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2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring Review by John Heilig +VIDEO

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By John Heilig
Senior Editor
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel


MODEL: 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring
ENGINE: 2.0-liter I-4
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 146 hp @ 6,000 rpm/145 lb.-ft. @ 2,800 rpm
WHEELBASE: 101.2 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 168.8 x 69.6 x 60.9 in.
TIRES: P215/60R18
CARGO: 10.1/42.3 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)
ECONOMY: 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway/29.0 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 11.9 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 2,952 lbs.
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Chevrolet Trax, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue
STICKER: $29,790 (includes $880 delivery, $2,670 options)

BOTTOM LINE: As compact cars go, the Mazda CX-3 is very good. But, and this is a recurring theme, it could be very good to excellent without all the concessions to size and cost.

The Mazda CX-3 is a But car. Whenever we talked about the car with people, we found ourselves saying “yes, it has this and this, but…”. It’s frustrating, because the CX-3 is so close to being a very good car, even for its size, but….

For example, I fully understand that manufacturers often have to make concessions to reduce weight in order to improve fuel economy and meet government regulations. But in the case of the CX-3, less sound absorbing materials result in constant engine noise and road noise on less-then-perfect road surfaces. The CX-3 is so noisy that normal conversation is difficult and audio volume must be turned up high to even hear the radio or whatever.

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Take the juxtaposition of cupholders and the center arm rest. You can’t use them both at the same time. If you have a tall cup in the cupholder, or one with a straw, the arm rest must be lifted up out of the way. Sure, you can put your cup in the door (there’s room), but….

As with many cars, the fuel filler release is located on the dash. To the right of it is a switch that looks like the hatch release. It isn’t. It releases the front hood. Actually, there is no interior hatch release.

There’s decent power from the 2.0-liter four, but, as I said, it’s noisy. Since the CX-3 only weighs around 3,000 pounds with passengers and driver, 146 horsepower is enough. We drove long miles on Interstates and fewer on local roads. Our overall economy was 29.0 mpg which was decent, but it could and should have been better for such a small engine.

We had paddle shifters behind the wheel to convert the 6-speed automatic retransmission to a sequential manual gearbox. With all the Interstate miles, we didn’t use the paddles often, but when we did they worked fine. 

Handling is decent. With a short wheelbase and overall length the ride tends to be rough. Of course, with the small size, parking is a snap.

We found ride quality to be good, with comfortable front seats that offer some side support. At one point we picked up our teenage granddaughter and she had no complaints about rear seat comfort, although I found the legroom to be tight. The rear seat backs fold easily to increase cargo capacity, which is fairly decent despite the 10.1 cubic feet specification. There is also a flat hidden storage area under the cargo floor.

Interior storage consists of a large cubby at the base off the center stack. In addition there are large door pockets. There is no center console, nor is there a pull-down rear arm rest. 

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There are few compact cars that are as well equipped as the CX-3 is, and at a decent price point. To begin with, a small plastic panel rises from the top of the dash at startup. This serves as a heads up display. It’s a simple little clear plastic panel, but it does the job well. But, it didn’t appear to be adjustable, so I had to adjust the seat height to see al the HUD. This is useful, because the main instrument is a large tachometer in the center of the dash with a small digital speedometer in the lower right corner. 

The CX-3 is also equipped with Mazda’s Radar Cruise Control that will slow the car if the car you are approaching is traveling at a slower speed than you are. There is a blind spot warning device that notices cars that are far back and flashes the lights on the exterior mirrors.  The center console has a “master knob” that controls audio and navigation. The volume control is right behind the master knob. Navigation is easy to program using the knob to enter either addresses or points of interest. 

The HVAC system was awesome in ridiculously hot weather. 

As I said earlier, the Mazda CX-3 could be a very nice car, but I felt there were too many concessions to size and space to keep it from being a lot better.

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