“But you’ll look sweet
Upon the seat
Of a Mazda CX-3 built for two”
Okay, I might have slightly altered a song that you may sung during preschool and/or kindergarten. But that song perfectly describes the latest entrant in the subcompact crossover class, the 2016 Mazda CX-3. Let me explain.
Mazda has been designing some of the sharpest looking vehicles for a few years and the CX-3 is no exception. The front end looks the same as the larger CX-5 and upcoming CX-9 with a large grill and chrome trim running along the outer edge into the headlights. Moving to the side shows off a flowing line that resembles an ocean wave. Finishing the look is a set of eighteen-inch wheels that come standard on the Grand Touring. The overall shape makes the CX-3 look bigger than it actually is.
This thought goes away once you get inside the CX-3. Interior space can be best described as intimate. The front seats provide good support and come with extra side bolstering to hold you in whenever you decide its time to horse around. The back seat is quite small with little head and legroom. I’m 5’8” and found that I barely fit. There needs to be a sticker attached to the rear windows saying “the rear seat to be used only in case of emergencies". Cargo space is also small with the CX-3 only offering 12.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 44.5 cubic feet with them down. Our CX-3 tester had an even smaller cargo area due to the subwoofer (comes with the optional Bose audio system) taking up valuable space. Measurements are 10.1 and 42.3 cubic feet respectively. This trails the Honda HR-V which offers 24.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 58.8 cubic feet when folded.
Power for the CX-3 comes from a 2.0L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder with 146 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque (@ 2,800 rpm). This comes paired with a six-speed automatic and the choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Our tester came with all-wheel drive. Around town the CX-3's 2.0 liter provides decent off the line power, but under heavier acceleration and at highway speeds, the engine struggles and sounds rough. Those who have timed the CX-3 to 60 mph say it takes about 8.5 seconds. The six-speed automatic delivers smooth and crisp upshifts, but is somewhat slow to respond when downshifting. Fuel economy for the CX-3 AWD is rated at 27 City/32 Highway/29 Combined. Our average landed around 26 MPG. Not bad considering the winter conditions the CX-3 was facing, along with the vehicle only having just a hair over 1,000 miles.
One key item Mazda points out on the CX-3 is the i-Active all-wheel drive system. Mazda says this system is able to predict road conditions through various sensors around the vehicle to provide information to the computer. From there, the computer is able to make various changes to all-wheel drive system to keep the vehicle moving through whatever mother nature decides to throw out. For example, if you turn on the windshield wipers, the system can tell that its raining and makes the necessary changes. Seems like a marketing gimmick, but it actually does make a difference. When the CX-3 was dropped off, the metro Detroit area was experiencing a big snow storm with snow amounts ranging from six to twelve inches. The all-wheel drive system was able to keep the CX-3 moving through deep snow drifts on the road. Even when stopped, you could tell the wheels spun briefly before the system made some quick adjustments to get the vehicle moving.
Handling is where the Mazda CX-3 truly shines. Around corners, the vehicle feels nimble and body motions are kept in check. Steering is towards the top of the class with excellent weight and feel of the road. The daily drive reveals the CX-3 having a compliant ride with some bumps making their way inside. One area Mazda still hasn’t been able to fully solve yet is noise isolation. There is a fair amount of road and tire noise coming into the cabin. We’re wondering if going for the sixteen-inch wheels on the Touring trim would fix this issue. Wind noise is kept to acceptable levels.
In terms of pricing, the Mazda CX-3 is right in line with competitors. Prices range from $19,960 for the base Sport front-wheel drive to $26,240 for the Grand Touring all-wheel drive. Our Grand Touring tester came to an as-tested price of $29,260 with most options added. This is a lot of cash to drop on a subcompact crossover. The only thing we can see why you might go to the Grand Touring is for the optional safety package that adds radar cruise control and automatic braking. Otherwise you can get a good amount of equipment from the CX-3 Grand Touring as options on the Touring. Making this price tag harder to swallow is the Mazda CX-5 Touring all-wheel drive that is only a few hundred dollars more than our tester ($29,820), and offers more space and can be optioned with automatic braking.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this review with the song and saying how it perfectly describes the 2016 Mazda CX-3. This a crossover that will work for either a single person or couple as there is enough space for their needs. A small family will feel cramped and wonder why there isn’t any more cargo space. In my notes for the CX-3, I made the connection between it and the Mazda MX-5 I drove a few weeks before. Both models are focused on providing driving excitement and sharp looks, but at the cost of practicality.
This isn’t to say the Mazda CX-3 is a bad crossover. I happen to really like it. But it only works for a certain group of people.
Cheers: Fun to drive, Clever all-wheel drive system, Looks that stand out
Jeers: You can get a CX-5 for the same amount of money as our tester, Rear seat best used in emergencies, Engine struggles when getting up to speed on a freeway
Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-3, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: Grand Touring AWD
Engine: Skyactiv-G 2.0L Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 146 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 146 @ 2,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/32/29
Curb Weight: 2,952 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
Base Price: $26,240
As Tested Price: $29,260 (Includes $900 Destination Charge)
GT i-Activesense Package - $1,920.00
Door Sill Trim Plates - $100.00
Rear Bumper Guard - $100.00