Mazda CX-3 long-term review

Mazda CX-3: The story...

1. Welcome 2. Kodo design
3. Comfort test
4. Which spec?
5. Practicality test 6. Winter driving
7. Annoyances 8. Mazda's heritage 9. Van Editor's perspective
10. Our team's verdict 11. Fuel economy 12. Farewell

 

Update 1: Welcome

All I’ve been able to think about in the months leading up to the arrival of this car is 'please let it be Soul Red'.

It’s my current favourite car colour (replacing SEAT’s wonderfully named “Adventure Brown”) and will remain so at least until I see Porsche’s Miami Blue up close.

I first saw Soul Red on a Mazda CX-3 we had in the office for a week in July last year and I remember thinking then how well it suited the car’s lines. That one had the same 2-litre petrol engine I’ll be running, except it was in top-tier Sport Nav trim, whereas ours is in middle-grade SE-L Nav.

Whether or not we’ll miss the LED headlights, reversing camera and leatherette seats from the trim above will be seen – I’m certainly glad to see an in-built sat-nav unlike my last long-termer, so I can stop borrowing my wife’s TomTom.

Mazda’s plan to cut emissions and reduce fuel use (large, free-revving engine, light-weight chassis and bodywork) is also a good recipe for driver enjoyment, so I’m looking forward to testing the dynamic ability of this car on some of the wigglier roads surrounding our office.

Plus, if it gets anywhere near the claimed 47.9mpg, that’ll be an added bonus.

Arrival mileage: 1,079 Economy: 47.9mpg (claimed)

By Adam Binnie, Staff Writer

  • the digital readouts in the instrument cluster seem to be inspired by a Casio watch
  • door locks are too quiet so you don’t know when you’ve pressed the remote.
  • The setting of the ventilation controls are hard to see at night

Update 2: Family resemblance

We'll get to driving soon but for now let's get the superficial stuff out of the way. I think our CX-3 is one of the best-looking cars that Mazda currently makes. That's saying something because the Japanese manufacturer is on a bit of a roll when it comes to exterior design these days. Have a look at this image as it scrolls between the MX-5, 3 hatchback and CX-3:

Kodo soul of motion

You don't have to be eagle-eyed to spot the similarities - remarkable when you consider you're looking at the automotive chalk and cheeses of a sporty roadster, hatchback and high-riding crossover.

The familiar line that stands out the most to me starts about halfway up the front grille, and extends high over the front wheel and down into the centre of the rear wheel arch. It makes all three cars look like they're moving forwards even when parked.

All Mazdas are now drawn-up using the KODO - Soul of Motion design "language", a set of guidelines for designers to use when sketching new cars.

It's supposedly inspired by the animal kingdom - imagine a big cat, coiled-up like a spring, about to pounce on its unsuspecting prey. That's what Mazda's designers want you to see when you look at those swoopy, sharp creases flowing from the front of your CX-3 crossover.

It's clever stuff but you don't have to buy into all that to appreciate the good looks of our latest long-termer - enhanced, of course, by its brilliant Soul Red paint. 

In other news, we've put a couple of tanks of petrol through the CX-3 and are currently getting 41.6mpg, quite close to the claimed 47.9mpg. With a little effort I reckon we could get closer still.

Arrival mileage: 1,671 Economy: 41.6mpg (calculated)

By Adam Binnie, Staff Writer

 


 

Update 3: Airport run

An early morning flight is a good acid test of any car - it highlights how easy the sat-nav is to programme, how quick the air-con and heated seats warm up, and how it performs in traffic against the clock.

Things got off to a good start thanks to the CX-3's idiot-proof sat-nav. You can search for points of interest such as Heathrow Terminal 5 if you forgot to write down the postcode before leaving the house.

Before I reached the edge of town the automatically controlled temperature was just right and the "favourites" feature on the DAB radio meant that some decent music was a couple of button pushes away. I reckon the headlights could do with being a bit brighter, though.

The only thing that threatened the peace of my journey was a big jam on the M25, but the CX-3's light clutch pedal and agile steering took the sting out of this too. All in all it did a great job.

I'm glad to see the MPG going up with the mileage. Whether it's the engine or my right foot which is loosening up is unclear, but either way it's pleasing news.

Mileage: 1,984 Economy: 42.1mpg (calculated)

By Adam Binnie, Staff Writer



 

Update 4: CX-3 spec shootout

We're enjoying getting to know our Mazda CX-3, but is it the best one you can buy? In an effort to find out, we secured a far higher-spec version to see which we’d prefer.

So, petrol or diesel? Automatic or manual? Front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive? Read on for our definitive verdict.

Specification

Our red car is in SE-L Nav trim, which we reckon is a much better-value specification than Sport Nav, which sits right at the top of the CX-3 range.

We’d live without a lot of the extra kit you get to save the £900 premium. You’d sacrifice half-leather seats, LED lights, a reversing camera and a head-up display, and in our minds all of these don’t add very much to an already comprehensive kit list.

As a reminder, highlights on our SE-L Nav trim include:

  • Sat-nav with seven-inch touchscreen
  • DAB, Bluetooth, USB and aux-in connections
  • Automatic headlights and wipers
  • Cruise control
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Heated front seats
  • Climate control
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Automatic low-speed braking

Driving

While all CX-3s are among the best cars in their class to drive, there’s a clear winner here too. The red car, with its non-turbocharged 2-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox, is miles better.

We found the all-wheel drive system, less perky 1.5-litre diesel engine and hesitant automatic gearbox combination to be a lot less involving.

This isn’t really an issue with the white car, but more of a compliment to the red one – with just the front wheels driven, it’s a purer, uncorrupted driving experience, and Mazda’s trademark wrist-flick gearchange on manual cars is an absolute joy to behold.

Oh, and the white car is significantly slower. It takes 11.5 seconds to cover 0-60mph, while the red car takes 8.7. Top speeds are 103mph and 109mph respectively. 

Costs

The white car does pull a little back here, but not a huge amount. Its 54mpg fuel economy squares up to 47mpg for the red one, but in the real world we suspect the petrol car will do better in this respect because you don’t have to work the flexible engine so hard to make progress. That 1.5 diesel really isn’t a paragon of performance.

As far as tax is concerned, with 136g/km of CO2 output for the diesel vs 137g/km for the petrol, they cost the same to tax for both private and company car drivers.

Their list prices really are worlds apart, though. While our petrol long-termer sneaks under £20k including its optional £660 Soul Red paint job, tipping the scales at £19,595, the white (or Ceramic - a £540 extra) car costs £25,235 once you’ve factored in the all-wheel drive system, automatic gearbox and extra cash for Sport Nav trim.

Verdict

Easy one, this. Our long-term CX-3 is faster, nicer to drive, costs less to run, is far cheaper to buy and comes in a more pragmatic but no less desirable specification.

Mileage: 2,338 miles Fuel economy: 38.9mpg

By Gareth Evans, Road Test Editor

 


 

Update 5: Bjorn to do it

There's nothing like a trip to Sweden's famous furniture and meatball maker to assess the practicality of a car. Traffic jams, the parking space-race and enormous cardboard boxes - it's all there.

So when we had a need for a new bed, some headboards with in-built storage and a wooden thing to store towels in an airing cupboard, it felt like a good chance to give our Mazda CX-3's boot an evaluation.

Crossovers are often surprising in their interior space, and not always in a good way. It looks like an SUV, so you open the boot expecting to find a vast cave of usefulness, and are quickly reminded you're driving a jacked-up hatchback.

Actually the CX-3 fares pretty well (and better than one in Sport Nav trim, which loses space to a Bose speaker) with 350 litres to put it on a par with the MINI Countryman. That's more than you get in a Nissan Juke but ten litres less than a Vauxhall Mokka

We'll take that slight penalty though as the Mokka is about a foot wider than our car, which makes easy work of navigating the CX-3 in the hotly contested arena of Ikea's underground parking.

Suitable spaces located (having brought my wife's car along too, just in case) we headed inside with a list of things we needed plus a supplementary list of auxilary items that would inevitably end up being bought - curtain fabric, kitchen gadgets and one of those doughnut and coffee deals that looms over you on the way out.

Two arguments over furniture colour later, and having got a bit lost in the store house but resisted buying a hotdog at the tills, we returned to the cars full of Köttbullar and confidence.

There were a few problems to overcome - the boot is a good size but it's quite high up, and the aperture is not what you'd call enormous. Plus the front seat doesn't fold completely flat so any long items stick up awkwardly at the front.

It went in though, which is more than I can say for my wife and son who had to travel back in a separate car. The CX-3 is a fine vehicle for picking up lots of flat-pack furniture - as long as you go by yourself. 

Mileage: 2,726 miles Fuel economy: 40.7mpg

By Adam Binnie, Staff Writer



 

Update 6: Ice and easy

Back in our fourth report we tested our CX-3 against a diesel, automatic, all-wheel drive version in top-spec Sport Nav trim. The conclusion was that we couldn’t see the point of the latter. It didn’t make sense. We didn’t understand why you’d corrupt such a great driving experience and pay more for it if you didn’t have to.

Tweak a couple of elements in the equation, however, and everything changes. We were invited to test the CX-3 in pretty much the most extreme way possible: a 500-mile drive from the most northerly part of Europe, through three countries and ending at the Swedish harbour town of Lulea.

Is this the ideal CX-3?

The car we were driving this time was manual (fantastic news), petrol (even better) and Soul Red – a £540 optional extra, just like our long-termer. They differed in a couple of key ways, though: first and foremost, they had the firm’s AWD (all-wheel drive) system installed. This was the point of the exercise – we were there to prove that the CX-3 can hack it in the toughest environment going.

For our money we reckon the 3’s lightweight AWD system is impressive, taking 27 parameters into account (such as wheel direction, throttle application and even whether the windscreen wipers are active) before deciding when to send power to the rear wheels. This effectively allows the car to pre-empt wheel slip, making its application smoother and more predictable than rivals’ systems. It’s a pared-down version of that installed on the larger CX-5 crossover.

Snow tyres fitted – but that doesn’t tell the whole story

It would be wrong to expect the small Japanese SUV to work on sheet ice with this alone, though. Mazda chose to fit some snow tyres too – less for traction or handling benefits, and more to enable the car to stop effectively. A common misconception about all-wheel drive: it doesn’t allow you to brake any differently on slippery surfaces.

So where Sport Nav CX-3s usually have 18-inch alloys, ours had 16-inchers and fat studded rubber costing roughly £250 a corner. Incidentally these tyres would be illegal for use in the UK, though, despite their being a legal requirement in the upper reaches of Scandinavia where we were.

Since the tyres were the same at both ends of the car, the actual grip on offer was higher but it was distributed the same as the standard tyres, which meant it was possible to judge how well the AWD set-up worked regardless. The surprising thing, even when the traction control was fully disabled, was how predictable and safe the CX-3 felt.

Where slower all-wheel drive systems from other manufacturers (such as the Haldex system Volkswagen and Skoda employ) inherently let the nose of the car wash wide before sending torque to the rear, it always felt a well-balanced application in the Mazda, with both ends losing grip at roughly the same time. That’s down to the way this set-up ‘predicts’ grip loss rather than reacting to it.

Typical Mazda traits

And I know we keep harping on about it, but the way this car drives easily puts all other rivals in the shade. The gearchange is wonderful (don’t bother with the slow, clumsy auto), the driving position easy to adjust (though the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for rake – but this wasn’t an issue for us), and the steering weighted nicely even if ultimately it’s a little lacking in feedback when you’re really demanding a lot from the car.

The engine deserves special mention. By turning their backs on current downsizing trends and going without turbocharging technology – doing things differently is a Mazda trademark – you’re left with a rev-happy 2-litre engine with far sharper throttle response than other engines in the sector. Thanks to lightweight technology it’s not even all that bad on fuel, though we didn’t measure in this case because the tyres and road conditions would have massively skewed the result.

There’s only a relatively paltry 204Nm of torque on offer, but it doesn’t come along all at once like a diesel engine. Instead it’s spread out over the rev range, so there’s always go on offer if you want it. This makes driving on snow even easier, because you know you don’t have to wait for the engine to spin up before the power will arrive. It’s more predictable, but it’s also more fun to drive.

Verdict

And actually, that’s what impressed us most about this car. Not only have we proven it a capable and willing machine in sub-zero temperatures on harsh ice and in near-zero visibility, but it was a brilliant laugh along the way. The adjustable chassis and responsive steering allow you to be enthusiastic, but at the same time keep you safe.

Our test car as seen here (without snow tyres) would cost you £23,955 on the road in the UK, and considering the amount of kit you get versus the capability of the drivetrain, all of a sudden it starts looking like decent value.

Mileage: 520 (in different car)

Fuel economy: n/a

By Gareth Evans, road test editor

 


 

Update 7: Things to get cross over

We've had this Mazda CX-3 for five months now and have done several thousand miles of mixed motorway and B-road blasting behind the wheel.

Regular readers will have noticed the whole Parkers team is quite taken by it. So much so that it's very rarely parked-up outside the office for long.

That said, it hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes minor irritations take a little while to surface and a few things are starting to bug me in this otherwise excellent baby crossover.

First off, the gearknob isn't secure and often rotates around in response to an enthusiastic gearchange. It's a shame because it's a great 'box and this small ergonomic issue takes the shine off using it. Also the rotary controller for the infotainment system could do with being an inch further forward.


It's annoying that you have to pull a little lever near the driver's seat to open the fuel filler flap - I keep forgetting to do this and end up having to walk around the car and back when filling up. 

Lastly the doors (and in fact the whole car) are very light, which means you have to use quite a bit of force to shut them, otherwise they simply click half-way into place. I usually get used to the amount of force necessary about an hour before I swap into something else.

On reflection this isn't a particulalry fulsome list of faults. It's not often we get to drive a car for so long with so few problems. 

Mileage: 3,091 miles Fuel economy: 40.9mpg

By Adam Binnie, Staff Writer



 

Update 8: Back to the future

We’re really racking up the miles in our Mazda CX-3 long term test car – between me, van editor Liam Campbell and web producer Lawrence Cheung, we’ve added another thousand miles since the last update.

The fuel economy seems to be hovering around 40mpg, not quite the dizzying heights that we saw earlier in our test, but a pretty steady average.

A decent fuel economy is one of the key selling-points of the CX-3. Mazda reckons it has achieved this by reducing weight in the car and eschewing the current trend of engine downsizing - claiming the 2-litre petrol engine in our car is “right-sized” instead.

It’s not the first time Mazda has gone against the grain in the engine department, and we’ve been driving a couple of classics from the manufacturer’s heritage fleet to see just how committed it is to doing things differently.

Mazda RX-7

First up is an original RX-7 on 1982 plates. From the outside it looks like another 1970s wedge-mobile with - admittedly - very cool pop-up headlights. Lift the bonnet though (not an easy task, the lever is well-hidden under the steering column) and you’ll discover something extremely unusual – a rotary engine. Mazda is very fond of these.

Instead of using multiple pistons moving in different directions, this engine uses a rotating triangular one housed within an oval-shaped chamber. All the parts move around in the same direction so it’s super-smooth and able to spin up to very high revs without sounding harsh or sending vibrations into the cabin. That's a good thing, because peak power comes in at a lofty 6,000rpm.

Check out that redline

The other advantage is a high power-to-size efficiency. Our twin-rotor engine only measures 1.1-litres in displacement, yet produces 113bhp – important at a time when Japan offered tax breaks for engines measuring less than 1.5-litres. It’s light too, with the RX-7 tipping the scales at just over a tonne. Clever engine, lightweight design, this is all starting to sound quite familiar...

On the road it’s absolutely fabulous – with a raspy exhaust note and a seemingly non-existent redline. You need to keep an eye on the tachometer in this car because it feels like it could just rev and rev without having to change gear, purring away under the bonnet with none of the roughness you get at the top of a conventional engine’s power band.

Excellent pop-up headlights

There are downsides of course. Rotary engines use a lot of oil and aren’t enormously frugal when it comes to petrol either. In terms of the car itself, while it’s externally quite long, it’s also narrow and has a low roofline. Expect to sit close to your passenger and if you’re tall, you might need to pop the sunroof in order to fit like I did.

Press the "Pro" button to unlock a special driving mode

A few pecularities exist behind the wheel too - the indicator stalk is on the opposite side to what I'm used to, so I kept wiping the windscreen at junctions. The non-powered steering, carburettor and choke will also be alien to anyone born in a later decade than the car.

Much more modern is Mazda’s first generation MX-5 from 1994, powered by a 1.8-litre, 131bhp engine. That output might not sound very high for a sports car and it’s not, but that’s the point. A bigger engine is heavier, plus more speed requires bigger, weighty brakes and wheels and that unsprung mass means you need stronger suspension. All of these things would detract from the MX-5’s driving experience.

Casually parked up next to a Ferrari

Slightly eclectic choice of tapes in the car

Like our CX-3 it doesn’t have too little or too much power, it has exactly the right amount. Besides, it’s the way it’s delivered that matters – not as smooth or as high-revving as the RX-7, but it builds progressively towards the redline in a predictable and linear way. This makes it easy to judge how much you need to press the accelerator in a corner, which is where the MX-5 really shines.

There’s a bit more body roll than you would expect but this is just the first of a series of messages the car gives you about how much grip it has. You can feel through your hands and the seat what the wheels are doing and whether you can push harder or need to back off.

The car’s weight is so perfectly balanced that when the grip does run short, it does so in a really progressive and predictable way. It starts to slip a little at the front or the back, and you’ve got time to correct it. All of this gives you great confidence on a B-road blast, and as all of the car’s charm can be experienced below 60mph, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.

It’s been a great experience to drive some of the CX-3’s distant relatives and their genes are definitely felt in our long-termer – whether it’s the snickety gearshift, the easy-going naturally aspirated engine, or the way it feels mid-corner – we’re really glad Mazda continues to go its own way.

All three cars lined up

Mileage: 4,162 miles Fuel economy: 41.2mpg

By Adam Binnie, deputy road test editor


Update 9: Is it vantastic?

It’s now coming towards the end of our six-month loan of the Mazda CX-3, and for one of the final updates our resident van man, Liam Campbell, used it for his weekly commute back and forth on the A1 to his native Lancashire.

Poor visibility but spacious and comfortable interior

Being the Van Editor at Parkers, I’ve become accustomed to commanding seating positions and I was slightly relieved when I was handed the keys to the CX-3, as SUVs are renowned for their all-round vision.

I felt assured that the little Mazda, with its raised chassis, could provide me with the same lofty seating position as any medium panel van. Despite this, I soon realised this not to be the case, as the high dashboard and door panels restricted my view.

However, the cab certainly has its plus points. It’s spacious with the driver and passenger seats rolling back a long way for long-legged occupants such as myself. The six-way adjustable seats are very comfortable and cater for all shapes and sizes.

Intuitive infotainment systems

Mazda provides two USB ports, which enables me to listen to my own music on a USB stick and charge my phone at the same time. For this service, the steering wheel-mounted controls work perfectly, but every time I attempted to scroll through the terrestrial radio stations using the ‘next’ button on the steering wheel, it would automatically switch to the DAB setting. That left me a little confused.

However, I did highly rate the audio controls situated behind the handbrake. This is the first time I’ve come across this system as most vans have a middle passenger seat in the place of a central console. The knob turns to scroll up and down lists of destinations and playlists, pushes left, right, up and down to select a different menu, and pushes confirm a selection.

There are a lot of counter-intuitive systems out there, but this one is surprisingly useful and easier to use than touchscreen technology. It allows you to enter the destination address, change the radio station and make a phone call without the need to stretch your arm into an unnatural position and carefully position your finger on the precise spot.

Spritely engine

For a man used to heavy van chassis and low-end powered diesel engines, the CX-3 was a breath of fresh air with its spritely and high-revving 2-litre engine. While it’s not a car built for performance, the CX-3 is remarkably quick off the mark and it holds its composure well going into the bends.

The engine is also extremely quiet; so much so that sometimes it’s very hard to detect whether the stop/start system has kicked in or not. On the motorway, the CX-3 is the perfect steed with the long sixth gear ratio making light work of 70mph and very little road noise perforating into the cab.

Mileage: 5,023 miles Fuel economy: 38.9mpg

By Liam Campbell, Van Editor



 

Update 10: Easy like a Sunday morning

Mazda CX-3

Our long-term CX-3 has been proving popular in the Parkers team lately, and after bidding farewell to the long-term Golf, it was time for our web producer to spend some time with Mazda's small crossover.

Normally for this member of the Parkers team, it’d be quite difficult to get excited about a crossover, but the CX-3 has managed to make a resoundingly positive impression.

A car you immediately get on with

The Soul Red paint of our Mazda really does bring out the best in the CX-3’s design features, and despite remaining undecided about the Mazda’s face, the rest of the styling has been a hit. The swooping window line apes the silhouette of its sportier MX-5 sibling, while the rear is proportionally spot on with its sleek lights.

The 16-inch wheels might look a bit undernourished but they provide a great balance of ride quality and grip.

Having spotted a bodykitted version at the London Motor Show (below), it's quite a statement that, for these eyes at least, the standard model actually looks better without it.

Step inside, and you’re met with the same dash as the MX-5 with a refreshingly minimal button count. Looking at two differently designed vents on the centre dash is a bit odd, but the triangular-shaped cowl above the instrument cluster harks back to the days when Mazda used rotary engines. It's enough to make you smile, and that's what this car manages to do best.

Set off, and you immediately notice how easily the driver’s controls fall to hand; the steering, pedals and gearbox are all light, but they’re responsive to use too.

I’d hate to say it VW fans, but I get along with this more than the Golf...

It’s not all perfect though before I get carried away; rear legroom isn’t the most generous and the rear view out can only be best described as impaired, with particularly small rear quarterlight windows (below).


Performance is adequate from the 2-litre MX-5 engine but motorway refinement isn’t the CX-3's trump card. As well as sounding gruff above 4,000rpm, there's a fair amount of road noise and vibration filtering through into the cabin to accompany it. Luckily the punchy sound system rectifies that.

Some of our testers have noticed ergonomic flaws with the layout of the cabin too:

  • The handbrake is set too far to the passenger side
  • The infotainment rotary controller is set too far back
  • The 'Info' button on the left of the steering wheel controls the right-handed screen in the instrument cluster
  • And the boot release button is off-centred to the right.

Overall though, the CX-3 has been so easy to get on with, these fail to take the shine off our experience with it. This Mazda manages to balance perfectly the basic functionalities of a car without trying too hard to be different elsewhere. As someone who doesn't need a cavernous boot and rear passenger space as a top priority, they're going to have quite a job on their hands not recommending this over a similarly priced Golf 1.4TSI SE Edition below £20,000!

Mileage: 7,783 Fuel economy: 38.9mpg

By Lawrence Cheung, web producer

 


 

Update 11: False economy?


We're nearing the end of our tenure in this Mazda CX-3 and have used more than 20 full tanks of petrol - so how close have we got to the officially quoted figure of 47.9mpg? 

Well, our logged fuel economy has hovered between 38mpg and 42mpg during that time, on a mixture of long and short journeys, with a range of different drivers.

Given than Mazda makes big promises about the CX-3's 'right-sized' engine delivering a realistic fuel economy rather than the sky-high figures quoted by smaller, turbocharged cars, we'd want our long-termer to average something in the 40s.

And it has, although only just, with the average of all those miles per gallon figures coming out at 40.06mpg.

That's impressive considering it was delivered to us with only a few miles on the clock, when engines are generally tighter and less efficient. We also didn't try particularly hard to max out the mpg either - the CX-3 is too fun to drive for that. 

Mileage: 8,923 Fuel economy: 39.7mpg

By Adam Binnie, deputy road test editor

 


 

Update 12: Farewell

It's time to say goodbye to our Mazda CX-3 long termer after 10,000 miles, hundreds of commutes and an equally large number of B-road blasts.

When it arrived we were taken by its sharp looks and even sharper gearshift, although found the engine a little wanting in the torque department.

However, after the first couple of fill-ups it became clear that a little compromise in straight-line speed meant decent fuel economy, with our 40.1mpg average feeling very close indeed to Mazda's promised 47.9mpg.

Add to that relative frugality a foolproof sat-nav and comfortable ride, and it's no surprise the CX-3 became a favourite vehicle for long-haul drives - on launches, to airports and even to the most northern point in Europe (alright, that one wasn't technically in our car).

We tried to wrong-foot it with comparisons to other vehicles including Mazda's heritage MX-5 and RX-7 models in an attempt to highlight its modern, removed driving experience, but we were unsuccessful. Even pitching it against a top-spec version of itself proved fruitless - our long-termer really is pick of the range.

Practicality - not the CX-3's strongest suit - was picked apart by a trip to IKEA. When that went without a hitch, we loaned it to our van editor expecting him to malign its lack of Europallet-hauling ability. No joy. He loved it too.

Our final custodian, web producer Lawrence Cheung, looked past the team's rose-tinted glasses and pointed out a few ergonomic problems like the location of the infotainment system's rotary controller (too far back) and the handbrake (too far left). My biggest gripe was the loose gearknob that spun around after an enthusiastic gearshift.

There were plenty of those too, because for every mile spent cruising we reckon we clocked up an equal number on the S-bends around our office. It's a great steer, the CX-3, one that defies its high centre of gravity and squashy suspension.

So on to the golden question: would we buy one? If you're shopping for a car this size then a Mazda CX-3 should be at the top of your to-drive list. It's a fantastic all-rounder with a simple engine and specification structure and absence of pretention.

Just one thing though - make sure you pick Soul Red paint. 

Total miles: 10,142 miles Average fuel economy: 40.1mpg

By Adam Binnie, deputy road test editor