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2018 Mazda CX-3 Review By John Heilig

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

ENGINE: 2.0-liter I-4
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with sport mode
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 146 hp @ 6,000 rpm/146 lb.-ft. @ 2,800 rpm
WHEELBASE: 101.2 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 163.8 x 69.6 x 60.9 in.
TIRES: P215/50R18
CARGO CAPACITY: 10.1/42.3 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)
ECONOMY: 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway/30.2 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 11.9 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 2,952 lbs. #/HP: 20.2
TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Nissan Juke, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape
STICKER: $29,615 (includes $940 delivery, $2,360 options)
BOTTOM LINE: In its own right, the Mazda CX-3 is a nice compact car, with pretentions of being a small SUV. But it pales in comparison with the other small SUVs and even its own bigger brother, the CX-5.

It’s a shame that I had an opportunity to drive the Mazda CX-3 so soon after driving the CX-5. While I was thoroughly impressed with the CX-5, the CX-3 elicited a solid enh. That’s too bad, really, because then CX-3 is a decent compact car. I like it better than the Mazda3 sedan, for example, which I found to be too small.

The CX-3 is not only larger than the sedan, but it has a hatch back, which nudges it into the small SUV, or more correctly, the CUV class. Thus, it makes up in cargo capacity what not may lack in rear seat legroom, for example.

Cargo capacity is very good for a small vehicle. While the numbers are a fairly minuscule 10.1 cubic feet with the rear seat backs up, that expands to 42.3 cubic feet wth the rear seats down, and it is a flat cargo area that is eminently practical. 

But, you will argue, with the rear seat backs down, human cargo capacity is diminished by half (it’s really a four-seater, not a five-seater). I will argue back that rear seat human cargo capacity ain’t that great anyway. While behind the driver’s seat the knees develop an intimate relationship with the seat back, behind the passenger seat, which may be pushed further back to escape the airbag, legroom is almost nonexistent. That’s one of the reasons I added the Nissan Juke to the competitive class section. I liked that the rear head restraints fold down out of the way to improve the driver’s rearward vision.

On the other hand, the heated front seats are comfortable with some side support if you want to get daring and throw the CX-3 through the corners at speed. Don’t. There’s a small fold-down arm rest between the front seats that obscures the cupholders, so if you drink (coffee, water) and drive, you can’t have the arm rest. There is room in the front doors for water bottles, however. The black-and-white upholstery on the seats is striking.

The engine has decent power for the small car. It’s relatively quiet under normal operation, but it makes itself known on hard acceleration. 

Ride quality's good, considering the short wheelbase of the CX-3. The conventional suspension handles even washboard surfaces well, although there is some road feedback on these types of roads. 

The driver faces a simple instrument panel, with a large centrally mounted tachometer with an inset digital speedometer. Our tester also had Mazda’s little pop-up heads up display, which consists of a small plastic screen that folds up from the top of the dash. It is so simple and clear. 

The infotainment screen gives a similar impression of being a pop-up, but it’s permanently mounted. Choices among the various options are made with a knob on the center console. There are major buttons for home, music and nav. You use the knob to program the nav system. It’s easy, but the first time may be harder.

We were kept warm in changing weather by a good HVAC system, and kept entertained by the Bose audio system. There’s a cubby at the base of the center stack that’s good for sunglasses. It also has two USB, an sD, and a 12-volt plug. For front seat convenience, the visors have small extensions to block the sun.

I have a friend who “downsized” from a Corvette Z06 to a CX-3 and he seems pleased with his choice. 

Overall, the Mazda CX-3 is a good compact car. As a CX it is part of Mazda’s SUV family (if diminutive), but it is more like a small hatchback sedan.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate

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