The CX-3’s design is coherent and smart. Its shape seems to have sprouted upwards from that of the related 2 supermini like a well-watered rose bush, and yet the car, which shares the 2’s 2570mm wheelbase, doesn’t spread out to cover much more ground.
The 40mm difference in ride height, however, produces a more substantial presence and offers Mazda’s designers a larger canvas onto which they can apply the intricate creases and surfaces of the Kodo theme.
Mazda insists that the CX-3’s underbody, with a 29% ultra-high-tensile steel content, has the same torsional rigidity as that of a Mazda 3 hatch.
The suspension – MacPherson struts and a rear twist beam – is largely carried over from the 2, albeit in overhauled form. Having created higher roll centres for each axle, the engineers fitted firmer bushes and retuned the spring/damper settings to suit.
The steering, too, has been adapted, with a beefed-up electric power assistance motor and a 7% slower ratio than the 2 to better suit its size and higher centre of gravity.
Our test car was a front-driver, but all-wheel-drive variants retain the torsion beam rear suspension, adapting it to make room for the rear differential. The rear diff itself is smaller than the one used in larger four-wheel-drive Mazdas and helps to make the CX-3’s adaptive, torque-splitting drivetrain 20% lighter than that of the CX-5.
In petrol format, the AWD system is mated exclusively to the 148bhp 2.0-litre engine. This is available only with Mazda’s six-speed manual gearbox, while the lower-powered 118bhp front-drive version can also be had with a conventional auto ’box.
Nevertheless, the 1.5-litre Skyactiv-D of our test car is at least as interesting, since it has been mildly fettled for use in the crossover.
Peak torque, available from 1600rpm, has been increased from 184lb ft to 199lb ft via a revised turbocharger to improve the heavier crossover’s in-gear response. The four-cylinder unit retains an uncharacteristically low 14.8:1 compression ratio.
This makes for a cooler and more diffuse kind of combustion than the diesel norm and is the chief reason why the CX-3 emits just 105g/km of CO2.