Mazda is the latest firm to throw its crossover hat into the ring, with this – the CX-3. Initial reviews have been very positive but the big question is – does it have what it takes to top the Nissan Juke?
The British-built Nissan is the most popular mini-crossover in the UK, and the car which essentially gave birth to the segment. We compare the two side-by-side to decide which will best fit buyers’ needs.
The Juke is something of a ‘Marmite’ car – its unusual styling divides opinion like little else. The sharp headlights that sit high on the bonnet contrast the two round spotlights below. The rear is more conventional, but some find its coupe-like profile slightly at odds with the chunky off road features found elsewhere.
When it comes to styling, Mazda is on something of a roll at the moment, and the CX-3 is the latest success story. The angular face lends it a modern, aggressive appearance that buyers seem to love, while the sides are swoopy enough for it to never be considered dull.
The Juke’s interior is slightly more conventional than its exterior. The centre console can be colour coded to either contrast or match the car’s exterior paint finish. Certain models allow similar options for sections of the seats, too.
The Juke is a pleasant place to sit as long as you’re in the front. Given the Juke’s supermini origins, it was never going to be limo-like in the back but headroom, in particular, is short of its most roomy rivals. Boot space is respectable, though, as long as you avoid four-wheel drive which reduces boot space from 354 to just 207 litres.
At 350 litres, the CX-3 all but equals the Juke’s boot and, like the Juke, rear headroom is slightly limited thanks to its swoopy roofline. For overall space, though, the Mazda gets the nod.
Like the exterior, the CX-3’s insides are pleasant to look at. Almost a carbon copy of the Mazda 2 supermini, the dash is simple, contemporary, and well bolted together. There are one or two cheap feeling plastics, but no more than you’d find in the Mazda’s main rivals.
If you’re after a small crossover that’s fun to drive, look no further than the CX-3. Testers frequently use words like ‘surefooted’ and ‘agile’ to describe the experience, thanks to accurate, well-weighted steering, and very little body roll.
The trade-off is that some will find the firmer ride a little wearing after a while. It’s not uncomfortable by any means, but some rivals let less of the road’s imperfections into the cabin. On longer journeys, wind and tyre roar make themselves evident but aren’t overbearing.
The same could be said of the Juke. It rides marginally softer than the Mazda, which in turn means it’s just a little bit more comfortable, but both of these cars are more focussed on driving fun than they are refinement.
The CX-3 is available with a choice of three different engines – two petrols and one diesel. A 2.0-litre petrol is available with either 118 or 148hp, while diesel fans are offered a 104hp 1.5-litre unit. Lesser units get a six-speed manual gearbox while more expensive ones get the option of a six-speed automatic.
The petrols offer impressive performance, while the diesel is more than adequate, yet returns claimed fuel economy of 70.6mpg, too. The most powerful petrol is available with four-wheel drive, as is the diesel but, unless you’re planning light off-roading, we wouldn’t bother. They’re slower, heavier, more expensive and less economical, while adding very little in the way of real-world benefit.
The Juke’s engine range is a little more extensive than the Mazda’s. Like the CX-3, one diesel option – a 70.6mpg-rated 1.5-litre diesel – is offered, but the Juke also features a choice of four petrols. The pick of the petrol range is the 1.2-litre turbo – performance is more than brisk enough for everyday use, yet it’ll return just over 50mpg.
Unlike the Mazda, Nissan makes a hot hatch option. The Juke Nismo RS uses a 215hp 1.6-litre turbo to help it cover the 0-62mph sprint in seven seconds. It may not quite boast the finesse of a Ford Fiesta ST or a Peugeot 208 GTI, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
Value for money
The Nissan is much cheaper to buy than the Mazda – prices start at just over £13,600 relative to the CX-3’s starting point almost £4,000 higher.
The Mazda’s increased price is thanks to its more generous equipment levels – unlike the Juke, it gets loads of equipment as standard including air-conditioning and an infotainment system with DAB radio and Bluetooth. Prices even out higher up the range, but it’s still the Juke which is the cheaper to buy.
Based on our aggregated wowscore alone, the Mazda CX-3 is the one to have – its 7.8 rating trumps the Nissan’s 6.9. The CX-3 is more fun to drive than the Juke, it’s equally frugal, and the stylish interior is both more spacious and better equipped.
However, it’s easy to see why the Juke is so popular. With such a low starting price, people who like the Juke’s style will be bowled over by how much car they can get for the money. They’ll have to be willing to sacrifice one or two of the creature comforts that are standard in the Mazda, however.
If you’re looking to spend £18,000-20,000 on a new car, the Mazda is the one we’d go for. If you’re on a tighter budget than that – the Juke will be brilliant as long as you’re happy with its extroverted style.
Pop either the Mazda CX-3 or the Nissan Juke in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. If you’re looking for an even better discount, check out our deals page or, if you’re still struggling over what car to pick, head over to our car chooser.