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2016 Mazda CX-3 Crossover Review +VIDEO

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2016 Mazda CX-3

The new Mazda CX-3 is right sized for urban living

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

New vehicle sales in the U.S. have just been reported and July marks the 23rd consecutive month that light trucks have outsold cars. For the year, U.S. light truck sales, which includes SUVs, have increased 11 percent while cars sales have dropped 1.8 percent.

More than half of new vehicle sales each month have been light trucks and the emerging small-SUV segment is estimated to grow more than 80 percent in the next few years.

Enter the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-3 based on the Mazda2 platform. A sporty, subcompact crossover SUV priced starting at $19,960.

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The Mazda-ness of the CX-3 is very evident in its outward appearance and cab-rearward design along with its spacious feeling, driver-oriented interior. The CX-3 is quite progressive and fits well into the Mazda line below the CX-5 aiming to satisfy the pre-family buyer or the empty-nester who wants hatchback versatility in an urban-friendly vehicle.

As we have seen from Mazda on its other new vehicles, the CX-3 follows the KODO-Soul of Motion design philosophy and incorporates Mazda’s signature SKYACTIV technology encompassing engine, transmission, suspension and body structure.

Perhaps the CX-3 is the best interpretation yet of KODO design. The CX-3 is very wide compared to its height, almost nine inches wider than it is tall. In person, to me, the CX-3 is very striking and appealing, especially from the rear. With its long hood, short overhangs, large wheels and slim cabin the CX-3 presents very pleasing proportions.

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The five-passenger CX-3 is offered with one engine/transmission combination with front or all-wheel drive, and in three trim levels. Mazda’s full suite of ACTIVSENSE safety features are optionally available for $1,920 and includes lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, Smart Brake Support, rear camera, Smart City Brake Support and Mazda Radar Cruise Control.

Inside the CX-3 has a push-button starter and Mazda Connect infotainment offering Bluetooth phone pairing, audio streaming, USB ports for phone charging and entertainment connectivity and Commander control knob, as well as a seven-inch color touchscreen interface with a built-in backup monitor.

Offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels, all CX-3s come with a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter engine paired exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 146 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. EPA test estimated fuel economy rating for the front drive CX-3 is a class-leading 29 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, with 31 mpg combined. For the i-ACTIV AWD models, available on any of the three trims level, EPA test fuel economy ratings are 27 city mpg, 32 highway mpg, with 29 mpg combined.

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Other key features of the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-3 are an available power glass moonroof, heated seats and a cargo cover. Interiors come in one-, two- or three- tone premium cloth, leatherette or leather interior seating surfaces. There are optional 18-inch aluminum wheels, a 60/40 fold down rear seats and Active Driving Display.

At 168.3 inches of overall length the CX-3 is very big-city friendly for easy maneuvering and parking. The rear cargo area provides 12.4 cuft of space below the cargo cover. Fold the rear seat and that opens up to 44.5 cuft up to the ceiling.

On our drive through Ventura County outside of Los Angeles and along the twisty roads leading to the Pacific beachfront we found the CX-3 to have excellent road manners with good ride and handling, as you would expect in the Mazda sporty tradition. Steering is well balanced with good feedback and effort. The CX-3 is quite sporty and fun to drive.

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The inside of the CX-3 impressed me with its premium, upscale appearance. Passenger cabin entry and exit is easy and you don’t have to climb up very far like many other SUVs to get in…the ladies will like this. Driver and front passenger comfort is quite good with a spacious feeling. There’s excellent shoulder room and plenty of legroom.

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We tried the rear seats to check for the proverbial adequate knee room which seemed decent. Mazda moved the seating position of the rear seats closer to the center of the cabin than the front seats, and the hip-point is set taller than on the front seats. The resulting layout makes it easier for rear seat occupants to see out of the front and to converse with people sitting in the front seats. For a young couple or empty nesters the CX-3 should prove adequate for transporting you and your stuff. Even if there’s a young tot or two in the rear seat the CX-3 will get the job done

All 2016 CX-3s also have backup camera and push-button starter as well as power windows, power door locks and remote keyless entry. The lowest priced CX-3 Sport ($19,960) is very well equipped. The CX-3 Touring, priced at $21,960, gets you leatherette seating surfaces with cloth inserts, heated seats, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry, heated door mirrors, a center armrest and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. The available Touring Technology Package priced at $1,410 adds a one- touch power moonroof, SiriusXM and HD radio and a rear cargo cover.

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CX-3 Grand Touring has an MSRP of $24,990 and with it you get a one-touch power moonroof, navigation, Adaptive Front-lighting System, Active Driving Display pop-up head-up display, leather and Lux Suede two-toned seats, a seven-speaker Bose premium audio system with SiriusXM satellite and HD radio, a rear cargo cover, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and LED headlights, fog lights, daytime running lights and tail lights.

Mazda's predictive i-ACTIV all-wheel drive is available for $1,250 and all three trims. Mazda’s AWD system takes temperature, road conditions, steering-angle and weather into account, among other factors, to help optimize to which wheels engine power is routed for maximum performance and stability. How does the CX-3 know the weather? Well, it knows when the windshield wipers are on.

More detailed information and specs on the complete 2016 Mazda CX-3 model line is only a mouse click away at If you want to compare the 2016 Mazda CX-3 to other compact crossover SUVs you can do that right here on

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 is expected to be on sale in the U.S. in mid-August.

© 2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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