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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Headlining as a sub-compact crossover, the all-new CX-3 offers sporty looks and great gas mileage with excellent road performance thanks to Mazda’s popular SKYACTIV engine technology. Fitting five passengers with versatile storage and an affordable price, the Mazda CX-3 emerges as a leader in this new class.

I drove a 2016 Mazda CX-5 with the 146-horsepower SKYACTIV-G 2-liter four-cylinder engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Three trims are available – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring – with my fully loaded Grand Touring trim featuring the following standard features: leather-trimmed sport seats; eight-way power driver’s seat; heated front seats; dual zone climate control; navigation with seven-inch touchscreen display; rearview camera; upgraded Bose audio system; auxiliary input jack and USB port; Bluetooth; HD Radio; Pandora Radio; nineteen-inch wheels; fog lamps; rear roof spoiler; eighteen-inch wheels. Vehicle price as described came to $26,240.

Slightly bigger than the Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson, an apt competitor would be the also all-new Honda HR-V, which I was able to test drive recently as well and will use as a reference.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Like the Honda HR-V, the CX-3 has done miraculous things with the interior, giving it a sense of comfort, space, and modern technology at the fingertips. Front seating is firm and enjoyable on longer rides. Mazda’s infotainment system features clear graphics with ease of use. I’d say the CX-3’s insides do feel a touch sportier than its main competitor. You get 12.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats, which isn’t a whole lot but surprising when you measure the length of the subcompact – yet here is where the HR-V one-ups the CX-3 by offering 58.8 of total cargo space with the seats down (the CX-3 can only give 44.5). My test drive also featured a $1,920 GT I-Activsense Package featuring radar cruise control and its own brand of “Smart” performance technology such as City Brake Support.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle an overall rating of 5-Stars. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes, five-passenger three-point safety belts, dynamic stability control, traction control, hill launch assist, and an advanced airbag system that includes side-impact bags. The Smart City Brake Support uses a laser sensor mounted high on the inside of the front windshield that detects an obstruction, and will reduce the brake rotor travel to allow for more immediate braking should the system calculate there is a risk of a collision.

Cost Issues: The base Mazda CX-3 Sport trim starts at $19,960 with my loaded Grand Touring trim plus the safety technology package brings the price up to $29,010. The 2016 Honda HR-V offers a very competitive price as well with the base LX starting at $19,215 and my top-of-the-line test drive EX-L with Navigation trim reaching $24,690.

Activity & Performance Ability: Mazda’s engines are an absolute highlight, giving real pep and masterful performance into their full lineup. Unlike some compact competitors, the 2-liter engine is not plagued with the typical constrains of an uninspired four-cylinder (my Honda HR-V’s engine was a CVT-equipped model and did produced that annoying droning sound). What’s also cool about the smaller CX-3 is all-wheel drive is an option. Do check out the Hyundai Tucson’s 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and quick-shifting seven-speed transmission as well – I image the manufacturer should be coming up with a smaller rival soon (there is always the Veloster but that is more of a hatchback).

The Green Concern: Fuel economy estimates with all-wheel drive are 27 miles-per gallon city and 32 highway for a combined 29 miles-per-gallon – the HR-V’s stats are exactly the same.

If you are ready to give up some storage and seating space for a slight gain in fuel economy – and you can’t quite see yourself in a compact crossover – the 2016 Mazda CX-3 subcompact is a sporty and alternative choice with all-around greatness possessing it, from price to performance.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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