By Asian Journal Auto Editor

2018 MAZDA cx-3The Mazda CX-3 is a subcompact-sized Crossover with a sporty pleasing muscular, stance and nice detailing. I love the low, arcing roofline and aggressive stance. It packs a lot in its short frame with: four-doors, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine developing 146 horsepower. Note, the top GT model comes standard with all-wheel drive.

For 2018, good news is the availability of a much-awaited manual transmission option for the CX-3 in Canada. Good, because the compact, zippy Skyactiv engined CX-3 is ideal for a stick shift. In addition, the base CX-3 GX model gains as standard the Smart City Brake Support system along with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control software and better NVH measures, along with improved ride comfort. There is a new steering wheel and different paint options. Upper range models such as the GS are now fitted with blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, a heated steering wheel and automatic climate control. The i-Activesense package, is also available as on option on the GS. The top GT version gains a 10-way power driver’s seat with position memory, more safety aid and the inclusion of the Technology Package. And a slew of electronic safety driving aids. Our tester for the week was the CX-3 front wheel drive base GX version. Refreshingly, this was an entry-level non-optioned manual version of the CX-3 with front wheel drive. It’s still very well- equipped and its good change for an auto journalist to drive a base version to see just what the value for money is. The GX came equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, G-Vectoring control, hill launch assist, tire pressure monitoring system, 16-inch wheels, push button start, 7-inch color touchscreen display with Mazda Connect, HDMI Commander, rearview (wide angle) camera, City Brake Support (SCBS), air conditioning with manual controls, cruise control, steering wheel mounted controls for audio, Bluetooth connectivity, 2 USB inputs and auto off headlights. There was no optional equipment. The base MRSP for our tester came in an amazing $19,995. With options, Freight and PDE. Our tester’s final price came to $21,890.

The interior of our CX- 3 is wonderfully sporty as Mazda’s usually are. The dash features a strong design theme with “Mazda’s Head-up Cockpit” that places the gauges, information displays and controls in an ergonomically functional arrangement. In term of room, there is space for four in this vehicle, and five people as a squeeze in total. The rear is cozy and features a 60:40 splitting and folding back seat. With the rear seats folded, there is 1,484 litres of cargo space in the GT and a rear cargo cover.

On the road, the new manual equipped version of the CX-3 changes the nature of this sporty SUV. The six-speed manual transmission is well matched to the engine, with a nice tactile clutch action and a smooth satisfyingly snick as you change gears. With the new manual gearbox, the driving experience is much sportier and will please performance drivers in particular. There is compliant suspension, decent road manners and largely pleasant, involving driving experience. The CX-3’s low weight and well- engineered chassis makes good use of the superbly engineered Skyactiv engine.

The CX-3s small footprint and responsive steering also make it a pleasure to drive on country roads where the tight suspension makes short work of curves and winding lanes. The manual allowing for enjoyable up and down gear shifts to wring out the best of the engine speed. Mazda rates the fuel consumption for the FWD at 9,0/7.07L/100 km city/highway and for the AWD, 8.8/7.3L/100 km if you are looking for a well-equipped, attractively priced sub-compact SUV, the CX-3 in the GX form is very tempting at the price. The availability of the manual transmission is a great move by Mazda. It adds an extra dollop of hot sauce to the CX-3 with its perfect size, fuel-efficient engine and handling. Very impressive with a great price to boot.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GX FWD. Base MRSP $19,995. Final price with Freight and PDE. $21,890.