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Car Review: 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD Review By Steve Purdy

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2017 MAZDA CX-3 Grand Touring AWD
Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Mazda’s CX-3 compact crossover fits well within the company’s product portfolio carrying on the philosophy of making mainstream vehicles with a distinctively sporty personality. We’ve reviewed this cute-ute before and found it a likeable little car with an average price on par with its direct competitors, while offering more options than some and maintaining a distinctive enough personality to gain a good following.

Exterior design follows the brand’s styling theme with bold, gaping, trapezoidal grille, stylishly flowing lines and some dramatic sculpting for definition. In addition to the exterior design the brash, blue color of our tester (Mazda calls it Dynamic Blue Mica) draws attention as well. The floating roofline slopes quickly to a stubby rear resembling a hatchback or even a station wagon brought into present day trends. Our test car’s 18-inch alloy wheels contribute to an already dynamic visual ambiance, as does the black cladding around the wheel arches, rockers and tail end. This is a small crossover and its profile does nothing to make it look bigger – bold, yes, but not bigger.

Interior design is simple, functional and upscale with excellent materials, fit and finish. A 7-inch multifunction screen emerges from the top of the dash and controls most functions except HVAC by way of a control knob on the console. For many functions that’s a good thing. It allows our eyes to spend more time on the road rather than trying to touch the exact point on the screen to do what we want. I found the navigation adjustments mostly easy and intuitive but not so the audio that makes it more difficult than most to move from one station to another. Once a station is selected we must reselect the audio system, then select the tuner before changing the station. That’s three steps. With conventional systems we just twist the tuning knob. That’s one.

It took me most of the first segment of the trip to find the following distance indicator for the adaptive cruise control. It is in the head-up display reflected off a little plastic screen that folds out of the dash above the instrument cluster. Another annoyance was the necessity to hide control fields away from the navigation screen before we can zoom in our out on our map. Otherwise controls were reasonably logical. 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 easily 40/60 making a decent 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.

Perhaps the best news inside is the comfort of the front seats for this long drive. The worst is the position of the cup holders and audio on/off/volume knob, both of which are to the rear of the console beneath the small arm rest.

Our road test this week included a 500-mile round trip to the western suburbs of Chicago so we had lots of sustained road time to re-acclimate to the CX-3. I had not remembered it being as loud inside as it seemed this time. We continually turned the radio up to hear the ever more dismal news of the world. I-94 still has some mighty poor pavement sections where the tires generate a lot of noise. Perhaps the pavement is as much to blame as the car. And, of course, as just about every car gets redesigned they get substantially quieter. The next update of the CX-3 will as well, we’re certain.

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 $28,810 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.

One powertrain powers all CX-3 models – a direct-injected, 2.0-liter SkyActiv-G engine making 142 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque mated to 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 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 and well modulated, fully-independent suspension tuned to favor agility and a transmission calibrated to maximize performance from the modest engine make for a nicely integrated driving experience. The big, 18-inch low-profile tires (50-series) keep it well planted even if we want to push it a bit.

Mazda’s warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

There are dozens of small crossovers from which we could choose, and you might be surprised at the differences in personality from one to another.

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©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved