Crossovers in fashion

Mazda CX-3

Crossover cars are a comparatively recent phenomenon. If someone said ‘crossover’ to you a few years back, you’d probably have assumed they were talking about getting to other side of the road. Now, though, it’s a term that describes the type of cars that are the fastest-growing in popularity.

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Last year two of them made the top 10 new car best-sellers chart in the UK for the first time, in a double success for Nissan with the Qashqai and Juke. They head a fast-expanding list of other tall, chunky models with 4×4 looks and mostly two-wheel-drive hardware, including the Skoda Yeti, Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Citroen C4 Cactus, MINI Countryman, Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross, Kia Sportage and Dacia Duster.

Mazda makes the crossover

Now here’s a new one joining the tide of crossovers sweeping its way across the UK car scene. Say hello to the Mazda CX-3. It isn’t as butch-looking as some of them, and that gives it an edge in the aesthetics department. This is a car with sleeker lines and crisper driving dynamics than several of its key rivals, which should at least put it on the must-see list for anyone considering a compact crossover as their next car.

Underneath, the CX-3 shares its chassis and main mechanical kit with the recently-launched third generation Mazda 2. That’s a good basis, as the smallest Mazda is a fine-driving supermini. Then Mazda’s flowing ‘Kodo’ design theme has been applied to the car’s body styling, and the CX-3 has a sportier stance than some of the others it’s up against.

Mazda CX-3

Like other recent Mazdas, the CX-3 has a package of technologies, called SkyActiv. These are all aimed at reducing weight wherever possible without undermining strength, and at the same time increasing efficiency to boost fuel economy and achieve lower CO2. A good example of this is the 1.5 litre diesel model with front-wheel-drive and a manual gearbox, which has a combined fuel figure of 71 mpg and CO2 output of 105 g/km. That’s pretty impressive for a crossover.

Some of the currently popular crossover models are only available with two-wheel-drive. Although Mazda expects most CX-3 customers to go for a 2×4 on grounds of economy, the car is also available as a 4×4. So it can suit those who want a bit of extra sure-footedness in winter and may like to do some – albeit modest – off-roading.

Location, location, location

Choice of driving location can be very telling in how confident a car company is in the on-the-road calibre of its new model. Mazda chose a very demanding route in Hadrian’s Wall terrain south of Newcastle for the CX-3’s launch, and it showcased the car’s pertly impressive dynamics very well. This is a car to relish being in for a long drive. I would happily have ditched to homeward flight and just kept driving south for a few enjoyable hours, and that says a lot about the vehicle.

It has a nicer cabin than some of its peers, with soft-touch plastics where some of the others are all about hard surfaces. There are nice details too, like ultra-comfortable seats with double stitching on the upholstery. The boot, at 350 litres, is about average for a compact crossover.

Even with base SE trim, the CX-3 comes equipped with air-con, heated and folding door mirrors, DAB radio, Bluetooth and a seven-inch infotainment touch-screen. The better-equipped versions at the upper end of the range come ready-fitted with LED headlights, climate control and touch-screen satnav, as well as lots of the latest techy safety features.

Prices start from £17,595. That’s a rung higher than some rivals, but the good-looking, well-kitted, sharp-driving CX-3 may well be worth the extra if you fancy a crossover but want one with a plusher cabin and a bit more flair.

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Sue Baker is a seasoned motoring journalist with a love of all things automotive.