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“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.

 


2016 Mazda CX 3 Grand Touring AWD 9


At least Mazda did an impressive job when it comes to the design of the CX-3’s interior. A sleek looking dash features a small chrome bar running between a set of air vents. Various trim pieces are finished in contrasting colors to set off the interior. All CX-3s feature a seven-inch color touchscreen with the MazdaConnect infotainment system. The Grand Touring is the only trim that comes with navigation. Much like our experience in the MX-5 Miata, trying to use the touchscreen is more an exercise in frustration since you don’t know which controls are touch enabled. It is easier to use the control knob to move around the system.

 

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.

 


2016 Mazda CX 3 Grand Touring AWD 8


 

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.

 


2016 Mazda CX 3 Grand Touring AWD 7


 

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

 

Year: 2016
Make: Mazda
Model: CX-3
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)

 

Options:
GT i-Activesense Package - $1,920.00
Door Sill Trim Plates - $100.00
Rear Bumper Guard - $100.00


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Cool Review, so in other words, buy the CX5 over the CX3 as you will be happier as will your passengers is the message I get here.

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Cool Review, so in other words, buy the CX5 over the CX3 as you will be happier as will your passengers is the message I get here.

 

If you're single or a couple, go with the CX-3. Families, jump to the CX-5. 

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Cool Review, so in other words, buy the CX5 over the CX3 as you will be happier as will your passengers is the message I get here.

 

If you're single or a couple, go with the CX-3. Families, jump to the CX-5. 

 

Bill, what about people over the national average hieght of 5'10" for men, can the CX3 fit them?

 

Ya know I will always ask the question if my 6'6" tall body can fit! :P

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Cool Review, so in other words, buy the CX5 over the CX3 as you will be happier as will your passengers is the message I get here.

 

If you're single or a couple, go with the CX-3. Families, jump to the CX-5. 

 

Bill, what about people over the national average hieght of 5'10" for men, can the CX3 fit them?

 

Ya know I will always ask the question if my 6'6" tall body can fit! :P

 

 

I can answer that since I'm just under that  (5'8"). Up front, yes. Back, no.

 

dfelt: I can easily assume that your frame wouldn't fit most vehicles :P

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:roflmao: Thanks Bill, Yes that is why I only drive full size SUVs except for the Trailblazer but then that is more of a block body style and I fit in either the front or back. :P

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      Exterior
      Between the two vehicles, the Rio stands out considerably. Like the previous model, the new Rio has a fair amount of European influence with neatly proportioned body and clean lines. The front end is quite low and features a narrow top grille and deep slits in the bumper for a set of fog lights. 15-inch alloy wheels come standard on EX. Unlike the Accent, the Rio is still available in as a hatchback.
      The Accent goes for the safe approach with a simple three-box sedan design. This isn’t helped by the silver color on my test vehicle which makes it become somewhat anonymous. The only real design traits are in the front with a new grille shape that is appearing on new Hyundai models and cutouts in the bumper for accent trim on our base SE tester or foglights on higher trims. One way the Accent SE stands out from the Rio LX is painted door handles and mirror caps.
      Interior
      There are no frills to be found in the Accent’s interior. Like the outside, Hyundai went for a simple and honest design. Material quality is what you expect in the class - hard plastics on most surfaces. But the plastics have a solid feel. All Accents feature basic front seat adjustments - fore/aft, height (driver only), and recline. I was able to find a position that worked for me quite quickly. One item to be aware of is the SE doesn’t come with a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel; SEL models and above get that feature. Space in the back is average for the class with a decent amount of headroom, but a limited amount of legroom.
      Kia added some style to the Rio’s interior with a sculpted dash featuring two-tone plastics. Hard plastics make up the majority of interior surfaces with a grain texture pattern. Like the Accent, the plastics have a very solid feel. The layout is simple with most controls in easy reach. Finding a comfortable position took no time with a basic set of seat adjustments and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. However, I found the seats in the Rio to not be as supportive on long trips. The back seat mirrors the Accent; ok headroom and a small amount of legroom.
      Infotainment
      The Rio EX comes with a 7-inch infotainment system with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. No navigation system is offered, but you won’t need it as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard. It will not take long to familiarize yourself with UVO thanks to a well-thought out interface and dedicated buttons for various features. Performance is impressive with the system responding very quickly to inputs.
      Over at the Accent SE, it comes with a 5-inch touchscreen radio. For the most part, the system was simple to use with redundant buttons for various functions, simple interface, and large touchscreen buttons. I only wished that the screen was slightly larger when I was scrolling through my iPod. One surprise was the SE getting Bluetooth as standard. Kia doesn’t offer Bluetooth on the base Rio LX.
      Powertrain
      Both the Accent and Rio use the same 1.6L inline-four engine producing 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. What differs between the two is the transmission; the Accent SE comes with a six-speed manual while the Rio EX makes do with a six-speed automatic. Between the two, the Accent is noticeably quicker. The manual transmission allows the engine to flex what little muscle it has to get the vehicle up to speed. In the Rio, the automatic’s programming smothers the small amount of power to improve fuel economy. There is a Sport mode that holds onto gears longer, but it doesn’t make much of a difference. Neither of the transmissions can help the 1.6L on the freeway as the engine struggles to get up to speed at a decent rate.
      Fuel Economy
      EPA fuel economy figures are almost identical for the two models. Both return 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. The difference is in the combined figure; the Rio returns 32, while the Accent returns 31. I got an average of 34 in the Rio and 33 in the Accent.
      Ride and Handling
      There are more similarities between the Rio and Accent when it comes to the driving experience. Both still employ struts in the front and a torsion-beam rear axle. But the body has been stiffened which helps with ride quality. Both models exhibited excellent isolation of most road imperfections. Handling is another place where the two surprised me. While not exhibiting the sporty characteristics of a Ford Fiesta, both the Accent and Rio show little body roll and feel quite nimble. The steering is light, but provides a decent amount of feedback when pushed. 
      Pricing
      The 2018 Hyundai Accent begins at $14,995 for the base SE with manual transmission and climbs to $18,895 for the Limited. Our test SE with optional floor mats came to an as-tested price of $16,005. While it does cost $1,095 more than the base Rio LX, the Accent SE comes with more features such as Bluetooth, full power accessories, and a rear USB port.
      The 2018 Kia Rio kicks off at $13,900 for the LX sedan and climbs to $18,700 for the EX hatchback. The EX sedan tester came to an as-tested price of $19,425 with carpeted floor mats and destination. It is a bit hard to stomach the price tag when you can into some decently equipped compact sedans such as the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze for similar money. Even after you factor in the EX getting forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, it’s still a tough sell.
      Verdict
      Trying to decide which of the two subcompacts was the winner in this piece was very difficult as they share so much. Beginning with the Rio EX, it is a very sharp looking subcompact with a fair amount of European influence and it is available as a hatchback. But the automatic transmission suffocates what little performance is on offer from the 1.6L engine. Plus the price tag of the EX is very difficult to swallow when you can step up into a compact for similar money. If it was the midlevel S, this would have been a closer fight.
      This brings us to the Accent SE. It's styling inside and out is a bit plain when pitted against the Rio. The lack of hatchback also makes the Accent a bit of hard sell to some buyers. But the list of standard features on the base model is very surprising. Plus, the manual transmission allows the engine to have some flexibility in most driving situations. 
      Both models are towards the top in the subcompact class. But in this comparison, the base Accent SE nips the top-line Rio EX by a hair.
      Disclaimer: Hyundai and Kia Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Accent
      Trim: SE
      Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/31
      Curb Weight: 2,502 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Nuevo Leon, Mexico
      Base Price: $14,995
      As Tested Price: $16,005 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats: $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Kia
      Model: Rio
      Trim: EX
      Engine: 1.6L 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32
      Curb Weight: 2,714 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Pesqueria, NL, Mexico
      Base Price: $18,400
      As Tested Price: $19,425 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $130.00
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