Mazda CX-3 (2015) at the 2014 LA motor show | CAR Magazine

Mazda CX-3 (2015) at the 2014 LA motor show

Published: 19 November 2014 Updated: 26 January 2015

While the new MX-5 will hoover up more headlines, this Mazda is just as important as far as sales and market share go. The new Mazda CX-3 is the company’s first entry in the lucrative compact crossover market. Put simply, this is Mazda’s Nissan Juke.

Mazda CX-3: design

No surprises on the looks front. The CX-3 neatly fulfils its shrunken CX-5 billing, with a jutting grille and plenty of matte black plastic around the wheelarches and sills to make it look higher from the ground than it really is.

When those headlights are illuminated they’ll look very similar to those of the new Mazda 2, with LEDs intended to look like a predatory animal’s eyes.

That’s not the only similarity with the Mazda 2 – under the skin, it’s an evolution of the same platform.

Dimensionally, we’re talking 4,275mm long, 1,765mm wide and 1,550mm tall, making it slightly shorter, narrower and lower than the Juke.

What engines come with the Mazda CX-3?

Same ones as the Mazda 2: a choice between a 1.5-litre petrol or a 1.5-litre diesel. Both have four cylinders and neither are turbocharged – Mazda’s engineers have eschewed the current downsizing trend in favour of linear power delivery and response. Good for them.

The petrol’s called the Skyactiv-G (for Gasoline) and the diesel, logically enough, Skyactiv-D.

No word on specific power outputs, only that they will be ‘matched appropriately to the respective destination markets.’ In the Mazda 2 the diesel musters 103bhp and the petrol is available with a choice of 74, 89 and 113bhp outputs. In the CX-3 there will be a choice of two outputs for the petrol and one for the diesel.

Given the CX-3’s extra bulk, and the fact that both engines will be available with the option of all-wheel drive, it seems logical to expect more rather than less power. Both manual and automatic transmissions will be available.

The four-wheel drive system is similar to that of the Mazda CX-5, with active couplings to vary the amount of torque sent to the front and rear axles and a smaller, lighter rear differential.

What’s the CX-3 interior like?

Like the Mazda 2 and 3, there’s a seven-inch display screen on top of the dashboard, controlled by an iDrive-style rotary controller near the gear lever to help the driver keep their eyes on the road as much as possible. There’s a head-up display system too, with the same aim.

All the connectivity services of the 2 and 3 are fitted, so you’ll be able to hook up your smartphone to the screen and, if you can work out how (or feel the need), send tweets on the move via voice command.

While the CX-3 has the kind of elevated driving position the market demands, Mazda also promises it will have a relatively low centre of gravity so here’s hoping it’ll offer one of the more nimble driving experiences in its class.

When does it go on sale?

Spring 2015 in Japan, with rollout across other markets across the world beginning shortly after.

By James Taylor

Former features editor for CAR, occasional racer