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Honda HR-V


Mazda CX-3

Summary

Honda HR-V

The changes aren't dramatic for the Honda HR-V 2019 model. In fact, you could look at it and not even know this is an updated, facelifted model.

But there are a few nips and tucks here and there that freshen up the appeal of the Japanese brand's small SUV, which first went on sale in Australia back in 2015.

It still has practicality on its side, and the value equation remains reasonably strong, especially on lower-grade models. And now, with some additional range-wide safety gear and a sporty looking RS model, there's arguably more to like than ever before.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mazda CX-3

Some cars are just so desirable, so delectably tempting to look at, that they cause people to abandon all logical and practical concerns and buy them anyway. Fortunately, most vehicles in this category of dangerous desirability are stupidly expensive, but when you combine the cuter-than-a-puppy looks of a car like Mazda's CX-3 with a price range that starts in the low $20,000 range, anything can happen.

Throw in the fact that this diminutive darling of a thing is a small SUV - one of the most desirable categories in the Australian market, with sales in the segment doubling in the past five years - and Mazda may need to reinforce the doors in its showrooms with the launch of this new one.

I speak from experience here because my wife loves the look of the CX-3 so much she wanted to buy one. So I explained that it is built on the Mazda2 platform, which means its boot is too small for a family of four, and that the rest of it probably wasn't suitable for us either. But she was still keen.

I know of a young family who bought one because they were so taken with its prettiness, but when they got it home they remembered they had a small child and realised that their pram would never, ever fit in the back. Oh dear.

If you are a young single or a childless couple, of course you can enjoy its alluring looks all you like, and the tight rear seats and small boot volume probably won't bother you at all.

Mazda happily admits the way this car looks is the main reason people buy it, which is no doubt why the new one looks so much like the highly successful old one (more than 58,000 CX-3s have been sold in Australia since its launch in 2015).

So, what actually is new about this incorrigibly cute crossover? We went to the local launch drive to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Honda HR-V7.9/10

There are some positive changes to the updated 2019 Honda HR-V. The city AEB system on all models is a welcome addition, and personally, I'm absolutely sold on the look of the RS model, plus the additional effort that has been put in by Honda for this version makes it the most appealing example.

All in all, the Honda HR-V remains a favourite in the small SUV segment - admittedly one with limited choices in terms of drivetrains, and without all-wheel drive - but it possesses other strengths that make it pretty darn appealing.


Mazda CX-37.8/10

If you liked the previous Mazda CX-3 - and just about everyone did - then you're going to love this one even more. It's got a tiny bit more presence, a less busy and more classy interior and marginally better engines with slightly improved fuel economy. Basically, it's a little bit more of the same for this little gem of a compact SUV.

Would you have a Mazda CX-3 over a Mitsubishi ASX, on looks alone? Tell us in the comments section.

Design

Honda HR-V8/10

Can't tell the differences? There are a few, with new grille and headlight and tail-light finishes across the range, plus a new front bumper design. Elsewhere, it's hard to pick this as a facelifted model.

There is no denying the RS grade looks the best of this bunch, with its bigger 18-inch wheels and darkened chrome exterior styling highlights, along with the piano black body kit around the lower edges of the car and body-colour rear spoiler, all combining to create a cohesive and smart looking little SUV. The design of the exterior is really well considered.

That's not to say the other models don't live up to the RS, but it's certainly the standout. The entry-level VTi still looks like an 'affordable' model, with its yellow halogen lights and less appealing wheel choice.

The VTi-S and VTi-LX are harder to separate, but there are some design highlights to split them: the wheels are the same size (17-inch) but the VTi-S ones look a little tamer, and it gets body-colour door handles; the VTi-LX has chrome handles and a more attractive wheel design.

The exterior size of the HR-V hasn't changed, apart from the RS model, which is a little longer and a little wider due to its body kit. The measurements are: 4348mm long (RS: 4360mm) on a 2610mm wheelbase, 1772mm wide (RS: 1790mm) and 1605mm tall. It's hardly hard to get into, with ground clearance of 170mm, but for the concerned parents out there you can option side steps for the rear doors.

As you can see from the interior photos, the changes haven't been huge inside, and there are no differences to the interior dimensions. But the practicality - whether you choose a low-spec version with cloth trim or a flagship model with leather - is just about as good as you can expect in this segment.


Mazda CX-39/10

In the right light, in the right colour, (obviously the hugely popular red), the CX-3 can move beyond being just small and sweet looking and reach the point of genuinely striking. There's a lovely, criss-crossing line that swinges down the sides, crossing over at its mid point. It's what Mazda calls pure Kodo design - simple, sleek and slightly sexy.

The angle most people fall in love from, though, is front on, with the CX-3's toothy grin only slightly changed for this new version with a new "more assertive" grille, with a  solid, detailed design featuring horizontal bars of different thicknesses.

The goal here, as CX-3 program manager Takata Minoru explained, was to make "no unnecessary changes" and only to "refine the beauty and enhance the quality feel".

The new grille is supposed to give the car a sharper look and a greater feeling of depth, but to us it just looked like a new grille. Mazda says the new car is defined by being "exquisite" and "edgy", but it's not clear what that means in terms of new-ness.

The sTouring and Akari grades get a new line of chrome along the front bumper and sides, which is pleasant enough, while there are also new fog light bezels in gloss black on Maxx Sport variants and above. 

Oh, and the rear lights, in the top two grades, have adopted a cylindrical shape for the facelift version, because round things are classier than square ones. Apparently.

Colours, of course, in a car so pretty and feminine, are a big deal, and there are now eight to choose from - 'Soul Red Crystal Metallic' (as opposed to just Soul Red Metallic) and 'Machine Grey Metallic' are new and join 'Dynamic Blue Mica', 'Titanium Flash Mica', 'Jet Black Mica', 'Snow Flake White Pearl Mica', 'Ceramic Metallic' and 'Eternal Blue Mica'.  Brown is not an option, happily.

In short, it's a good looking car, much like the old one, and it's hard to imagine a vehicle of this size and shape being any more attractive. It's surprising, then, to learn that the CX-3 is only the second-best seller in its segment, behind the Mitsubishi ASX. 

Ground clearance for the CX-3 is 160mm unladen. So, no rock hopping then.

Practicality

Honda HR-V9/10

The Honda HR-V has cabin size on its side. 

If you've never sat in one, you will probably be surprised when you do. There's a lot of room, both in the front and the back, and with the driver's seat set in my position (I'm 182cm tall), I had enough space to sit behind that spot.

There's good rear legroom and reasonable width to the cabin, but headroom could be a little better, particularly in the range-topping model with the big panoramic sunroof.

Being a Honda, the storage game is on point. There are cup holders up front, door pockets with bottle holders in each of the doors, and decent loose item storage, too.

Honda's 'Magic Seats' - fitted to all HR-V models - allow the rear seat area to double as a storage space. As you can see from the images, the base of the back seat can be flipped up, which allows you access to a huge space to store long items. You can fit pushbikes in there. Trust me. Or you can lower the seat bases down, and then drop the rear seat backs for a huge boot.

The boot space on offer in the HR-V is terrific for the class, with 437 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats in place, with the boot dimensions expanding to 1462L with the back seats folded flat. The ridiculous floppy mesh cargo cover remains, but you can option a hard tonneau cover for the boot if you want, and there's a cargo liner available, too.

There's a space-saver spare tyre under the boot floor.

Only the VTi model misses out on roof rails, so if you want to fit a roof rack you might need to consider that.


Mazda CX-37/10

Considering the external dimensions of the car, the CX-3 does quite well. Allow me to illuminate you with my own example, which is that I recently spent 10 days driving one of these around Italy, with my wife and two young children on board, plus a significant amount of luggage. 

I had sleepless nights before picking up the car, because I was sure we'd never get it all in, or be able to breathe if we did, but not only did we fit, we were quite comfortable and happy with the luggage capacity.

Rear leg room is just bearable for an adult, but no problem at all for small kids (although it wouldn't suit teens). The boot space, at 264 litres, is very small, and even calling it adequate seems generous. What it will not fit, though, due to its narrow dimensions, is a pram of any sort, so young families should look elsewhere. Although if they don't, there are two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points for child seats.

The biggest change for the new model in cabin terms is the inclusion of an electronic park brake, which has allowed Mazda to include a new centre console/armrest, with two handy cup holders of different sizes, there are also bottle holders in all four doors, and (for Maxx Sport spec and above) a rear armrest with two more cupholders).  

Indeed, Mazda says the cupholders have had their depth and diameter revised so they can now fit giant, American-sized cups if required.

That centre console also offers useful, deep storage and there are two USB points handily located in front of the shift lever. The control buttons for the MZD media system are also more ergonomically positioned thanks to the electronic park brake.

The rear seat armrest, with built in storage box, is said to "embody the human-centred philosophy by increasing comfort and reducing fatigue". I know I always find that armrests make me less tired, but then I wouldn't volunteer to sit in the back of a CX-3 anyway. 

The overall goal with the new interior was to make it more minimalist and Japanese, and when you compare it with photos of the old one it does look less busy and less cluttered, with classy touches here and there. That is only slightly offset by the cheaper, harder feeling plastics around the doors on their armrests.

Top-shelf Akari models come with genuine leather seats in black or white, sTouring gets grey with black leatherette and everything beneath that gets a black interior with black cloth seats. 

A sunroof is available on the Akari models.

Price and features

Honda HR-V7/10

So, you want to compare Honda HR-V models? You want to know what you get if you buy the top of the range model vs one of the entry grades? You've come to the right place.

Kicking off the price list is the value-focused VTi, which lists at $24,990 (RRP - that's the price before on-road costs, not a driveaway price). The next model up in the range is the VTi-S, listing at $27,990. Then there's the new RS model, at $31,990. How much is a top-spec HR-V? That'll be the VTi-LX, at $34,590.

Now we're done with the price guide, let's run through what each model is fitted with.

The entry-level VTi model is attractively priced, and scores some points on specifications, too.

Standard features include a 7.0-inch touch screen with in-built satellite navigation system (sat nav, GPS - whatever you want to call it) with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB connectivity. Sadly, no model comes with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so you'll just have to sync your iPhone or other smartphone by USB or Bluetooth.

The media screen doubles as a display for the reversing camera. There's cruise control, single-zone climate control air conditioning, and the VTi has projector halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights. You don't even get HID lights on the base spec, which is disappointing.

Step two in HR-V trim levels is the VTi-S, which sees the addition of keyless entry (smart key) and push-button start, auto on/off LED headlights, LED 'optical style' tail-lights, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' side camera system. This version gets roof rails, too, which the base grade misses out on.

The interior of the VTi-S model moves up to chrome and piano black finishes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-bound gear-knob, and the passenger's side vanity mirror is illuminated. Plus you get an extra pair of 12-volt plugs (one in the back seat, one in the rear), and a second map pocket in the back (the VTi has only one).

RS models are the sportiest looking versions in the range, and they get a different steering and suspension tune to live up to the look.

Beyond the stylish model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels, the RS gets piano black exterior trim for its body kit, including a lower front spoiler, side skirts, rear spoiler and wheel arches, plus smoked chrome look front and rear elements. This version also has dark chrome front door handles, auto-tilt passenger side mirror, black mirror covers, and additional sound deadening over the lower grades.

The RS also comes with leather seats (well, leather-appointed seats, as Honda puts it) which have been redesigned in this spec and the model above, plus the front seats are heated. It also adds rear tinted windows, auto wipers, alloy sports pedals, and a "smooth sports leather-wrapped steering wheel" with paddleshifters.

At the upper end of this model comparison is the VTi-LX, which builds on the equipment of the models below, with additions such as electric driver's seat adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric folding side mirrors, chrome exterior door handles, auto up/down windows for all doors, LED interior lights, dual-zone climate control, and front parking sensors.

As before, VTi-LX models have the more comprehensive safety suite, including high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (not active lane assist) and auto high-beam lights (but still no blind spot monitor). We'll run through the rest of the safety technology in the safety section below.

However, the VTi-LX drops back to a 17-inch wheel instead of rolling on 18s like the RS, and it doesn't get the sports leather steering wheel.

While the multimedia system covers off most infotainment needs, there's no DVD player or CD player, and no DAB digital radio, either. The sound system is identical between all four models, with six speakers (no subwoofer).

And if you're wondering about things like a power tailgate or heated steering wheel, the HR-V range doesn't quite go that far in terms of luxury.

Accessories-wise, customers have a range of options to choose from - and it goes well beyond floor mats. There are roof racks, black 18-inch alloy wheels or two-tone silver/chrome rims, a hard tonneau cargo area cover, a ow bar and bike attachment, bonnet protector and even a camping tent. Other ones that might appeal include a rear and front metal-look garnish (the latter is hardly a bull bar or nudge bar - if you want one of those, you might need to shop the aftermarket).

How many seats in the Honda HR-V? Five, and they're very practical!

Oh, what about colours (or colors, depending on where you're reading this!)? Well, there are seven on offer: the new hero colour is 'Phoenix Orange', but there are the usual suspects like 'White Orchid', 'Lunar Silver', 'Modern Steel' (grey), 'Ruse Black', 'Brilliant Sporty Blue', and 'Passion Red'.

Every one of those paint options will cost you $575 more, with only 'Taffeta White' non-metallic paint coming at no cost (RS models aren't available in that colour, but the paint cost is factored in to the list price).

Oh, and this time around there is no purple colour, and the green that looks so appealing on the Japanese market 'Honda Vezel' still isn't offered in Australia.


Mazda CX-38/10

Comparing the differences between the CX-3 range, there really is a variant for all budgets, with an entry price of $23,990 drive-away for the Neo Sport with a six-speed manual, cloth seats and steel wheels, rising all the way to $37,490 for the leather-filled, sunroof-topped Akari LE, which gets some impressive tech previously only seen in German cars, like a driver-attention monitor and radar cruise control with full stop and go functionality. 

Prices have risen over the previous model, but Mazda says this pricing reflects the fact that you're getting more equipment in the new version. 

You are also, undeniably, getting a less busy and more classy interior, although the changes to the exterior design are so small you wouldn't want to be paying for them. Nor would you want to change a look that is this pretty, and successful.

Standard kit for your $23,990 drive-away Neo Sport (that's manual, auto adds another $2000) includes 16-inch steel wheels, body-coloured powered mirrors, black cloth front seats with height adjustment, electric parking brake, Bluetooth functionality, a 7.0-inch full-colour 'MZD Connect' touchscreen to control your infotainment and sound system with DAB and six speakers (but no CD player and no GPS), and a multi-function 'Command Control', plus keyless start, rear parking sensors, a reversing carer and 'Smart City Brake Support', which works in both forward and reverse. It's a (very) good-looking package at a tempting price.  Apple CarPlay, which would helpfully allow you to run navigation from your iPhone in the base model, is not yet available, but it's coming soon, and a kit to retrofit it will be available at Mazda dealers in the near future.

The Maxx Sport adds 16-inch alloys, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a fold down armrest with two cupholders for the rear passengers, leather-wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel, climate-control air con, sat nav, 'Blind Spot Monitoring' and 'Rear Cross Traffic Alert'.

Step up to the sTouring and win 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lights all round, slightly nicer black 'Maztek' and cloth seats, a handy head-up display, keyless entry and start, 'Driver Attention Alert', from parking sensors and 'Traffic Sign Recognition'.

The Akari does feel noticeably nicer inside with its softer dash material and leather seats in white or black, plus 'Mazda Radar Cruise Control' with start-stop function, a 360-degree view monitor and adaptive LED headlights and lane-departure warning.

Personally, I'd be quite happy with my value at $25,490 for a manual Maxx Sport. Indeed, it's a bit of a bargain.

The prices we've listed here are drive-away (no more to pay!), which is something new for Mazda and does provide wonderful clarity.

Engine & trans

Honda HR-V7/10

There are no changes to the engine specs of the drivetrain on offer in the updated HR-V.

The engine size and specifications go unchanged for the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, remaining at 105kW of power (at 6500rpm) and 172Nm of torque (at 4300rpm). So, it's no horsepower hero - and there's no turbo engine in sight, which is a shame.

The motor is only available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) - and there is no manual transmission option, as much as we'd like to see a version with a clutch in the RS spec. The CVT has been updated with 'stepped ratios' to "enhance the sporty feel" and provide "more responsive acceleration".

The HR-V sold in Australia remains a 4x2 (front-wheel drive) model only - there are some markets that get an AWD / 4x4 model, but we miss out. Likewise, there's no diesel version, and you can rule out LPG, too.

Does fuel tank size matter to you? The fuel tank capacity of the HR-V is 50 litres. And if you're curious about the kerb weight, the number for the VTi is 1269kg, the VTi-S is 1274kg, the RS is 1294kg and the VTi-LX is 1319kg.

You may want to reconsider fitting a towbar, because the towing capacity ratings of the HR-V are minuscule: 500kg for an un-braked trailer, 800kg for a braked trailer.

You may want to check out our Honda HR-V problems page if you have concerns about automatic gearbox problems and suspension issues, and be sure to consult your owner's manual for information on oil type, capacity and consumption and the correct battery you'll need. Timing belt or chain? It's a chain.


Mazda CX-37/10

Mazda is offering a new SKYACTIV-D turbo-diesel engine with the CX-3 -  which has increased in capacity from 1.5 to 1.8 litres, which takes power from 77kW up to 85kW, while torque stays at 270Nm - but you have to wonder why. Mazda Australia predicts the diesel will make up a measly one per cent of sales, which probably explains why they didn't bring one along to the launch for us to drive.

Almost everyone, then, will be choosing the revised  SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine, which makes 110kW at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 2800rpm, an increase of exactly one kilowatt  and three newton metres from the previous model. 

Changes to the engine have focused on improving fuel consumption, and variations in that consumption caused by seasonal changes and usage patterns. Apparently the new version offers improved combustion efficiency when under heavy load - climbing hills for example - and thermal-management tech to reduce excess fuel consumption when it's cold outside.

New high-pressure injectors also help to improve torque delivery, with the amount of torque on offer throughout the rev range increased by "one to two per cent". Fuel economy is also improved by the same percentages. Not huge improvements, then. 

You can also choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic transmission, and between front-wheel or all-wheel drive (not on the base Neo Sport, though). Not surprisingly, for a city crossover like this, 92 per cent of CX-3s sold will be FWD, and 90 per cent will be automatics. 

Having driven the manual version myself on holiday, I would highly recommend it, because it allows you to get the most out of the engine. With a weight of 1266kg it's useful to be able to get involved in shifting.

The CX-3's engine uses a timing chain rather than a belt and you should check our problems pages to see if there are any reports of problems with automatic transmissions.

Fuel consumption

Honda HR-V7/10

Fuel economy for the models in the range is dependent on which variant you choose.

For instance, the VTi model has claimed consumption of 6.6 litres per 100km (so, the fuel consumption km/L figure is 15.1). The RS model claims 6.7L/100km (14.9km/L), while the VTi-S and VTi-LX models claim 6.9L/100km (14.5km/L).

So you can expect fuel mileage to vary slightly between models, but all versions have an 'econ mode' if you want to keep the consumption down. The HR-V can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol.


Mazda CX-38/10

One of the aims of upgrading the CX-3's engine was better fuel economy, and yet the Mazda engineers admit they managed an improvement of just "one to two per cent" on the 2.0-litre petrol engine and 3 per cent with the diesel, which has grown from 1.5 to 1.8 litres and still manages to use slightly less fuel, at an impressive 4.7L/100km.

The 2.0 petrol has claimed figures of 6.6L/100km for the FWD manual, 6.3L/100km for the FWD auto and 6.7L/100km for the AWD automatic. People who are chasing better economy would go for the diesel, but customers for this car obviously aren't that bothered, or are happy with mid-sixes, because Mazda tips just one per cent of sales will be the diesel.

Driving

Honda HR-V8/10

The majority of my launch drive time was spent in the RS model, which is - understandably - the version Honda wanted to show off most.

It's a new nameplate for the HR-V line-up, and it has the most visual differentiation compared to the other versions. But it's also the best to drive, with a more fun-focused edge to it.

In truth, the HR-V has never been that much fun to drive. The RS model changes that - to a degree - with a different steering system to the rest of the range. The new variable ratio set-up feels a bit more like real steering in your hand, as opposed to the standard electric system in the other models, which doesn't feel as natural or progressive.

The RS's unique steering requires less effort at higher speeds, but there's a slight downside: in combination with the bigger 18-inch wheels (with wider tyres than any other model in the range), the RS model has a bigger turning circle (11.0m vs 10.6m - or a radius of 5.5, vs 5.3m).

The suspension of the RS model has also been tweaked - the set-up remains a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, although the RS gets a specific tune to the dampers which Honda claims "deliver a more rewarding drive with flatter cornering, greater control and a more stable ride".

It's a decent improvement, with more agility and control to the vehicle over bumps. We drove the RS and VTi-LX, and in comparing those two models it was clear the RS was the better tune in terms of body control and overall compliance, even if it offered a minor penalty to pay over sharp edges at lower speeds. But the RS's suspension never felt too harsh - which is important for a vehicle like this.

The real question is - why didn't Honda just do the RS suspension tune for all HR-V models? Presumably that suspension set-up would be even more impressive on a smaller wheel with a bigger tyre sidewall...

The performance from the 1.8-litre engine isn't terrific, but it definitely gets the job done. You're not going to win many acceleration races, and it doesn't gather speed with as much urgency as some of its competitors that roll with turbocharged engines.

But the revisions to the CVT have been worthwhile - it feels a little more willing when you plant your foot, and there's less droning from the transmission. Plus RS and VTi-LX models gain additional sound deadening to try and reduce road noise, and these versions get different seats to the lower grade versions, too. They feel a bit more plush, then, and not just because of the leather seat trim.

There is no off road review to be done here. While the numbers suggest the HR-V could cope with some rough terrain, (ground clearance mm: 170mm), the off road capability is limited by the fact it is front-wheel drive only.

Sure, you might be able to fit a set of off-road tyres to the alloy wheels, and yes, that would look pretty cool. But I wouldn't go testing the wading depth in my HR-V, if I were you.

That's fine, though - this is a city-focused SUV, and it nails that task.

Cabin design and practicality is where the HR-V still shines brightest, even if it isn't as up-to-date as it could be. There are little things, like the fact that every model is fitted with a space-saving electronic parking brake, and those 'Magic Seats' that are fitted to all variants, that add to the smartness of the space. Admittedly, to be even more enticing, things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be added, plus a digital speedometer.

But all in all, the updated HR-V is an improvement on what was already a very good small SUV.


Mazda CX-38/10

In a world of constant downsizing, a 2.0-litre engine might sound brutish and bold in a car of this size, but 110 is certainly not an overpowering number of kilowatts. As a result, the petrol-powered CX-3 feels spry and sprightly, but certainly never sporty.

There is a Sport button you can press, but all it seems to do is hold the gear you're in for longer, causing the engine to drone on like a Peter Dutton speech, and not really making much happen in excitement terms.

A sports car this is not, obviously, so perhaps the words "more than adequate" are best for describing the car's performance. You're not going to fly up any hills, but you can zip off traffic lights with reasonable aplomb, and you're never genuinely found wanting for power. More torque would be nice for overtaking, but you could choose the diesel for that (if you're a ‘one percenter'). 

One of Mazda's goals with the new CX-3 was improving NVH and they've done a stellar job with that. While the old car was bit of a buzz box at times, the new one is far quieter and more refined in terms of road-noise intrusion, but if you are tempted to push on, the noise from the engine remains strident, and at times strained. 

In most driving conditions, however, it's a pleasant cabin to be in, with negligible road noise (although it's more noticeable with the optional 18-inch wheels). And if you do enjoy a slightly lower driving position, you have the ability to drop your chair to a point where you feel more like you are sitting in the car rather on it.

The newly fettled electronic power steering is sharp and fun to use, falling at that point just before it becomes too light and wafty to give proper feedback. The engineers concentrated on "rolling plushness", which is the feel you get through the wheel, basically, and produced an 18 per cent reduction in buzziness through the steering wheel.

Ride control is good over most surfaces - and with ground clearance of 155mm you won't  be going too far off road - but there's still a bit clatter over really sharp impacts. Overall, it's a very comfortable cruiser, even on our more brutal country roads. Mazda says it worked on "reducing choppiness", or vertical body movement, and it seems to have succeeded.

Cornering is something you can actually enjoy, if you care for that kind of thing, and this CX-3 benefits from Mazda's 'G-Vectoring Control' (GVC), which is meant to provide "neutral cornering" by minutely reducing torque output to the appropriate wheel to cancel out understeer, or oversteer moments.

It's all about giving the driver that sense of "oneness" with their vehicle that Mazda likes to call "Jinba-ittai" - horse and rider as one. In terms of horsepower and performance figures, they're not something CX-3 buyers are going to worry too much about, clearly, as Mazda makes no mention of  the car's 0-100km/h time. A bit of research uncovered the fact that it ranges from 9.0sec for the manual to 9.5 for the auto.  Not terrible, then.

Overall, much like the Mazda2 this vehicle is based on, the CX-3 is one of those cars that is genuinely as much fun as it looks, and slightly more fun than you expect it to be.

Throw in its good looks, economical engines and reasonably affordable pricing and it's a complete package. Up until the point where you have kids, and you're forced to upgrade to something that can actually carry a pram.

Safety

Honda HR-V8/10

The safety rating of the Honda HR-V remains a maximum five-star ANCAP score, which it was originally awarded in 2015.

The safety features list has been improved for this facelifted model, with the addition of a low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) system, known as 'City-Brake Active'. It will warn the driver and apply brake force at speeds from five-32km/h.

The best safety package is still reserved for the range-topping model, which gets full forward collision warning and AEB, plus lane departure warning and auto high-beam. You can't option that tech on the other models, either, which is kind of disappointing. Unlike some rivals, you can't get blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross-traffic alert, or adaptive cruise control. So the high-spec model's kit is good, but not great.

There's a reverse camera on all grades, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' camera on the top three specs. The base model can be optioned with rear parking sensors, and those are fitted to the three higher specs as standard, with the top spec model gaining front park assist sensors.

If you need to fit a baby seat, you'll be pleased to know there are two ISOFIX anchor points in the outboard rear seats, plus three top-tether attachments.

All HR-V models have six airbags.

A lot of people search "where is the Honda HRV built?" Well, firstly, it's the HR-V - hyphens are important. And secondly, you might be surprised to learn the answer is not Japan, it's Thailand.


Mazda CX-38/10

Mazda says its new CX-3 is part of its "aim for a safe and accident-free automotive society", which means the company is living slightly in dream land, but at least you know it's thinking about safety.

The 360-degree view monitor is very handy, but you can only have it on the Akari, where you'll also get eight parking sensors, while the base model makes do with rear ones only. 

Indeed, the base model goes without most of the safety goodies that are sprinkled across the more expensive variants - blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive LED headlamps, driver-attention alert (with a coffee cup popping up to remind you that you might be tired) and the very handy, almost autonomous radar cruise control with full stop and go function. 

What you do get on the entry Neo Sport is 'Smart City Brake Support', which works when moving forwards or backwards and is basically Mazda's name for AEB. The system works with both cars and pedestrians at speeds of up to 80km/h. The previous CX-3 received a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.

Ownership

Honda HR-V9/10

Honda has a strong ownership plan compared to some of its small SUV rivals.

With a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, it's among the best in the class. No need to worry about an extended warranty, like you might if you bought a Toyota C-HR or Suzuki Vitara. No model in this segment has anything better than the warranty that Honda offers.

As for capped price servicing, the plan spans up to 10 years or 100,000km - meaning service intervals of 12 months/10,000km, whichever occurs first. The service costs are pretty well under control, too, with the average capped price service costing $296, before additional consumables.

See our Honda HR-V problems page for issues, complaints, common faults and defects. It should be able to help you gauge the reliability rating of the car.


Mazda CX-37/10

Surprisingly, Mazda claims its customers are completely unconcerned by the fact that it doesn't offer free roadside assistance as part of its new and improved five-year warranty, although it does occasionally offer it as a promotional thing. I'd be negotiating hard to have it included in the price. 

The five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, from Mazda Motor Corporation itself, is a real selling point, however.

Servicing is due every 10,000km or 12 months and the first one will cost you $289, the second $317, third $289, fourth $317 and fifth $289. Seems to be a pattern there.