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Comparison Test: Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 – Compact carrier knockout

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THERE are a few reasons why women prefer SUVs to other vehicles, and they can be quite fussy when it comes to making their choice.

The one main consideration that many of us would have in deciding on which car to buy is the well being of the family, or in the absence of one the thought of an appropriate one for when that day does arrive.

Now, as swanky as they can be, two-seater sports cars won’t do justice to such a plan and hatchbacks are unlikely to offer much help either; kids will go through rapid growth spurts and eventually, these cars won’t be able to accommodate as many full-grown adults as their owners might have thought.

And for us ladies especially, we prefer cars that offer large hip room as well as a broader, higher front vantage point. Then again, remember the adage “women are complicated”:  we can rarely decide between a bigger SUV and a slightly smaller compact SUV.

The Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3 were among the most eagerly anticipated small SUVs in 2015.

In the blue corner, the HR-V satisfies those who want to keep to their budgets whereas in the red corner, the newly launched CX-3 offers the right dose of driving excitement and its suite of automotive features which drives “techy” up a few notches given the class it sits in.

Which of the two won this writer’s heart eventually? “HR-V and CX-3, touch gloves, fight clean, and now back to your corners.”

Exterior and interior

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The HR-V’s sporty silhouette is nicely highlighted with distinctive running lines and ample use of curves. And in saying so, it is almost difficult to tell that it is legitimately a budget buy just by judging how it presents itself externally.

We tested the V variant of the HR-V which carries a price tag of RM121,500, a car valued lower than the price threshold of some others in the same category.

That being said the HR-V is not synonymous to the term “luxurious” given its limited in-car features, but it’s not exactly a bad thing.

With a neatly built centre console, a straightforward instrument panel and an air conditioner touch controller that are simple to operate, the HR-V without a doubt caters to the laid-back of us ladies.

Passenger room, on the other hand, comes nowhere close to tight.

Then there’s the CX-3 which costs slightly more than RM135,000. There’s a five-figure cost difference between it and the HR-V, but consider the features that it comes with. Two areas to pay compliments to are the Kodo design philosophy and SkyActiv engine.

The beautifully sculpted exterior design of the CX-3 is what makes it stand out especially in the eyes of a female beholder, and the design language has been inherited by its other siblings.

The dash is pretty neat and clean with a heads-up display unit. Though we found the floating MZD Connect infotainment system to be useable within a hassling reach, life can be made easier by using the navigation knob placed next to the handbrake.

Leather suede has been splashed all across its cabin with high-quality stitching on the upholstery and it’s one of the things that breathe new life into the CX-3.

There are two sides to the compact coin in this case, and the CX-3 comes with limited cabin space. This advantage becomes more apparent once you get into the back seating area due to its low roofline.

But that’s easily forgiven if you’re not one to travel long distances or constantly have full-size adults in tow, and especially given the car’s interior wow factors.

Driveability

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Mechanising the HR-V is a 1.8-litre i-VTEC SOHC engine connected to a CVT gearbox. Don’t get your hopes up too high though if “sporty” is what you’re aiming for, but with output and torque figures of 140hp and 172Nm individually, the HR-V has adequate power for daily driving duties.

Because the CVT technology possesses no fixed gear ratios, this compromises the exciting factor of the HR-V, by just a small pinch, we must say. However, in exchange, you’ll gain good fuel economy like we did at 7.4l/100km.

The CX-3’s 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G engine tailed on a Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission which powers this compact carrier is  proof that some of the best things in life do in fact come in small packages. We drove the CX-3  on city highways and found that it provides a well-balanced, more personal driving experience.

Steering is light but precise, and when travelling in clear traffic, the CX-3 feels nimble. Ecstasy is well replaced with a street-legal Sport mode which increases the car’s throttle response and brings cruising fun to a greater height. The fuel consumption figure we clocked in by the end of the test drive was 9.5l/100km.

Safety and technology

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Whether single or married with children, women would pay for reliable safety solutions. And if speed is nowhere on the top of your shopping list and you know for sure that safety doesn’t just stop at seatbelts, then scrutinise the features and technology that both these carriers have to offer.

The HR-V V variant featured comes with six airbags, however, the lower-spec S and E models only come with two. The automatic brake hold and electric parking brake functions come as standard across the HR-V line-up. The same goes for the vehicle stability assist and hill start assist features as well as Isofix fittings which can be found in all trims.

The CX-3 has most of what you would expect from a modern compact SUV. It is equipped with six airbags, Isofix anchor points, a HUD which projects real-time speed data at eye level, the i-STOP which automatically powers off the engine when the car comes to a halt after braking – therefore saving fuel – as well as the commander control knob for easier access to the LCD display.

Verdict

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To be frank, it’s a tough call. On one hand, the depressing present-day economic situation is taking a heavy toll on car buyers and the HR-V promises an option that has a drive-and-go attitude and gives you most of what you and your family need at a reasonable price for a vehicle of its kind.

On the flip side, the CX-3 managed to prove that modesty has never felt and looked so good, and when you couple that with superb driveability, it’s only a matter of time until you put pen to the dotted line. Our take? When you combine substance and style, the CX-3 possesses greater presence.  As long as our savings account permits it, we’d pick the Mazda CX-3 any given day.

Specifications of the Honda HR-V 1.8L V

Engine: 1,799cc four-cylinder SOHC i-VTEC

Max power: 140hp @ 6,5000rpm

Max torque: 172Nm @ 4,300rpm

Transmission: Continuous variable transmission

Safety features: Six airbags, vehicle stability assist, ABS, EBD, BA, automatic brake hold, Isofix

Price: RM121,500 OTR plus GST and insurance

Specifications of the Mazda CX-3

Engine: 1,998cc Skyactiv-G in-line four cylinder petrol

Max power: 146hp @ 6,000rpm

Max torque: 192Nm @ 4,000rpm

Transmission: Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic

Safety features: Six airbags, ABS with EBD, BA, DSC, TCS, hill launch assist, emergency stop signal, Isofix

Price: RM135,143 OTR plus GST and insurance

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About Adela Megan Willy

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