Mazda's 2018 CX-3 AWD crossover is athletic, fun to drive, economical and affordable
If there’s one subcompact crossover that excels over most others, it’s Mazda’s sporty AWD CX-3. In fact, both it and its sister car, the larger CX-5, earned Good Housekeeping magazine’s 2018 Best New Car Awards. The CX-3 was also the IIHS’s Top Safety Pick for 2017.
The CX-3 is fun-to-drive, exudes athleticism, has an eclectic interior, and provides impressive fuel economy numbers. All attributes that attract young buyers, even young-at-heart car shoppers.
For 2018, Mazda added only a few new features because it already comes nicely equipped. Added were Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support as standard and the feature goes toward less crunches. The suspension was tightened for even better handling and comfort and new options now include Active Driving Display and a memory drivers seat.
As for appearance, the CX-3 takes on a sporty, racy look with its long hood and short overhangs that is part of Mazda’s “Kodo” design theme.
As for the interior, it’s exceptionally stunning and sexy. Something you’d find in a Lambo or McLaren sports car. Depending on trim model selected, the styling and color scheme’s get sweeter. The Sport gets cloth interior, whereas the Touring comes with Leatherette and Lux suede that you’d be hard pressed to tell it’s not real leather. The Grand Touring we tested came with leather and Lux suede forming a stunning combination that is a rarity on comparable crossovers. The seats have perforated leather fronts, sueded inserts and contrasting piping on the seams. Even the door panels are finished in faux suede with vertical stitching.
Large HVAC controls are easy to use and located ergonomically and a large centered single gauge is the tach with the digital speedometer that occupies a small square at the lower bottom of the tach. There’s also a Heads-Up-Display (HID) for easy viewing of speed and speed limits. A 7-inch iPad type display serves the audio, rearview camera, apps, infotainment and navigation systems.
Back seat leg room is marginal, and is tight if the front seats are racked well rearward. But they are comfy for two adults or three tweens with easy ingress/egress.
Trunk space with the rear seats upright is 12.4 cubic feet or 10.1 if opting for the Bose audio system that sucks up the difference. Flip the 60/40 rear seatbacks and capacity increases to 44.5 or 42.3 with the Bose installed. Perhaps more meaningful, with the seats up the area measures 27 inches deep, 38 wide and 27 high. Flip the seatbacks and depth extends to 55 inches. There’s also a fake floor beneath the cargo floor offering three inches of storage height that’s good for a host of small items out of sight.
The CX-3 is no pocket rocket power wise, but it’s no slogger either. With a 146-hp, the 2.0-liter (identical 146 lb/ft of torque) Skyactive inline 4-cylinder moves this 2,952-pound curb weight crossover with haste. The engine has a high compression ratio of 13.0:1, numbers you’d see on big V8 engines of yesteryear. And with a selectable Sport mode, it holds the 6-speed auto trans to higher revs for better acceleration and zip. So equipped, its impressive EPA mileage ratings are 27 city, 32-highway mpg.
Handling wise, toss it in the turns and it sticks like glue. There’s virtually no body lean and it remains poised. With a tight turning radius, CX-3 parks easily with good sight lines.
With an extremely long list of safety features and amenities that are most wanted by todays car buyers, the CX-3 carried a base price of $26,415. Add to that an auto-dimming mirror w/Homelink ($325), rear bumper guards ($100), roof rack side rails ($300), door sill trim plates ($100) and Mazda’s Premium Package that includes radar cruise control, smart brake support, heated steering wheel, lane departure warning, high beam control (automatic, but a pain), traffic sign recognition and more, the CX-3 bottom-lined at $29,615 with delivery.
Aside from the IIHS awarding the car its top safety ratings, so did the government. CX-3 garnered a full five-star overall vehicle score, five for driver/passenger frontal crash, four/five stars for front/rear side crash and four for rollover. All impressive numbers.
CX-3 is fun to drive, offers a stunning interior, is handsome, offers excellent fuel economy and deserves a look as it’s a top pick in its class.
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