The Sporty Crossover Comparo: Mazda CX-3 X Nissan Juke X Honda HR-V

Breaking Minimum Requirements 

As the paradigm shift changes from cars to crossovers, this comparo was bound to happen.

We saw a new trend that was eventually going to boom back in 2014 when the Ford EcoSport was first released. It was definitely one of a kind at the time, with barely any competitors. It was a subcompact crossover, which was destined to be perceived as the better alternative versus the subcompacts with the changing wants and needs as new drivers are being introduced to the imperfect and tight roads of the metro. It was essentially an SUV with the convenience of a small car: cheap to own and cheap to use. Two years later, the streets are filled with them and every manufacturer is trying to get into the game.

Crossovers don’t have to be just utilitarian. It never hurts to add some flare to something that useful. Like what I always say: Looking cool and feeling good is half the battle. For this comparo, we wanted to get the crossovers that were desired by enthusiasts. These were capable of everything practical while still looking cool and sporty with a price cap of below 1.4 million pesos. We ended up with the spunky Nissan Juke, the coupé inspired Honda HR-V, and the athletic Mazda CX-3. Our goal: to find the one that can carry guys, gear, and go the distance for a weekend getaway while making the driver enjoy its dynamics as well as its ownership.

Driving Dynamics

“I think we know who the clear winner is”, said Nico, as he was looking at the Mazda CX-3 I brought. Can’t blame him, this crossover is really a head turner.

“Well, we are here to test everything in more ways than one”, was my reply as I was checking out the Nissan Juke he came in with. Some love the way it looks. Others find it weird. But either way, it grabs attention. I wish it came in red though, to change the mind of the likes of Mikko who found it an odd ball among the bunch. He brought in the Honda HR-V, which he seemed to have enjoyed.

Not to cut his delight short, but now was the part where we had to switch cars in order for all of us to get a good grasp on each of them. By the time we reached Subic, we each had our impressions with how the vehicles felt to drive.

The Juke was the least athletic among the three, needing to pull the most effort when overtaking was concerned, while the other 2 were head to head. Considering though that it was the most efficient in the group, clocking in almost 20km/L on the highway, it was a characteristic that is very forgivable. What we did like was its steering response and suspension. The way it turned was intuitive at any speed. As for the suspension, it was just right with enough firmness at the turns, but plush where it counted. The more we drove it, the more we fell in love with it.

The HR-V was the most comfortable to sit in, attributed to its legroom and seats. Iflong-distance driving were involved more often, this would be our top pick. The suspension was on the stiffer side, but not in an aggressive way at least. Its steering was light throughout, which made it more ideal for long straights or metro traffic rather than spirited driving. It has a lot of power thanks to its 1.8L that it shares with the Honda Civic, which boosts confidence in overtaking. What was remarkable as well was that even with so much power at the pedal, it manages to be very predictable.

As predicted, the most driver-centric of the 3 would be the Mazda CX-3 (no pun intended). It genuinely feels like the sporty crossover that drives so Mazda, for lack of a better term. It had the most aggressive suspension and the most intuitive power delivery among the bunch of crossovers. It had really good NVH ratings, which made the engine note a joy to hear as you take the winding roads. It had really good steering characteristics, but we suspect that because of its crossover platform, it wasn’t as tight as, let’s say, the Mazda2 or Mazda3. Other than that, it seemed to be the most desired crossover.

As we reached our destination, it may have looked like a done deal when Mikko exclaimed, “Man, that CX-3 is something!”

We’ve only just begun. Sure, driving dynamics might be the aspect that would make driving enthusiasts get it, but their practical capability is what makes them decide to get a crossover over a sporty compact car altogether.

Ground Clearance

This is where things get really interesting. We can talk all day on what manufacturers say about water wading capability, but nothing beats the good ol’ measuring tape when it comes to see who has the highest riding height. If we included the mudguards that all the vehicles came with, the Juke wins the ride height game at 205mm followed by the CX-3 at 150mm and the HR-V at 125mm. If the mudguards were to be removed though, the HR-V takes the cake at 280mm followed by a really close second with the Juke at 275mm. The CX-3 takes last place at a whopping 240mm. Not only is it one and a half inches shorter than the other two, it is close to subcompact car ride height by only 3 inches at best. If you asked me who took 1st prize in ground clearance, it was obviously the Juke.

Interior Space

Before we measured the interior space, we did a mix of unconventional tests: one that involved putting in a weekend’s worth of gear while the other involved fitting 3 riders at the back (more of 2 big guys and a half). The clear winner of fitting everything inside was the Honda HR-V. It not only had a low loading height of 610mm from the ground, it had so much room to spare after loading everything inside. The CX-3 and Juke may look even in the cargo category, but the Juke actually has a hidden compartment that when flipped up reveals a plastic bin that can stowaway even more gear that you can conveniently pull out. Clearly, the Nissan Juke has a personal touch to things. The CX-3 on the other hand is  “what you see is what you get.”

When we all tried to sit at the back, it was clear that the HR-V had the most shoulder room, both by feel and by measure. Peculiarly, as much as the Juke felt like it had more shoulder room compared to the CX-3, the CX-3 measured 10mm more shoulder room than the Juke. This prompted us to check the headroom, which the Juke had a lot more of, 20mm to be exact.

Conclusion

We really thought this was going to be an easy comparo, since deep in our DNA we are all enthusiasts that love to drive. But as the tests grew more extensive to the practical side of things, it got tougher to decide who should win this free-for-all brawl on which is the best sporty subcompact crossover among the 3.

The Mazda CX-3 felt the most athletic to drive, but in achieving that characteristic, it had to lean out to the point it had to sacrifice space both for the passengers and cargo. If the only one involved with the CX-3 is the driver, it would have been perfect. But being a crossover, it has to be something that can handle more than just 1 person.

The Nissan Juke was the underdog in this competition. Not only was it the cheapest, it had looks that people either loved or hated. What I noticed though was the more we used it, the more we fell in love with it. It was practical and easy to use, which is what being a crossover is all about. Sure, it might not have been the best when it comes to delivering a sporty drive or having top-of-the-line equipment, but it won our hearts with making sure we had everything that we needed. With how everything is put together, the Juke is clearly something that is meant to be personal. Commit to it and it will make sure you will be happy with its ownership.

This leaves us with the Honda HR-V.

Nico put it best when he said “It just ticks all the boxes”.

The Honda HR-V may have been the close runner-up on the things that an automotive enthusiast would want, but first place by a mile in everything that someone will look for in a crossover. In the same footprint versus the other 2, if offered so much more space inside that allowed us to put so much cargo inside with room to spare, while the others were struggling just to fit. It was athletic enough to enjoy winding roads and excellent for the open road.  And its mature look ensures that it will be a pleasing sight to see for a long while. It may be PhP 263,000 more expensive than the Nissan Juke, but after all our tests: it is worth paying for if it is in your budget.

So, for this sporty crossover comparo, the winner is the Honda HR-V E.

 

Nissan Juke

Engine: Inline-4, dohc, 16V, CVT

Max Power (bhp @ rpm): 115 bhp @ 6000 rpm

Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm):  116 lb/ft @ 4000 rpm

0-100 km/h [or 0-62 mph](sec): 11.5 sec.

Top Speed (km/h): 185 km/h

Fuel Milage (km/L):  19.2 km/L Highway

Price as Tested (PhP): PhP 980,000.00

Length x Width x Height (mm): 4135mm x 1765mm x 1580mm

Wheelbase (mm): 2520mm

Ground Clearance: 205mm with mudguard, 275mm without mudguard

Loading Height: 810mm

Rear Seat Shoulder Room: 1270mm

Strict Box Size at the Trunk: 510mm x 900mm x 430mm

 

Honda HR-V 1.8 E

Engine: Inline-4, 1799 cc, sohc, 16V, i-VTEC, CVT

Max Power (bhp @ rpm): 141 bhp @ 6,500 rpm

Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm):  127 lb/ft @ 4,300 rpm

0-100 km/h [or 0-62 mph](sec):  10.1  sec.

Top Speed (km/h):  198 km/h

Fuel Milage (km/L):  18.9 km/L Highway

Price as Tested (PhP): PhP 1,243,000

Length x Width x Height (mm): 4294mm x 1772mm x 1605mm

Wheelbase (mm): 2610mm

Ground Clearance: 125mm with mudguard, 280mm without mudguard

Loading Height: 650mm

Rear Seat Shoulder Room: 1360mm

Strict Box Size at the Trunk: 630mm x 1010mm x 550mm

 

Mazda CX-3 AWD SkyActiv

Engine: Inline-4, 1998 cc, dohc 16V, VVT, Direct Injection, 6-speed AT

Max Power (bhp @ rpm): 146 bhp @ 6000 rpm

Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm):  146 lb ft @ 2800 rpm

0-100 km/h [or 0-62 mph](sec):  8.2  sec.

Top Speed (km/h):  198 km/h

Fuel Milage (km/L):  17.6 km/L Highway

Price as Tested (PhP): PhP 1,480,000, *FWD Sport = PhP 1,380,000

Length x Width x Height (mm): 4275mm x 1765mm x 1535mm

Wheelbase (mm): 2570mm

Ground Clearance: 150mm with mudguard, 240mm without mudguard

Loading Height:  810mm

Rear Seat Shoulder Room: 1280mm

Strict Box Size at the Trunk: 460mm x 960mm x 460mm

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Deputy Editor