Mazda’s CX-3 is one sporty, handsome and affordable subcompact SUV. It goes up primarily against Subaru’s Impreza and Forester, which are essentially two models favored by over- 65 folks who use them and their AWD capability for grocery shopping and doctor visits. The CX-3 on the other hand is focused on the rest of the population who want fashionable styling, AWD, sporty handling, fun to drive quotient, some utility and good fuel economy.
In this its second model year, the CX-3 and slightly larger CX-5 are Mazda’s top sellers. For families of four and larger, Mazda’s much larger CX-9 offers a spacious interior and enlarged cargo capacity. But for the young at heart, the CX-3 has it all.
Offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels, we tested the latter. With it comes adaptive LED headlights/taillights, LED fog lights, head-up display, synthetic sueded seat inserts, nav system, paddle shifters, sunroof, 7-speaker Bose audio, Aha/Pandora/Stitcher internet radio and much more.
Although a myriad of safety features come standard including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, Mazda’s optional i-Activesense package that was on the test car features such niceties as automatic high-beam control, automatic rain sensing wipers, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise and forward collision mitigation system with auto braking. Mazda left nothing out of the CX-3.
Slip into the eclectic tri-colored interior and you’re treated to perforated leather seats with sueded seat inserts. For a dash of color, red piping lines the seats’ edges. Mazda went the extra mile to thoughtfully pad the vertical stack sides, a much appreciated touch for knee resters like me. And there are inlays of faux carbon fiber trim on the door handles and console and a nicely padded dash, a rare feature on cars today.
Once in the cockpit you’ll notice a single, centered gauge that employs a large analog tachometer with digital speedometer within it. To make speedometer viewing quicker, a heads-up-display projects the speed on the windshield.
A 7-inch iPad type touchscreen extends out of the dash and serves apps, rearview camera, nav and audio systems. A console mounted dial acts like a mouse for selecting the various functions. The only complaint in the cockpit is the lack of a console box. Instead, there’s a folding armrest with a tissue pack holder in the front end.
While the CX-3 is rated for five occupants (tweens or youngsters), the comfy back seat can only accommodate two adults. Leg room is adequate provided the front seats aren’t racked too far rearward. But ingress/egress is easy thanks to wide opening doors.
Since the CX-3 is offered in FWD and AWD, both get the same 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 146-hp and 146 lb/ft of torque. Power is routed to the wheels through a standard 6-speed automatic transmission that in concert, garners EPA mileage ratings of an impressive 27 city, 32-highway mpg.
In independent testing of a FWD version, the CX-3 was timed at 8.5 seconds for 0-60. The AWD would undoubtedly be a tad slower, but still spirited. At idle, the engine is especially quiet and throttle response is immediate with quick shift points.
Back in the cargo area, there’s 12.4 cubic feet of space with the rear seatbacks upright and 44.5 with them folded. There’s also a shallow, 3-inch deep underfloor bin to stow small items out of sight.
Shod with 18-inch Yokohama tires, CX-3’s ride is on the firm, sporty side that is due in part because of the low profile tires. A taller tire would better absorb road irregularities. The driver selectable “Sport” mode tightens things up and adjusts shift trans shift points for better road feel and lively handling characteristics, especially when tossed in the turns at speed.
Because of its size, the CX-3 is easy to park and is very nimble making it a fun to drive SUV. And since we had the SUV during our last deep snow storm, CX-3s’ AWD system dug in and provided sure traction with no wheel spin.
With a base price of $26,240, adding iActivesense package ($1,170), rear bumper guard ($100), door sill trim plates ($100) and a delivery of $900, the bottom line reflected a reasonable $28,510.
In addition, the CX-3 comes with exceptional government safety ratings. It received a full five stars for an overall vehicle score; five each for driver/passenger frontal crash; five each for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover.
Combine these with all the content plus fuel economy and low price, and the CX-3 is compelling subcompact SUV.