Car companies can’t introduce crossovers fast enough for the public. It’s the new must-have and Mazda joins the fray with the all-new CX-3 this year. This crossover slots between the larger CX-5 and the smaller Mazda3 giving compact crossover shoppers a good reason to check out Mazda.
The challenge for Mazda is to make a car that fits the crossover mentality while still delivering the drive experience that Mazda enthusiasts expect. They start with styling that’s edgy. The CX-3 is a crossover with sports car good looks. Fender flares, a roof spoiler, and 18-inch wheels make it look more fun than practical.
The Mazda drive aesthetic is preserved with a 4-cylinder 2-liter Skyactiv engine that has 146 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. This is paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission that has smooth, quick shifts.
Don’t let those low numbers fool you. The car is plenty responsive, especially merging into heavy traffic. There’s also a sport mode that really lets you have some fun with higher revs and a noticeably more performance-oriented feel.
Fuel economy goes down slightly in sport mode, but with EPA estimates of 27 city/32 highway/29 combined for models with i-Activ all-wheel-drive, it’s not a big deal. You can leave it in sport mode and still not go broke filling the tank.
Handling is solid with the wide, low body of the CX-3 hugging the road and living up to its sporty good looks. No, this isn’t a Miata, but it’s far from the stiff, uninspired ride found in many crossovers on the market. The CX-3 is a crossover you’ll want to drive.
Inside there is room for 5 passengers with leather and suede sport seats that are 6-way adjustable for the driver and heated for both driver and passenger. This is complemented by a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshift knob, and brake handle. Seating looks good and it’s comfortable, providing plenty of support.
This is a compact crossover, so quarters are tight. Taller folks will find headroom lacking and those in the back seat don’t have a lot of legroom either. Even a shorter passenger up front will have seatbacks pressing uncomfortably close for many rear seat passengers.
Infotainment includes a 7-inch full-color touchscreen with AM/FM/CD/MP3 and a 7-speaker Bose sound system. The screen sits on top of the dashboard and looks for all the world like you should be able to fold it flat, but that’s not the case. Leave it alone or risk snapping it off.
The head’s up display similarly sticks up from the dashboard. A little plastic piece pops up when you start the ignition, so don’t think of setting anything up there for even a second. It looks flimsy, like something you’ll easily manage to forget about and break.
The infotainment system itself is well organized with easy to follow menus. Steering wheel controls make it simple to navigate without a passenger, with center console controls acting as backup.
This is a smaller crossover, so those who will be hauling lots of cargo only have 12.4 cubic feet of space when they open the hatchback. The rear seats do fold 60/40 for a total of 44.5 cubic feet, but it’s still not a big cargo hauler.
Safety featues include blind-spot monitoring, adaptive front-lighting, hill launch assist, and rear traffic alert as standard features on even the base trim. The GT i-Activesense package ($1,920) adds even more with cruise control, lane departure warning, auto on/off headlights with high beam control, smart brake support, smart city brake support, and variable rain-sensing wipers. It’s an expensive package, but it’s the only way to get those advanced safety features.
Pricing on the base model of the CX-3 starts at $19,960, but the Grand Touring AWD is a full $10K more at $29,970. Although the base model is very affordable, the higher trim levels are expensive making them a tough sell in a crowded market.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD offers the benefits of a crossover in a compact size. It throws in great driving dynamics that prove a crossover can still be very fun to drive.
2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD
Base Price: $26,240
Price As Tested: $29,790 (not including destination charge)
- Fun to Drive
- Sporty Styling
- Compact Size
- Pricey Safety Package
- Tight Rear Leg Room