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Motoring: Utility vehicle of the year?

Credit: NAUMAN FAROOQ

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 was named Utility Vehicle of the Year by AJAC, but it didn't even make it into my top 10. Am I wrong, or are they?


Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | February 29th, 2016



Last week, at the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS) in Toronto, the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada (AJAC) named the 2016 Mazda CX-3 as their Utility Vehicle of the Year.

I did a list back in December 2015 naming the 15 best vehicles of the year I tested, and the Mazda CX-3 wasn’t one of them and neither was the new Honda Civic, which AJAC awarded with the Car of the Year title.

So, did I get it wrong, or did AJAC?

The vehicle I drove up to CIAS last week was the 2016 CX-3. Prior to this, the only time I had spent with one was in Phoenix, Arizona at its launch last March.

I thought perhaps driving it in the home environment would help me appreciate it more.

It did and it didn’t. In my recent testing of the vehicle, I adored its manners in the city, and found its motor to be willing and characterful. It might only have a 2.0 litre I4 motor which develops 146 horsepower and 146 pounds per foot of torque, but it makes good use of that. My tester, which had a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, proved to be quite handy, especially on roads that were not big on traction, and there was a lot of snow in my city last week.Couple that with a wonderful chassis and suspension setup and you have a crossover that is entertaining to drive.

But there is a price to pay. The CX-3 is not as efficient as you’d want it to be. Maybe it was due to the all-wheel drive or the cold weather, but I averaged close to 9.8 litres per 100 kilometres in the city; Mazda quotes the vehicle at 8.8 litres per 100 kilometres, which is still not good. My week’s average of city and highway came in at 8.6 kilometres per 100 kilometres, which is not bad, but I expected better.

I also expected more room. While those in the front are fine for space, no adult would like to spend much time in the back seats as legroom is tight. The trunk is not huge either, so it’s certainly not a vehicle for a growing family.

Treat it as a crossover coupe for someone who is single and ready to mingle, and it is just fine. Plus, if you want more space, Mazda offers the larger CX-5 and CX-9 models as well.

But, the CX-3 just won Utility Vehicle of the Year and in truth, it is not utilitarian. What it is however, is attractive. The design is stunning with lots of details. The interior is just spectacular thanks to its equipment and its use of soft touch materials on the dashboard gives it an up-class feel. My tester had heated seats, leather and an infotainment system with navigation.

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 is quite a likeable vehicle and I do think it deserves your attention. The best thing about it was its road manners on the highway in snowy conditions. When equipped with the right winter tires, it can drive through any weather condition, I know that from first-hand experience.

So, did AJAC get it wrong, or was I wrong? As much as I like the CX-3, I don’t think it was the right vehicle to take the Utility Vehicle of the Year crown. If there is a new sub-category between car and utility vehicle of the year, the CX-3 could possibly take that.

If it is of interest to you, you’d be happy to know that it is well priced with base models starting from $20,695.
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