Mazda’s 2016 CX-3 may just be the new benchmark for subcompact AWD crossovers. With a long list of standard safety and most wanted features, combined with sporty handling, impressive fuel economy and a reasonable price, the CX-3 can top the best in this burgeoning segment.
Offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, we tested the latter. So equipped, the CX-3 excels in all areas of consideration for new car buyers. Aside from having handsome styling, sumptuous amenities, the little crossover offers good fuel economy with EPA mileage ratings of 27 city, 32-highway mpg. And that’s coming from a 2,952-pound five door that’s powered by Mazda’s Skyactive-G, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The engine puts out a meager 146-hp and a matching 146 lb/ft of torque. Coupled to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission, acceleration from a standing stop with two adults aboard is lively. During highway passing and merging runs, the little four requires some spooling up to its ultimate torque range, and it breathes hard when doing so. But for around town driving, power is more than adequate. The only way this four banger could be even better is if Mazda added a turbocharger.
The CX-3 test car was an eye-grabber with its Ceramic Metallic paint job that appeared as a whitish light grey coloration. It’s different and very attractive. Slip inside the cabin and you’re treated to a blend of upscale styling and quality materials. No cheaping-out here. The nicely padded and supportive heated front seats were done in white with black sueded inserts and red piping that gave an eclectic look to the cabin. Step-in is a mere 16 inches yet there’s good undercarriage clearance to handle 6-inch deep snow. The back seat can hold three tweens or two adults in comfort.
A 7-inch touchscreen interface serves to control audio, rearview camera and GPS nav functions. The latter is not very detailed but comes in handy during a pinch when you get lost or look for an alternative major roadway. With i-Active Sense, a $1,920 option, you’ll get lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, Smart Brake Support, Smart City Brake Support, rearview camera and Mazda’s Radar Cruise Control. Standard fare consists of Bluetooth, Internet radio Aha/Pandora/Stitcher plus voice control, all of which adds to the cars’ attractiveness.
Back in the cargo area, there’s 12.4 cubic feet of space with the 60/40 rear seatbacks up, and 44.5 with them folded. More meaningful, the cargo area with seats up measures 27 inches deep, 37.5 wide and 27 high. Fold the seatbacks, which don’t fold perfectly flat, and there’s 57 inches of depth. In comparison, Honda’s new HR-V, which has a boxy shape, holds 58.8 cubic feet of cargo.
With its short wheelbase (101 inches), the CX-3 is nimble on its feet. It parks easily and is especially maneuverable. There’s nary any lean in sharp turns taken at speed. And the ride on 18-inch Yokohama tires is on the firm side. If a softer ride is preferred, opt for the Touring model that comes with 16-inch tires. The ride though is relatively quiet and smooth with the suspension soaking up most road imperfections. Over unimproved railroad crossings, the jostling transfers into the cabin a bit.
Substantially loaded with a long list of safety items and creature comfort niceties, the CX-3 carried a base price of $26,240. The only extra cost options were $850 for Mazda Mobile Start, $100 for rear bumper guard, $100 for door sill trim plates, $1,920 for the3 i-Active package and a delivery of $880, which brought the base to a reasonable $29,790.
As a content loaded AWD subcompact with an attractive price, Mazda has a bona fide winner on its hands. Unfortunately, it may just impact sales of its slightly larger CX-5 AWD