By Kingsley Wijayasinha
The Nation Weekend
This year, Mazda hasn’t introduced any all-new models, but that hasn’t stopped the Japanese manufacturer from registering a thundering 44 per cent growth in sales for the first seven months of 2018.
The facelifted Mazda2 and Mazda3 launched earlier this year, along with the new CX-5 introduced late last year, and even the BT-50 PRO pickup truck, all enjoyed growth, reflecting the rising popularity of the Mazda brand in the Kingdom.
The only Mazda model that saw sales falling during this period is the CX-3 subcompact crossover, with unit sales from January to July sliding by 14 per cent.
But that’s about to change for the better, because the facelifted model, which Mazda calls 2018 Collection, is here.
The 2018 CX-3 gets a good deal of improvements considering that it’s a mid-life upgrade, and this reflects how competitive the automobile market has become these days.
In front, the radiator grille has a lower number of vents and the chrome bar design has changed both in the front and at the side. The black pillars, fog lamp bezels and side garnish are now glossy and look more luxurious, while the new 18-inch alloy wheels also give the CX-3 a more serious appearance. The rear combination lamps are now LEDs, and still appear like they are staring at you with a bit of an attitude.
The interior doesn’t have much space as this is a subcompact, but some of the changes are impressive. While the old dashboard and console design theme has been maintained, the whole centre console has been removed and replaced with one from the Mazda3. The mechanical handbrake lever has also been eliminated, being replaced with an electric switch, resulting in added usable space between the front seats.
Black suede on the console looks and feels great (make sure you don’t spill drinks on them), and the quality of the materials used in the CX-3 has been picked carefully.
Mazda says that the suspension has been re-tuned to offer more comfort, which I think could be what many of the customers wanted, although the engines deliver the same amount of power and torque.
There are two engine choices for the CX-3. The top model is the 1.5-litre turbo diesel with 105hp and 270Nm, while the 2.0-litre petrol version, pumps out 156hp and 204Nm.
Actually I drove both versions, the Skyactiv-G on the way out to Khao Yai, and the Skyactiv-D on the way back. They are totally different in character and while the petrol engine comes with a large number of trim levels for customers to choose from, the diesel, available in only one trim, proves to be the superior performer. You feel much more in control of the vehicle with the high-torque slugger, and can go as fast without having to sweat it out like the high-revving petrol motor.
The 2018 CX-3 also gets the improved i-ACTIVSENSE package consisting of lane departure warning, advanced blind spot monitoring (standard across the range), rear cross traffic alert (standard across the range), and a new 360-degree around-view monitor. There are eight parking sensors around the vehicle and the driver can choose which type of view he or she prefers.
There are also intelligent pre-collision systems and cruise control, as well as driver drowsiness alert.
While the quality of the materials and the design of the interior appears to be stylish and upmarket, the sporty exterior design has forced out much of the interior space. The compact cabin results in little legroom both front and rear, and the luggage compartment is pretty small too. Those who need space should be looking elsewhere, for example the Honda HR-V.
But for those who are more interested in styling than loading capacity, the CX-3 remains a highly attractive small crossover that oozes with emotions.
While prices of the lower models have been increased slightly, the top petrol model carries the same retail pricing (Bt1.045 million) and the diesel version even comes with a Bt4,000 discount (Bt1.155 million retail price), making them more attractive for the customer who’s willing to go all the way.
Unfortunately, there is just only one diesel option, so if you want to pay under Bt1 million, there are only petrol versions to consider, with prices starting at Bt835,000.
Mazda CX-3 2.0 SP
Engine: 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve
Bore and stroke: 83.5x91.2mm
Compression ratio: 14.0:1
Max power: 156ps/6,000rpm
Max torque: 204Nm/2,800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Average fuel economy: 16.4km/l
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut, stabilizer/torsion beam
Steering: electrically-powered rack and pinion
Turning circle: 10.6 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/disc
Track (f/r): 1,525/1,520
Wheels: 18-in alloy
Tyres: 215/50 R18
Fuel tank capacity: 48 litres
Price: Bt1.045 million
Distributor: Mazda Sales Thailand Co Ltd