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2016 MAZDA CX-3 Review By Steve Purdy


2016 MAZDA CX-3
By Steve Purdy, Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

This is our second experience with the new CX-3 from Mazda. We did a nice road trip in this same car earlier in the fall when it was just coming to market. About a 500-mile round trip to Joliet, IL for the Midwest Auto Media Association’s Fall Rally gave us a good sense for this compact crossover – and we mostly like it.

The subcompact crossover segment did not even exist just a few years ago but now we have plenty from which to choose. The CX-3 is the newest entry and perhaps the sportiest. Mazda’s product persona emphasizes crisp and controlled handling in all the vehicles it builds led, of course, by the iconic MX-5 Miata two-seat sports car. Certainly, a bit of that character lives within the new CX-3.

Our test car is a loaded Grand Touring model with all-wheel drive. The base price for this highest of three trim levels is $26,240. With the GT I-Activesense Package (adaptive cruise control, brake assist, lane departure warning, variable rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlight dimmers) and destination charge we’re looking at $29,890 on the sticker’s bottom line. The entry level Sport CX-3 starts at just $19,960. A mid-range Touring model starts at $21,960.

Exterior design and styling follows the brand’s theme with bold trapezoidal grille and stylishly flowing lines. The floating roofline slopes quickly to a stubby rear resembling a hatchback or even a station wagon design brought forward. Our test car’s 18-inch alloy wheels contribute to an already dynamic visual ambiance. This is a small crossover and its profile does nothing to make it look bigger – bold, yes, but not bigger.

Inside we find very nice style and design. Two-tone suede seats and door panel trim with some upscale-looking stitching give the CX-3 a hint of class. The instrument panel is the least impressive element inside but it’s reasonably functional. We have the head-up display that deploys from the top of the dash when we start the car. I found it superfluous but some drivers will like it. The multipurpose touch screen sticks up from the center of the dash looking a bit incongruous. Again, it is reasonably functional though it is a bit awkward tuning the radio and making the transition between sources. A control knob is also provided on the low console between the seats wherein resides also the volume knob for the radio. Behind those is the dual cup holder. I found all of these to be hard to reach and manage. Power outlets and auxiliary inputs reside at the base of the center stack where they are convenient and easy to access.

Rear seating, as you might expect in a car this size, is rather cramped. Full-size people will be pretty uncomfortable. I wouldn’t try to get three abreast back there. Rear seatbacks fold 40/60 making a decent but not impressive 44.5 cubic-feet of cargo space. With seatbacks in position we have just 12.4 cubic-feet and even less if you opt for the Bose premium sound system with the big rear speaker.

One powertrain powers all CX-3 models – a direct-injected 2.0-liter SkyActiv-G engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The EPA says it is good for 32 mpg on the highway, 27 in the city and 29 mpg combined using regular fuel. We managed an average of just over 26 mpg in our week of mixed driving. I must admit, though, my driving style is rather spirited. The 11.9-gallon fuel tank is good for a 300+ mile range and it is a pleasure to fill such a small tank. Our friends at Edmunds managed a tepid 0-to-60 mph time of 8.5 seconds on this under 3000-pound car. I must say, it did not feel that slow and it did get a bit buzzy at higher rpm. Mazda rates the towing capacity at 1,500 pounds but the CX-3 is not really meant for towing.

Handling, as we suggested earlier, is perhaps best in class. Crisp steering with good feedback, well-modulated suspension tuning and a transmission calibrated to maximize performance from the modest engine make for a nicely integrated driving experience. I thought the lane departure sensors were too sensitive as they scolded me even as I barely approached the lane markings.

On the road the CX-3 filters out unpleasant road noises well. With the exception of the engine sounds on heavy acceleration we found the interior a great place to spend time. The only problem I would note is the difficulty in getting in and out of the thing. Yes, I’m a much bigger than average guy but the distance between the A- and B-pillars seems smaller than most, even among other subcompacts. Once in, however, I felt at home and thoroughly enjoyed my long and short drives in the CX-3.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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