Mazda’s relatively low-compression, big-boosting 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine gives the CX-3 some predictable mechanical character traits – and some less predictable ones. The motor starts and stops without much clatter or shake, but you wouldn’t call it quiet at idle or at low revs.
Under load at higher speeds, there is perhaps some advantage for the car on mechanical refinement – but it’s a marginal gain.
Throttle response is, as you might expect, a bit softer than the modern turbodiesel norm.
Long gearing exacerbates the problem, but even so it’s a condition that only really affects the CX-3 when trying to pull low revs in the higher gears – and then only for a second or so.
When it’s knuckling down, the car performs strongly. A 0-60mph time of 10.3sec is creditable and gives the car a lead of about a second on most of the class.
The powerplant is nicely flexible, too, making the CX-3 more than half a second faster from 30-70mph in fourth gear than the Peugeot 2008 e-HDi 115 we tested in 2013. Although the Mazda’s peak power is made at 4000rpm, the engine is willing to rev beyond 5000rpm on the tacho and doesn’t get too breathless when asked to do it.
The car’s pedal weights are substantial but well matched and its manual gearchange has a deliberate, positive, taut-feeling shift quality. It doesn’t always like to be rushed through the gate, but it always lets you know when you’ve engaged the cog you’re aiming for.
Grip levels for the CX-3 diesel fall a little bit victim to Mazda’s decision to equip it with a different set of tyres than the petrol models. The former, fitted with Dunlop Enasave tyres, required almost 50 metres to stop from 70mph – and from a 1.2-tonne car in warm, dry conditions, we’d expect better.
Our petrol CX-3 long-term test car, also on 16in rims, comes on Bridgestone Turanza rubber – and, as you’re about to read, it grips and stops notably harder.