Remember the movie Outbreak, where a monkey played host to a deadly virus called Motaba that became airborne and rapidly spread across the US? Well, replace the word Motaba with SUV and you have yourself a somewhat dramatic indication of the rise of SUVs in Australia.
If we take a look at the figures, SUV sales have increased while the sales of the more popular passenger car segment has dropped. If we dive in further, medium SUVs have the higher sale numbers, but small SUVs have the faster growth.
Mini-SUVs are tall cars made for the city. In the case of the Mazda CX-3, the wheelbase – the measurement from the front wheels to the back wheels – is identical to the Mazda2. The major difference, however, is the CX-3’s all-wheel drive and diesel-engine options.
With that in mind, the WhichCar team naturally had to see what all the fuss was about. And what better way to do this than with one of Australia’s newest and most popular small SUVs. We grabbed the keys to the CX-3 Akari 2.0L petrol AWD and prepared ourselves for a road trip to see the delights of Victoria’s Yarra Valley.
There’s a lot of preparation that goes into upgrading to an SUV. Trips to the shops are delayed to avoid the hassle of parking, and one’s ‘dump-and-run’ garage needs to be renovated to fit the bigger car. You can imagine our delight when we realised the CX-3 is pretty much a hatchback on steroids, which meant the little red bubble found itself right at home in our little spot in the WhichCar garage.
The CX-3’s style stood out on first impressions. Crisp edges and the blacked-out pillars make the glass appear as if it’s extended all the way around the back, while the black wheel arch brings out the touch of metallic in the wheels.
When Friday finally arrived – and we’d finished playing jigsaw puzzles fitting our weekend gear into the minute boot space – it was time to hit the freeway. Around town, tyre noise wasn’t much of an issue, but once on the open road it took a bit of getting used to. Then again, we stopped noticing after a while because our music was turned up pretty loud – it was a girl’s trip, after all.
Despite it being the middle of winter, which meant the foliage of the Yarra Valley was in hibernation, it was still a welcome escape from city life. It just meant that instead of frolicking between the vines for selfies, we went in search of warm fires and hot chocolates – and what better place to stop than the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. We’re not usually ones for visiting the touristy stuff, but when they mentioned chocolate, I couldn’t resist! I guess it was the right thing to do when you’re designated driver and can’t drink the wine.
But what's a trip to the Yarra Valley without a stop at the beautiful De Bortoli Winery, even if you can’t drink the product? In truth, this was the perfect ditching ground. While my friends were inside sipping red, I launched into the opportunity to take the Mazda CX-3 onto the unsealed roads. With permissions in hand, I took to the access tracks between the winery’s vineyards. Expectations weren’t high for the little bubble, but I was interested in seeing what it could do. And boy was I surprised.
Sure, I’m not about to attempt anything too extreme in the CX-3, but it took to the gravel roads with a confidence I didn’t expect of it. The suspension was a little stiff and the ride firm, so it meant my derriere copped the brunt of the bumps. It wasn’t the smoothest SUV I’ve ever driven, but it wasn’t the most uncomfortable, either. Who knows, maybe my next step is to pack up a CX-3 and move to the Nappa Valley where I can drive between vineyards all day long.
At least the Nappa Valley would be warmer than it was in the middle of July in the Yarra Valley. Luckily, we had booked ourselves a couple of rooms at Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort – we had to maintain our stylish reputation, after all. Finally, it was my turn to indulge in a glass of wine!
The CX-3 may have soaked up the Melbourne roads just fine, but it was the open roads of the Yarra Valley where it really hit its stride. I was even reluctant to give the keys back – I enjoyed it a little more than I expected. From the city to the weekend getaway, this car is everything you want in a small SUV.
Click here to read more about the Mazda CX-3.
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