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Mazda wraps up triple title victory 

IT was a case of Christmas coming early for Mazda at the recent Scottish Car of the Year Awards when it was presented with three awards.

It’s been a busy year for the Japanese car company with three new models being launched – and they were an instant hit for myself and fellow awards’ judges.

The Tenerife News headline ‘New Mazda2 is a little gem’ was back in July after my first drive review in the five-door hatch which arrived on UK roads in March.

And it proved good enough to be awarded the Best Supermini title for 2015.

I tested another pair of Mazda models prior to the voting and wasn’t surprised when they left rivals in their tracks to lift the honours.

The all-new MX-5 raced to success in the Best Drop Top category and Mazda’s first small SUV – the CX-3 – collected silverware with the Best Crossover title.

Launched back in 1990, at a cost of £14,249, the MX-5’s popularity has made it the best-selling two-seater sports car of all time.

The fourth-generation model looks terrific and although it offers more comfort and technology than before, is still a pure roadster.

Moving up and down a slick six-speed manual gearbox, the MX-5 was at its best when tested on some winding roads.

With its rear-wheel drive, it offered top agility and handling when cornering at speed and great driving enjoyment.

There are two SKYACTIV-G petrol engine choices – 131ps 1.5-litre and 160ps 2.0-litre.

The test car was a top-of-the-range Sport Nav with the more powerful unit.

It sprinted out of the blocks with a zero to 62mph time of 7.3 seconds and with a top speed of 133mph was never lacking when quick acceleration was required.

I didn’t get the chance to drive with the top down on this occasion but did check out the fabric hood which is manual but can go down or up easily – and quicker than other electric offerings.

This is the lightest MX-5 to date and is shorter, lower and wider than its predecessor.

SKYACTIV technology brings improved levels of performance and economy with the test car capable of returning 40.9mpg combined.

I liked the sports-hugging driver’s seat in the high-spec cabin but wouldn’t recommend it to any Santa-sized drivers.

Likewise, the boot that has enough space for a couple of bags of presents but would struggle with sack loads.

There are five grades in the new line-up with prices ranging from £18,495 to £23,295.

Mazda’s new kid on the block – the CX-5 – would be much more suitable for those many shopping trips leading up to Christmas.

It arrived in the UK in June and offers a massive 18-strong model line-up, including front-wheel and all-wheel drive.

The newcomer might not offer the same fun and thrills as the MX-5 but it has lots of qualities – sharing its platform and SKYACTIV engines with the new Mazda2.

The test car was a 120ps 2.0-litre two-wheel drive Sport Nav.

It’s one of the most attractive SUVs on the road with its sporty looks.

Interior is smart and roomy with lots of head and legroom for rear passengers and I liked the driving position.

There’s a spacious 350-litre boot and this rises to 1,260 litres with the 60:40 split fold rear seats tumbled flat.

This was the smaller of the petrol engine choices – there’s also a 150ps version – but I thought it was well matched to this model and mid-range acceleration was excellent.

Once again, the six-speed manual gearbox allowed swift changes, and with a top speed of 119mph the CX-3 cruised smoothly at motorway speed.

It also handled well on minor roads with good accurate steering and ride comfort was good.

And the SKYACTIVE engine brings excellent fuel economy figures, 47.9mpg combined on the test car.

All models come with a high spec which on entry-level SE includes seven-inch colour touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth and multi-function steering wheel.

I enjoyed my time with the versatile CX-3 – well worth its Best Crossover title.

Prices range from £17,595 to £24,695 with the test model costing £20,495.