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Mazda CX-3 vs Honda HR-V vs Renault Captur vs Mitsubishi ASX 2015 Review


Pint-sized SUVs or high-riding hatchbacks? Both are accurate descriptions of the cars we can't get enough of, a genre that mixes Australia's two biggest-selling types of cars.

Sales of city-sized "faux-wheel-drives" grew by an astonishing 30 per cent last year as the Australian car market dipped by 2 per cent.

Within the next five years, the car industry reckons, they will account for one in 10 new vehicle sales.

The Mazda CX-3 is the third all-new model to hit showrooms in the past two months alone, joining the Honda HR-V and Renault Captur.

In an exclusive first test, we line them up against the top-selling tiny tot, the Mitsubishi ASX.

Honda HR-V

The HR-V shares its genes with the Jazz hatch but the swoopy body (with hidden rear door handles so it looks like a coupe) is completely new and gets a 1.8-litre engine.

The VTi model comes with six airbags, rear-view camera, cruise control, remote entry, electric park brake, 16-inch alloy wheels, massive cargo bay and Honda's trademark "magic" seats, which fold, flip and stow to accommodate a massive load.

The interior space and cargo room are the best of this quartet, the dash layout is user-friendly and it is well equipped.

On the road the steering is nicely weighted and gives the driver a secure, sure-footed feeling.

There is good absorption over bumps and overall the HR-V feels taut and agile. Perky enough on its own, the engine was a touch slower than the others.

Points for improvement? The dashboard plastic is hard to the touch and feels cheap (even though it looks decent), the headlights are below average and the driver's seat feels a little on the flat side.

Mazda CX-3

The CX-3 starts at $19,990 plus on-road costs, about $5000 less than its main rivals.

It's based on the city-sized Mazda2 hatch and even the dashboard is the same, albeit with soft dash coverings and other minor cosmetic tweaks.

Inside and out, the CX-3 is the best looking of the baby SUVs but it also feels smaller — finding a parking space took priority over cargo space.

The CX-3 has the smallest boot of this group, but once the seats are folded there is ample carrying capacity.

On Maxx models and above, a rear view camera is standard — but it's a $778 option on the most affordable CX-3. On the other models tested here, the camera is standard on all model grades.

But the Maxx also comes with satnav as standard (the other in this price range is the Renault Captur Expression, the dearest in this group).

On the road the CX-3 feels well balanced and is comfortable over bumps, even if a tad firmer than the Honda on some surfaces.

The 2.0-litre engine is the second most powerful but has among the best fuel economy. It works well with the auto transmission, although it growls when accelerating hard.

Good looks and road manners combine in the CX-3 and it's well equipped. The downside: it's the most expensive to service.

Mitsubishi ASX

The ASX was ahead of its time — but a little underdone — when it arrived in July 2010 as one of the first new Mitsubishi models released in the wake of the global financial crisis. The cost cutting showed.

The original ASX was noisy and lacked refinement. But changes under the skin were made in May last year, including improvements to quietness, suspension and the transmission calibration.

A minor cabin makeover kept up appearances, bringing soft-touch materials and extra equipment, including tinted rear windows, 17-inch alloy wheels and daytime running lights.

The ASX is one of the roomiest among this group, has a five-year warranty and is the cheapest to service.

On the road the ASX carries its age well. It doesn't feel quite as fresh as the new arrivals, but last year's updates have added to its longevity.

The zippiest in this group, it steers well and soaks up bumps without fuss. The steering feels a tad too responsive on the open road but its directness is appreciated around town.

Room for improvement? The indicator stalk sounds like a cheap plastic toy.

Renault Captur

Not that long ago, rioters torched SUVs on the streets of Paris, simply because they were SUVs.

The city even briefly considered banning SUVs, but now all three French car makers are in on the act.

A Clio hatchback with an SUV body, the Captur brings some much needed styling flair to what has been a rather uninspiring class.

Inside and out, the design makes you smile, with its interesting shapes, different textures and gloss black highlights.

Renault has also sharpened the price on servicing and now includes a five-year warranty.

On the road its performance is a lot more leisurely than the others. It has the smallest engine (albeit turbocharged), matched to a dual-clutch automatic.

Even by class standards, it takes a while to get a move on; there is a noticeable delay when moving from rest while the transmission has a bit of a think.

The Captur is relatively well equipped, except for one crucial omission: there is no airbag protection for rear passengers.

Europe's crash test authority doesn't require rear airbags for a five-star rating. Which is why the Captur has five stars but only four airbags. Australia's crash test authority had mandated rear airbags for five-star cars but, oddly, has since adopted the lesser Euro standard.

Verdict

The Renault Captur is a fresh alternative in a class dominated by Japanese brands and drives well — once it's on the move — but its high price and lack of rear airbags made it first off our list.

The Mitsubishi ASX is holding its age well, has a five-year warranty, is the cheapest to buy and is one of the cheapest to service. But the Honda HR-V is roomier, quieter, and nicer to drive.

The Mazda CX-3 Maxx is the clear winner in this contest.

It might not be the roomiest but its combination of style, performance, fuel economy and safety all weigh in its favour.

Honda HR-V VTi

Price: $27,977 to $28,495 drive-away (varies between states)
Metallic paint: $593 to $611 (varies between states)
Safety: Six airbags, rear-view camera
Country of origin: Thailand
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder
Power: 105kW/172Nm
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
Consumption: 6.6L/100km
Fuel type: 91 regular unleaded
Fuel cost over three years: $1485 ($1.50 per litre, 15,000km per annum)
Brakes: Front and rear discs
Service intervals: 10,000km/12 months
Servicing cost over three years: $1178 (based on national average 15,000km per year)
Spare tyre: Space saver
Turning circle: 10.6 metres
Dimensions (L/W/H/WB): 4294/1772/1605/2610mm
Weight: 1328kg
Towing capacity: 800kg
Cargo space: 437L/1032L
Warranty: Three years, 100,000km

Mazda CX-3 Maxx

Price: $27,502 to $28,114 drive-away (varies between states)
Metallic paint: $200 (Soul Red)
Safety: Six airbags, rear-view camera
Country of origin: Japan
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Power: 109kW/192Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Consumption: 6.1L/100km
Fuel type: 91 regular unleaded
Fuel cost over three years: $1372.50 ($1.50 per litre, 15,000km per annum)
Brakes: Front and rear discs
Service intervals: 10,000km/12 months
Servicing cost over three years: $1359 (based on national average 15,000km per year)
Spare tyre: Space saver
Turning circle: 10.6 metres
Dimensions (L/W/H/WB): 4275/1765/1550/2570mm
Weight: 1226kg
Towing capacity: 1200kg
Cargo space: 264L/1174L VDA
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres

Mitsubishi ASX LS

Price: $27,495 drive-away
Metallic paint: $495
Safety: Seven airbags, rear-view camera and sensors
Country of origin: Japan
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Power: 110kW/197Nm
Transmission: Continuously variable auto (six-speed in manual mode)
Consumption: 7.4L/100km
Fuel type: 91 regular unleaded
Fuel cost over three years: $1665 ($1.50 per litre, 15,000km per annum)
Brakes: Front and rear discs
Service intervals: 15,000km/12 months
Servicing cost over three years: $795
Spare tyre: Space saver
Turning circle: 10.6 metres
Dimensions (L/W/H/WB): 4295/1770/1615/2670mm
Weight: 1355kg
Towing capacity: 1300kg
Cargo space: 393L/1193L
Warranty: Five years, 100,000km

Renault Captur Expression

Price: $28,990 drive-away
Metallic paint: $800
Safety: Four airbags, rear-view camera
Country of origin: Spain
Engine: Turbo 1.2-litre four-cylinder
Power: 88kW/190Nm
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automatic
Consumption: 5.4L/100km
Fuel type: 95 premium unleaded
Fuel cost over three years: $1296 ($1.60 per litre, 15,000km per annum)
Brakes: Front discs, rear drums
Service intervals: 15,000km/12 months
Servicing cost over three years: $897 ($299 x 3)
Spare tyre: Space saver
Turning circle: 10.4 metres
Dimensions (L/W/H/WB): 4122/1778/1566/2606mm
Weight: 1215kg
Towing capacity: 900kg
Cargo space: 377L (455L including under floor)/1235L
Warranty: Five years, unlimited kilometres

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