No more than 700 company car drivers are likely to get behind the wheel of the latest compact Mazda SUV over the next 12 months.
But the first wave of customers should soon be acting as ambassadors for the Japanese company’s entry in the fast-expanding B-segment SUV market, claim company officials.
“Our experience suggests that it takes a little time for corporate sector buyers to become aware of new products, and getting our first new model on the choice lists is probably the toughest challenge we face,” said Mazda Motors UK head of fleet Steve Tomlinson.
“However, the registrations start to come in not long after that point, and we tend to benefit from the snowball effect as word gets around about products that are regarded by drivers as good value and as having great kerb appeal.
“Once we have a car in a fleet, we often find ourselves supplying up to 15% of that company’s vehicles,” he added.
Speaking as the carmaker’s first small SUV model was launched in Spain, Tomlinson told Fleet News: “The CX-3 could well be regarded by some as a retail product, but I think it will do very well in fleet.
“It’s probably the most stylish vehicle in the sector, has good driving dynamics and feels more like a car than a sport utility.
“We’re doing great in our core fleet business of contract hire and leasing – registrations are up 37%, year-on-year – and we’re selling three times the number of company vehicles than we did two years ago.
“I’d like to think some of this progress is down to our work, but the improvements in our products have to take most of the credit. This car will add to that growth. I think it will appeal to salary sacrifice buyers, and it has potential in the public sector. Our initial volume plan is conservative, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up selling considerably more units,” added Tomlinson.
Due on sale in June, the CX-3 features bold styling, a high quality interior and comprehensive equipment levels. All versions come with Hill Hold Assist and tyre pressure monitoring as standard.
The mid-grade SE-L is particularly well packaged, including climate control, cruise control, lane departure warning and Smart City Brake, a low-speed emergency braking system that uses camera sensing to lessen the severity of impact if the driver fails to respond to vehicles or obstructions up to six metres ahead.
Petrol and diesel power are on offer, but another version of the 1.5-litre clean turbo diesel, recently introduced in the Mazda2, is expected to be the choice unit for fleets. Tuned to deliver greater torque, the motor features a low compression ratio and uses stop-start technology to achieve an operating economy that is claimed to approach hybrid levels. It also complies with Euro 6 requirements, without the need for an after-treatment system.
Linked with a new six-speed compact transmission, with a slick gear change, the diesel is a willing performer that remains subdued for most of the time and has a refined demeanour for impressively relaxed motorway cruising thanks to effective sound absorption treatment on door panels, floor matting and seats.
Designed as a class-above environment, the interior is sleek, with instruments angled toward the driver and a centrally-mounted touchscreen display. On the centre console, a rotary commander helps the driver control various functions without taking their eyes off the road.
Stitching on upholstery, trim and dashboard finishes give an upmarket feel to the CX-3 and, with best-in-class seat and steering wheel adjustment, it’s difficult not to find a comfortable driving position in a car body that is roomy enough to carry four six-footers in comfort.
Adding to the spacious interior is a box-shaped, 350-litre capacity boot that opens up to 1,260 litres volume when the 60-40 split rear seat is folded down.