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2017 Mazda CX-3 Review By Larry Nutson

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2017 Mazda CX-3 Review

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

My wife and I joined the nearly 49 million travelers over this recent 2017 Thanksgiving holiday and took to the roads. We traversed the interstate connecting Lake Michigan on the west to Lake St. Clair on the east.

Our highway-cruiser was the 2017 Mazda CX-3. In all, we would put about 750 miles on the CX-3, my car-for-a-week.

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Now in its second year, the 5-passenger CX-3 suited us just fine and proved quite comfortable for the two of us as we had minimal luggage, carrying about three days of clothes changes, as well as a few contributions to the holiday menu that would be served at the in-laws.

I do the driving and my wife either opens-up her mobile office or catches up on some magazine reading. The front seats of the CX-3 provide a good amount of room and comfort and there’s plenty of cupholders and cubbies for mobile phones and other miscellany.

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I’m not a hypermiler, but a long road trip is a natural to monitor fuel consumption. After leaving Chicago the interstate runs through Indiana for awhile and then for the most part across Michigan. It’s posted 70mph speed limit nearly all the way and the prevailing passenger vehicle traffic flow is usually moving on the plus-side of that speed limit, road and traffic conditions permitting.

That said, on both the outbound and return legs of this trip the CX-3, with me at the wheel doing my best to get where we were going, averaged 29 mpg. Actually I was expecting a bit better, and probably could have gotten in the low-30s if I dropped our highway cruising speed down to about 65 mph.

Mazda’s are known to be and intended to be “drivers cars.” The tuning and gearing of the CX-3 has the engine working a bit below 3000 RPM in the 70-plus mph range. The CX-3 is plenty responsive and there’s good elasticity in the power train for quick highway merging and passing.

EPA test-cycle fuel economy ratings are 29 mpg combined, with 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. Cruise around 65 mph and I’m confident that highway rating can be achieved and you’ll also get close to 380 miles on a full tank. We did need to refuel enroute.

The CX-3 has a 2.0-L 146 HP engine mated to a 6-speed automatic. We were driving a Grand Touring trim level with all-wheel-drive, which I was pleased we had just in case November threw a Thanksgiving blast of snow at us.

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The CX-3 also comes in Sport and Touring trim levels and all three trims are available in either FWD or AWD. Mazda says that 64-percent of their overall SUV buyers choose AWD.

The CX-3 with FWD has fuel economy ratings that jump up to 29 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Note that there are two fuel tank sizes---12.7 gallons with FWD and 11.9 gallons with AWD. Depending on where you live and on what kind of roads you do most of your driving, I would carefully weigh the FWD v. AWD need.

The CX-3 Grand Touring features a Bose 7-speaker audio system. On our trips we usually jump between different music genres on the Sirius satellite radio. A typical characteristic of many SUVs, at least I think, is they’re a bit noisy on the inside due to the big open cavern that they are. And so was the CX-3. Listening to the audio at lower, around-town speeds is just fine. At highway cruising speeds the audio system, and your hearing, has to fight with road and tire noise.

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The CX-3 is mostly unchanged for 2017. The Touring trim gets 18-inch wheels as standard, and on the Grand Touring the i-ACTIVESENSE package has been repriced. Lowered by $750 to $1170, its optional on the Touring and standard on the Grand Touring. Generally, we’ll be seeing more and more pricing reductions on driver-assistance safety features across the industry.

Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE driver-assistance safety features included lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, Smart Brake Support, rear camera, Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) and Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC).

On our trip I made good use of the radar cruise control to maintain speed and also keep safe distance to vehicles ahead. The system worked smoothly and was not too aggressive in reaccelerating after a slow down. A rear camera is a god-send for tight city maneuvering and helps save many a bumper-ding. Mazda’s lane-departure warning sends a heavy base-note through the audio system to let you know you are drifting out of your lane. It’s a feature that’s not high on my personal list of likes. But, for some it’s great to have.

The Active Driving Display head-up unit shows driving speed and eliminates that need to always look down at the speedometer.

For 2017 Mazda has priced the CX-3 starting at $19,960 for the Sport trim. The Touring is $21,960 and the Grand Touring is $24,990. All-wheel drive is $1,250 additional on each.

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 Mazda CX-3 to other subcompact crossover SUVs you can do that right here on

All-in-all the CX-3 is fun to drive and sized perfectly for big-city use. Younger and older families will find the CX-3 very well suited for regular use by one or two. And, there’s room for friends and family in the rear as well as good cargo space for home shopping or occasional road trips.

As I was wrapping up this review Mazda announced that the 2017 CX-3 was again rated a “Top Safety Pick plus” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The CX-3 passed all the various crash tests with flying colors. Also, the Smart Brake Support automatic emergency braking garnered a “Superior” and the new-for-2017 stringent headlight evaluation was passed.

This new driver-assistance safety technology has become a must-buy choice.

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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