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Into new territory as Mazda launches small SUV

By Edd Ellison

Mazda has pulled the wraps of its new CX-3 compact crossover in Thailand during a major presentation at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok and it has high hopes that the new model, the fourth to feature its well received Skyactiv technology, can replicate the success it has enjoyed over the last couple of years from the debuts of the first three Skyactiv models to arrive here, the new Mazda2, Mazda3 and CX-5.

 

In fact thanks to this trio of distinctively styled models and a positive reception to its new generation of Skyactiv technology from Thai consumers, Mazda has been steadily growing its market share in Thailand and taking sales away from bigger and more established rivals.

Design and technology have been at the heart of Mazda’s approach and that’s very clear on the new CX-3. It clearly follows the ‘Kodo’ design philosophy and its styling follows the ideas rolled out on the Mazda2 and Mazda3.

Under the bonnet there is a 1500cc clean diesel, which offers a very 23.3 km/l, and an efficient 2000c petrol unit with 156 hp and 16.4-km/l fuel economy; both are hooked up to a 6-speed transmission. Those options should see it more than capable of taking on its main rival in B-SUV, Honda’s HR-V.

Mazda promises ground breaking safety features for the CX-3’s class thanks to its i-Activsense system which includes Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring, High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning System, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Smart City Brake Support.

Inside, the cabin is a clear plus point and certainly the range toppers on show at the launch were impressive. The trims feel of a high quality, well put together and the styling clearly mimics more luxurious Italian cars. There is both broader and minute detail thinking drawn from prestige brands such as Alfa Romeo and Ferrari and it works well.

In fact the new CX-3 places Mazda into a new segment, ‘subcompact crossover’ (B-SUV), which it’s never occupied before. It’s a rapidly growing segment of the market here too, albeit one that’s starting from a small base. However from a 2% market share in 2014 ‘compact crossover’ is expected to double to 4% this year and continue to grow as other brands add new models.

The CX-3 is well positioned to tap into this growth reckoned Hidesuke Takesue, President of Mazda Sales Thailand – and he’s think decent sales numbers. “We expect it to rapidly gain popularity with annual sales of over 6,000 units,” he says. This year’s target is to achieve orders of 1,000 units before the full target of 6,000 units is reached in 2016.

Mazda unashamedly terms the CX-3 as an urban lifestyle crossover and during the presentation didn't give any mention to rougher terrain capability, rather emphasizing this off road use with its bigger CX-5. Its primary demographic target will be YUCCIES (Young Urban Creatives) in Bangkok, here in Pattaya and other major urban areas.

Meanwhile, in Pattaya where flash flooding is a regular occurrence and road surfaces are often poor a raised ride height even for on road urban driving scenarios is a very useful selling point.

For 2016 excise duties will change to a C02 based format, which follows the EU direction, and that is introducing a big unknown into the market. With prices thus expected to rise in 2016 the CX-3 could enjoy a surge in late year orders, especially at next month’s Thailand International Motor Expo in Bangkok, a key annual selling point, with orders taken before 31 December but delivered next year still liable to this year’s excise duties.

For the Thai showrooms the CX-3 will come with a 156hp/204Nm 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G gasoline engine and a 105 hp/270Nm 1.5-litre Skyactiv-D diesel, the latter tapping straight into a fast growing demand for smaller more efficient diesels in a market were diesel prices are capped lower than gasoline.

Pricing for the new CX-3 range from 835,000 to 1,045,000 baht for the petrol version (which comes in three trim levels) and 1,155,000 baht for the single-specification diesel.

That means the CX-3’s entry-level petrol version starts below Honda’s HR-V with a very similar price for range topper while it doesn’t have a comparable diesel rival.