AKARI has a Swahili ring to it and most folk from East Africa would mentally connect it with askari.
But it’s Japanese for ‘light’ and has nothing to do with East African soldiers, or a bank in Pakistan.
The Akari is the top dog of Mazda’s CX-3 extensive range of compact SUVs, other members of which are Neo Sport, Maxx Sport and sTouring.
They come in a buyer choice of petrol or diesel, manual or automatic and front- or all-wheel drive.
Our Akari had a 2.0litre petrol engine under its snoot, with a six-speed auto driving all four wheels, and a drive away price of $37,490.
While it’s a big ask for a little vehicle, the Akari comes loaded to the gunwales with just about everything one could want in a car.
The cabin is in luxurious leather trim, there’s digital radio, a 7-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, climate control, cruise control, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, an anti-glare interior mirror and a fabulous magpie’s eye 360-degree view reversing camera.
The very pretty machine has a friendly shiny face with slanty LED headlights and daytime running lights and runs on 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlamps, LED taillights and daytime running lights, keyless entry and a sunroof.
There’s a strip of brightwork running along the lower length of the car and it looks good from behind too, with restyled LED taillights.
Also, the ‘handbrake’ is now one of those electronic versions.
I much prefer a traditional handbrake, but that probably betrays my vintage.
An upside is the change has liberated more space between the front seats, allowing a lid to be fitted on the console box so it can also serve as a central armrest.
Accommodation is great for the two in front, a bit squishy in the back seat though. However, bear in mind this size SUV is bought mainly by young people, those with no, uno or duo bambinos, and older ‘empty nest’ couples.
It’s a tallish vehicle, easy for creaky-jointed people to get in and out of, and with a good view of the countryside from within.
There are no ventilation slots in the back, but the front aircon provides sufficient volume for the entire interior.
The cargo space is tight at 264litres, but the 60/40 split/fold rear seats can be laid flat to expand the volume to 1174litres.
Mazda has tuned the 2.0litre Skyactiv-G engine for more power and it now produces 111kW – up a whole 1kW from last year’s 110.
Well, the CX-3 runs pretty well for a non-turbo, but we’d be lying if we said we noticed any extra oomph, but we hauled out the stopwatch anyway, and got a 9.6second run to 100km/h. Not bad.
What we did notice was the tyre pressure warning light.
It came on within 20 minutes of us getting in behind the wheel. So we stopped asap at a servo, checked the tyres and all four were at the correct pressure.
But the light stayed on.
Apparently there’s a reset button somewhere that should switch it off.
The suspension has also been looked at and now has better shockabsorbers and spring rates, cabin insulation has been beefed up to dampen road noise and the electric steering has been sparked up to make it a tad faster.
So it steers nicely, and despite its big alloys and lo-pro tyres, it soaks up most of the road irregularities, and is a really pleasant little machine to drive, or just be in.
The six-speed automatic transmission works well with the engine to provide quick, smooth shifts and a bonus is the CX-3’s camel-like approach to fuel.
It doesn’t need much. We averaged 7.1litres/100km.
Safety? Yes, everything.
There are 14 CX-3 models to choose from, all the petrol ones having the 2.0litre 111kW/195Nm engine. There’s also a 1.8litre turbo-diesel.
Prices start from $23,990, peak at $40,490 for the Akari Diesel.
Verdict: The CX-3 Akari is among the most sophisticated of the compact SUVs. East African drivers would say it was mzuri sana. That’s Swahili for ‘very good.’
- Equipment level
- Ease of entry/exit
- Great reversing camera
- Fuel economy
- Small cargo area
- Over-enthusiastic tyre sensor
- So-so infotainment system