The Mazda CX-3 slots into the automaker's lineup just beneath the Mazda CX-5, and the all-new small crossover offers all of the flair and athleticism one can expect from today's Mazda lineup.
The Mazda CX-3 shares its competent underpinnings with the Mazda2. Handling is courtesy of a rear torsion beam axle and front struts. As in other Mazdas, SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY unites the Mazda CX-3's major components -- engine, transmission, body and chassis.
Three trims are offered: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All are powered by a 146-horsepower, 16-valve, all-aluminum 2.0L inline-four, which drives the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission featuring manual shift and Sport modes. Mazda CX-3 models return 29 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, All-wheel-drive is optional on all trims, with fuel economy numbers just slightly less, at 27 and 32 mpg, respectively.
Mazda CX-3 Sport trims are nicely equipped, with 16-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights, a rearview camera, remote keyless entry and push-button start, air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth voice-activated controls, a MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system with 7-inch touchscreen display, cloth seating and 60/40 split rear seatbacks.
Step up to the Mazda CX-3 Touring, and heated mirrors with integrated turn signal lamps can be found, as well as heated leatherette seats, a center armrest, and a leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob. Standard advanced safety features include blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Finally, the Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring features 18-inch wheels, an adaptive front lighting system with LED headlights, running lights and fog lights, LED taillights, a power moonroof, paddle shifters, leather seating, automatic climate control, navigation and a Bose 7-speaker audio system with HD radio.
The Sport can be ordered with the Premium Package, which adds Grand Touring items such as the power moonroof and Bose audio system. Meanwhile the Grand Touring offers the I-Activsense Package, with advanced safety features like radar cruise control and proximity warning, lane departure warning, smart braking, rain-sensing windshield wipers and more.
The Mazda CX-3 is one of the best-looking and most engaging subcompact SUVs in its segment. Compared with vehicles like the odd-looking Nissan Kicks and the visually sedate Honda HR-V, the CX-3 is imaginatively designed with cathartic sheet metal that lends to a handsome exterior appearance. It's rather dashing inside, too, with a straightforward, nicely appointed interior. Combine that with excellent driving dynamics -- don't forget the CX-3 has the same parents as the Miata -- and you've got one of the more interesting vehicles in the segment.
Mazda carries a reputation of building fun-to-drive vehicles, and that extends to the CX-3. Its 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine produces 148 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, giving the 2,809-pound CX-3 class-average acceleration. But horsepower and torque are the only elements where the CX-3 feels garden-variety.
The steering is direct and responsive, with high levels of feedback -- a typical Mazda trait. The suspension is definitely on the stiffer side of what you'd expect for a compact crossover, but it's never uncomfortable, even on the upsized 18-inch wheels of my Grand Touring tester. The solid chassis makes me more comfortable chucking the CX-3 a little harder into tight corners, with a welcome lack of body roll. The brakes, too, slow things down with confidence, with instant bite.
The Good Athletic handling and cathartic styling make this one of the most interesting players in the subcompact crossover segment.
The Bad Limited passenger and cargo space. Also, you can't get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and the available Bose audio system sounds downright ugly.
The Bottom Line The Mazda CX-3 offers less utility, but a lot more driving fun, than just about anything else in the class.
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