New Mazda CX-3 & Renault Captur vs Seat Arona

Having been trounced by the Seat Arona, Mazda and Renault have revised their CX-3 and Captur small SUV offerings...

04 January 2019
New Mazda CX-3 & Renault Captur vs Seat Arona

The contenders

Mazda CX-3 2.0 Skyactiv-G 121 SE Nav+

List price £18,995

Target price £17,918

Mazda’s smallest SUV has recently been facelifted so gets another crack at class honours. 

Renault Captur 0.9 TCe 90 Iconic

List price £16,500

Target price £15,531

Revised trim levels could make the low-priced Captur a more appealing option.

Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 95 SE Technology

List price £17,830

Target price £16,214

The current class champ, thanks to its good driving manners, practical interior and low price.


A quick look at the power outputs and brochure prices of these three might lead you to believe we’re comparing apples with oranges. After all, the recently facelifted Mazda CX-3’s 2.0-litre petrol engine is way gutsier than the Renault Captur’s tiny 0.9-litre motor, but then that’s hardly surprising, because the former costs £2500 more to buy.

Only here’s the thing: very few have the wherewithal to hand over their debit card for a swipe of nearly £20,000. Nope; you’re far more likely to sign up for a PCP finance deal, and if you do that, the CX-3 will cost you just £8 more per month than its French rival.

Tempted? If so, we don’t blame you. But before you buy any small SUV, you should definitely consider the third in this test: the Seat Arona. It has been our class favourite for more than a year and, thanks to Seat’s current 0% APR finance offers, will cost you even less per month than the Captur.

Mazda CX-3 Front

Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

There’s a clear pecking order when it comes to performance. The CX-3’s engine may be the only one that doesn’t have a turbocharger, but the Japanese car will still comfortably out-accelerate the Europeans in all situations. True, you need to rev it hard to get the very best from it, but it still builds speed the quickest when you put your foot down at low revs without changing down a gear.

The Arona isn’t too far behind in those low-rev situations, so it doesn’t feel noticeably slower than the CX-3 when you’re just pootling about town. But the Captur most definitely does; it always takes far longer to wind its way up to cruising speeds, and its shortage of pulling power means you have to work the engine hard just to keep pace with faster traffic. The obvious flatspots in the power delivery as you build up speed don’t help matters.

Renault Captur front

The Captur is also the hardest to drive smoothly; its numb clutch and the sluggish response of its engine to prods of the accelerator mean you have to concentrate when pulling away to avoid stalling. Its gearshift is also rather woolly, and the amount of travel in the brake pedal before anything happens is another bugbear.

Driving smoothly is far easier in the CX-3, but it’s the Arona that has the most feelsome clutch pedal, agreeable gearshift and responsive brakes. The first time you get behind the wheel, you almost feel as though you’ve been driving it for months. Everything just feels natural – which is exactly how it should be.

Around town, you’ll appreciate the Captur’s spongy suspension, because it does the best job of taking the sting out of potholes and irons out minor imperfections the most adroitly. But at higher speeds, the rhythmic swaying from side and side (and nose to tail) becomes a little grating. The other two are altogether more firmly sprung, so they don’t suffer this problem, but they’re more jittery along pockmarked urban streets – particularly the CX-3.

Seat Arona front

The CX-3 and the Arona are leagues ahead when it comes to handling. The Captur leans like a palm tree in a hurricane if you tackle a corner with any real vigour, whereas the CX-3 resists body roll surprisingly well by small SUV standards. The Arona is somewhere in the middle for body control, but it has by far the best steering of the trio, so it’s actually the most enjoyable to drive along a snaking road.

Next: Behind the wheel >

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