder that springs into position, a tray in front of the gear lever, a glovebox, a sunglasses holder, along with two cupholders in the rear armrest.
Mazda has replaced the traditional handbrake with an electric parking brake and that has freed up some additional space between the front seats.
On the safety front, the CX-3 does well and scored four out of five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating.
The car boasts the Japanese marque's SKYACTIV body which is lightweight yet exceptionally strong so offers maximum protection to anyone on-board.
Front, side and curtain airbags are standard across the range, and thanks to pressure sensors in the doors, the curtain airbags react faster than ever to side impacts. If the car is involved in a head-on collision, the steering column moves forward to protect the driver, while reinforced seatbacks prevent luggage from injuring passengers if the car is hit from behind.
Our car featured Smart City Brake Support which automatically stops or reduces the speed of the car when there is a risk of collision with the vehicle in front. It also had a Lane Departure Warning System amongst other safety systems.
All in all, the latest Mazda CX-3 has certainly raised the bar in the sector and another point worth mentioning is that our car wasn't loaded with a raft of optional extras that see the original price soar. Some rival manufacturers, especially from the premium labels, could learn a lesson from this.