Mazda CX 3 2015 Australia is going to be crawling with pint-sized SUVs next year but the Mazda CX-3 is likely to take most of the spotlight. Available with a 1.5-litre turbo diesel or a 2.0-litre petrol engine it is expected to start between $20,000 and $25,000 when it goes on sale in March. It will join the Honda HR-V (February), Renault Captur (February), the next generation Suzuki Vitara (June), the unusually named Citroen Cactus (June), and the cutesy Fiat 500X (November). Mazda was somehow able to engineer the sportscar DNA of the Mazda MX-5 into the larger CX-5 crossover, so we’re hopeful the Japanese manufacturer will be able to do the same with the CX-3. This would include sharp steering, an excellent six-speed manual gearbox and minimal body lean in corners to set the CX-3 apart from its rivals.
Jeep Renegade The city-sized soft-roader market is so huge globally even off-road brand Jeep has joined the fray. The Jeep Renegade may look like a scaled-down Tonka Truck but it is based on the same underbody as the Fiat Punto, Alfa Romeo Mito and the Fiat 500X. Powered by a 1.4-litre turbo petrol or 2.0-litre turbo diesel matched to a segment-leading nine-speed automatic transmission, the Renegade is due in showrooms in October priced between $20,000 and $30,000. Jeep is splicing the Renegade into the Jeep lineup just below the Patriot, and it’s careful to note that it’s not replacing the Patriot. There’s not all that much of a difference in size, though. At an overall length of 166.6 inches, a width of 71.0 inches, and a height of 66.5 inches, the Renegade is only about seven inches shorter in length than the Patriot—although it’s actually slightly wider and taller, overall. Cargo volume is 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seatback up. Fold it down to the quite low cargo floor and you get 50.8 cubic feet.
Nissan Navara The first new Nissan Navara in 10 years arrives in showrooms in April with two new 2.3-litre turbo diesel engines (one with a single turbo, the other with twin turbos). The outputs are almost the same as the previous 2.5-litre turbo diesel, despite being smaller in capacity (a 118kW/403Nm version and a 140kW/450Nm version). Payload and towing capacity are yet to be confirmed but bank on a one-tonne cargo rating and a 3500kg towing limit (bringing the Navara into line with class leaders). The 550Nm Navara with the Renault 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 has been dropped. It will be a big year for utes, with a rebodied Mitsubishi Triton due in May, significant updates due for the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT50 in July, an all-new Toyota HiLux in October. The Nissan Navara is fantastic to drive off-road thanks to its four-wheel drive system, including a low range set of gear ratios for when it gets really tough. Hit the road, in two-wheel drive mode, and the Navara feels brisk. But if you head for the corners it shows its weakness: poor handling. If you take the motorway, things get worse with the loud, intrusive mechanical and road noise.