COMPETITION from within could be the only thing which slows the progress of the new Mazda CX-3.
With good looks and a benchmarking-setting starting price of $19,990, this dynamic little offering is bursting with ambition and conquest opportunities for the Japanese carmaker.
It seems the biggest challenge will be getting enough stock. Mazda Australia has been the marque's profitable golden child in recent years, but with more favourable currency in Europe and the United States, those markets could be given production precedence if early response is any indication.
The Mazda CX-3 is the new kid on the white-hot SUV block. Well, technically it's now what the industry is calling a crossover - not a sedan or hatch, nor is it a off-roader.
Yet this genre is the big mover, up more than 30% compared to the same time last year, as buyers get out of small passenger cars, as well as those downsizing.
Mazda estimates it will sell about 1000 CX-3s a month nationally, with most of those finding they can afford to join the SUV juggernaut.
With the base model Neo still on its way, we sampled the three other trims available, Maxx, sTouring and Akari.
There isn't monumental differences between cabin styles, with similar finishes, but, as expected, you get more bells and whistles in the top two rungs.
All three get the dash-mounted 17.7cm colour screen, along with the console dial controller in a cabin boasting a spacious feel which comes courtesy of a sloping dash.
Climbing inside is made simpler, with a ride height dedicated to easy entry and exit. You don't need to crouch nor do you have to reach.
We liked the seats in all trims. The range-topping option with leather and suede combination is brilliant but the same snug support, with lateral and thigh bolstering, is offered on the pews in other models.
On the road
Forecast to lead the sales charge is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol-powered Maxx with an automatic transmission.
Driving both the 1.5-litre diesel and the petrol at this week's launch from Canberra to Sydney, it would be our selection too.
The petrol offers a better turn of speed, and while the diesel hovers around 2000rpm at 110kmh it can feel underpowered when summonsed for rapid overtaking or when sprinting away from the lights, sounding fairly agricultural in the process.
Although both engines will live up to buyer expectations, this is no sports car. It rides nicely and still manages to offer accurate steering and a confident road feel.
At highway speeds, the tyres generate some rumble on the coarse chip surfaces and the large mirrors can cause some wind noise. Yet the overall performance is more than satisfactory, and in its most natural urban surrounds the CX-3 operates with refined precision.
The automatic transmission is well behaved and does the job well, and the take-up of manual models is expected to be minimal.
What do you get?
Neos come with 16-inch steel wheels, power windows, 60-40 split-fold rear seats, air-con, cruise control, two centre cup-holders, along with bottle holders in the doors, trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, rear parking sensors and the full safety equipment suite, which incorporates anti-lock brakes and stability control that Mazda expects will gain a five-star rating (it's yet to be tested by ANCAP).
Step up into the Maxx and it gains alloys, leather wrapped gear shift knob, handbrake handle and steering wheel, along with the 17.7cm colour touch-screen with the MZD system, sat nav and a reversing camera.
The sTouring specification includes 18-inch alloys, front fog lamps, LED headlights with auto on/off, rain sensing wipers, climate controlled air-con and improved driver display.
Atop of the CX-3 tree sits the Akari, and it gets black leather and suede or white leather with black suede seat trim, power sunroof, and the safety pack, which includes blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and brake support systems, that is available for $1030 on Neo, Maxx and sTouring.
Rear seat space depends on how far back the front passengers slide, but adults can fit with reasonable leg and head room.
While not class leading, the boot is good enough for a pair of small suitcases. There is a false boot floor, which can be removed to make the most of the 264 litres available, or use it to stack the groceries on two levels.
The back seats drop 60-40 to offer a 1174-litre cargo space.
Up front and there are a pair of cup holders in the centre console, while each door offers bottle accommodation.
In front of the shifter is a useful space for phones and audio devices, close to USB/auxiliary ports and the 12-volt plug.
Our first experience saw the diesel achieve fuel consumption of about six litres/100km, while the petrol managed six litres. That's pretty close to the official figures from Mazda.
Capped price servicing is capped, and Mazda has a well-organised dealership network and strong resale.
The CX-3 has the trademark Mazda grille and raked rear end. It's arguably the best looking offering in the segment.
Undercutting all competitors in the fledgling sub-compact SUV market, Mazda is going for the jugular with the CX-3.
The consummate all-rounder, Mazda %has priced its new prized offering well, with solid features and an extension of the design which continues to resonate with Australians.
What matters most
What we liked: Good looks, spacious feel to cabin, nicely weighted driving feel, excellent pricing.
What we'd like to see: Improved road noise, less clatter from the diesel, slightly more performance punch.
Warranty and servicing: The Mazda CX-3 comes with a three-year 100,000km warranty. Capped price servicing is available with servicing every 10,000km or annually. Average price for petrol is $293, diesel is $344.
Model: Mazda CX-3.
Details: Five-seat five-door two or all-wheel drive compact sports utility vehicle.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 109kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 192Nm @ 2800rpm or 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 77kW @ 4000rpm and 270Nm @ 1600-2500 rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual (petrol) or six-speed auto.
Consumption: Petrol - 6.1-6.7 litres/100km (varies between front/all-wheel drive and transmission). Diesel - 5.1L/100km.
Bottom line plus on-roads: 2.0L Petrol FWD - Neo (m) $19,990, Neo (a) $21,990, Maxx (m) $22,390, Maxx (a) $24,390, sTouring (m) $26,990, sTouring (a) $28,990, Akari (m) $31,290, Akari (a) $33,290.
2.0L Petrol AWD - Maxx (a) $26,390, sTouring (a) $30,990, Akari (a) $35,290.
1.5L Diesel FWD - Maxx (a) $26,790.
1.5L Diesel AWD - sTouring (a) $33,390, Akari (a) $37,690.