Speaking at the launch of the all-new Mazda 2 – the car upon which the new CX-3 will be based – Benders said that while no official details have been made public, he believes the car will offer buyers something that competitors such as the Ford EcoSport, Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008, Skoda Yeti and Nissan Juke haven't yet been able to.
“I think there’ve been a few false starts in the segment so far from different competitors, and they’re sort of scrambling,” Benders said. “If you look at the way they’re marketing [their respective products], they’re scrambling.
“It’s a bit of a half-baked range [of vehicles], that’s what we think. They’re not treating them as SUVs in the sense that the other bigger segments do, where there’s a few more options,” he said.
“So, I think when you see this car, and some of the others that are coming, you’re going to see it [get] a bit more thought-through.”
Benders suggested the issue isn’t so much around pricing and positioning of vehicles in the segment - which currently ranges between $21,990 (Peugeot 2008 Active) through to $33,590 (Skoda Yeti Outdoor) – but more about the idea of what the segment means, or should mean, to consumers.
“I think if you look at the range [of products currently on offer], it’s almost like [manufacturers] are not confident in the segment.
“What we’ve seen with downsizing, and what we’ve seen from our research is that people see it as a real segment, that they can get into an SUV at a smaller level,” Benders said.
“They’re not after the space, they’re after other things: the styling cues, the slightly raised seating position and stuff like that,” he said.
Some reports have suggested the new CX-3 will introduce all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, rather than stick with the current smaller output front-drive line-up currently offered in the 2 hatch (pictured below), which is what CarAdvice reported when we initially brought you the story of the CX-3 almost two and a half years ago. Benders could offer no confirmation or denial of any such drivetrain.
“They’ll probably release some of the product information at the Los Angeles show,” he said.
In terms of sales aspirations, Mazda Australia is being coy. However, the Japanese brand has confirmed it expects to sell 13,000 Mazda 2s in 2015, which would put the all-new car in-line with the current model at its recent sales rate, which has petered off after seven years on sale.
Mazda Australia senior public relations manager Steve Maciver said the CX-3 will likely take away some sales from the new 2 in 2015, but couldn’t confirm exactly when the new higher-riding model would make it to market here.
“We’ve done the sums – the way the market is moving … that small SUV segment is the only segment that has got volume in it that we’re not represented yet,” he said. “We’re very, very happy that we are going to be in there. That segment is only going to grow. There is no doubt that people who are buying those cars may potentially be a customer for a Mazda 2 or another light car.
“So there will be some affect, but we’re pretty confident that the numbers that we’ll get for Mazda 2 will put us towards the pointy end of the segment,” Maciver said.
“With CX-3, we’re not commenting on numbers just yet. But what we will say is that when CX-3 comes, there is the opportunity for some relatively significant incremental volume for our brand here in Australia.”