2018 Mazda CX-3: Dynamic little CUV gets tech, refinement updates

Sharpest-handling subcompact crossover SUV gets a bit more grown up with new convenience and safety features.

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
2 min read

Mazda's CX-3 has always been an ebullient little crossover SUV, with sharp looks and even sharper handling. For 2018, it's getting a grab bag of updates, including new tech features, a revised suspension and various elements aimed at improved noise abatement. 

Chief among the tech updates are Smart City Brake Support -- Mazda's way of describing autonomous emergency braking at speeds up to 19 miles per hour. And on the handling front, the company's novel G-Vectoring Control comes standard on all-wheel drive models. The technology momentarily (and imperceptibly) pauses engine torque while keeping tabs on throttle and steering inputs in an effort to improve steering feel and aid passenger comfort in corners.

Cabin updates include available new features like a power driver's seat with memory, heated steering wheel and a new full-color version of Mazda's Active Driving Display. The latter is a head-up display system that projects key bits of information like speed onto a translucent pane of plastic ahead of the driver. (In the past, Roadshow has found this solution to be inelegant and cheap-looking compared to a traditional on-the-windshield HUD, so hopefully this update is a big improvement).

2018 Mazda CX-3 gets new tech and refinement upgrades

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It might not look it since its appearance is essentially unchanged, but there's also been some substantial changes under the CX-3's skin, too. In terms of suspension, the front lower control arms are new for 2018, as are a set of reworked dampers. There are even new engine mounts to help boost drivetrain refinement, along with a host of changes aimed at quieting down the CX-3's sometimes-raucous interior. Thicker rear windows, new underfloor sound-deadening mats and revamped door seals are all designed to improve the CX-3's refinement quotient.

Since going on the market for the 2016 model year, the Japanese automaker's smallest utility vehicle has provided a lot of smiles thanks to its best-in-class handling and contemporary design. However, it's had a comparatively tough time taking on key rivals like the Honda HR-V in areas like overall refinement and interior space. This round of updates for 2018 should definitely help the former, but won't address the fact that the CX-3 has one of the most cramped cabins in an already small class.

Watch this: Rivals: Which CUV will come out on top?

While it's true that the CX-3 has a number of diminutive dimensions, one of them is particularly attractive: Price. For 2018, a FWD CX-3 Sport starts at $20,110 and a top-shelf all-wheel-drive Grand Touring model rings up at $26,415 before options and $940 for delivery ($985 in Alaska). The new models are starting to hit dealers regionally right now, and should be available nationwide by September.