By on August 13, 2015

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (1 of 25)

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD (U.S.)/GT AWD (Canada)

2.0-liter SKYACTIV DOHC I-4, direct injection, dual S-VT (146 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 146 lbs-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm)

6-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic w/ Sport mode and paddle shifters

27 city/32 highway/29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

30 mpg on the camping-gear-laden test cycle, 80 percent highway (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: i-ACTIVSENSE Safety Package (U.S.)/Technology Package (Canada), i-ACTIV all-wheel drive (U.S., AWD is standard on GT trim in Canada)

Base Price:
$20,840* (U.S.)/$22,680* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$29,040* (U.S.)/$32,490* (Canada)

* All prices include $880 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,995 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

For as long as I can remember, my parents always had two vehicles while I was growing up. The first one I can vividly remember was the precursor to GM’s dreaded Cavalier and Cobalt, a 1987 Chevrolet Chevette, with an interior as roomy as any compact you can buy today. The second conveyance in our driveway was a 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, Jay Green in color, and rugged as my father needed for his job traversing Cape Breton Island’s vast spaghetti network of logging roads.

In the early 1990s, the Chevette ended with a bang. As I laid on a bed at my grandmother’s apartment, attempting as much as a young child would to get to sleep (translation: not trying at all), I was startled by tire squealing, a loud bang, silence, then more tire squealing. The Chevette had been dispatched by a freshly licensed 16-year-old driving a Hyundai Pony and fueled by Vitamin O. Write-off total: approximately $500 — for both cars.

The Chevette, now off to the scrapyard, was replaced by a Pontiac Firefly five-door, known for its economical three-cylinder engine outputting double-digit horsepower whilst solidly achieving double-digit miles per gallon halfway to the centripulcate. As a daily runabout, it was solid, economical, and — with its wagon-esque virtues — incredibly versatile.

Back then, my parents were about the same age I am now. They were the last of the Baby Boomers and in the 1990s faced what many Millennials face today. My parents were done with school and working on budding careers and a growing family inside their newly acquired home. There are some key differences between them and me however: I have one extra dog (for a total of two), lack children and I don’t own a home.

It’s in this context that my girlfriend and I headed out on one of my family’s favorite pastimes from when I was a child — a weekend camping trip — in the millennial-focused 2016 Mazda CX-3.

Before we get to the driving, let’s talk about what actually is a CX-3 because the nomenclature is, I think, incredibly confusing to consumers. Also, I think it’s one of the reasons why Mazda is having a hard time making inroads in the U.S. market despite fostering some of the best products in the industry.

The CX-3 is a Mazda2 in drag and not a jacked up Mazda3. A jacked up Mazda3 is called a CX-5, which is kind of related to the Mazda5 so few people bought in the U.S. that Mazda killed it off. The Mazda6 is built on its own G platform derivative, dubbed GJ, and is fairly unrelated to everything else. The CX-9 is a Ford.

With that out of the way …

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (2 of 25)

Exterior
Shapely lines and a flowing beltline make the CX-3 one of the most stylish options in the sub-compact car segment. I say this because whenever we stopped along our journey to and from the campsite, there was always at least one person — if not multiple — checking out the car. And I mean really staring at it. The CX-3 turns heads without voyeurs wearing a horrified but quizzical “what the hell is that thing?” facial expression usually reserved for the Aztek and Nissan Juke.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (19 of 25)

Up front, the CX-3 wears the same updated design language as the refreshed Mazda6 and CX-5, which is a slightly angrier yet more refined version of Mazda’s KODO design DNA. The large grille has presence, even if it’s slightly ruined by its license plate soul patch. The chrome grille surrounding meets elegantly with the squinting headlights much like its brethren, and thank you Mazda for making use of LED technology without turning your headlamps into Audi knock-offs.

At its side, the CX-3 welcomes you with the aforementioned high, flowing beltline and lots of dark plastic cladding to support its rough-and-tumble marketing message. At this trim, there’s even a nice chrome runner to give the CX-3 a more upmarket appearance. All in all, the plastic and chrome say, “Yes, I can do some light off-roading … ” while its pregnant-mouse grown clearance qualify the statement with, ” … but I’d rather not today.” Wheels on this Grand Touring model measure in at 18 inches and fill the wheel wells gracefully. Base model CX-3s come fitted with 16-inch shoes that are much more restrained in their design but are a bit more sophisticated and less trendy.

Much like the Mazda3, there is more metal than glass at the rear of the CX-3. Thankfully, the car comes with a standard backup camera to compensate for the lack of rearward visibility.

As a package, the CX-3 is the sharpest of numbers in an increasingly crowded, increasingly competitive segment.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (7 of 25)

Interior
2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (4 of 25)At first, the CX-3’s interior looks like standard Mazda fare, which is good. However, you will notice one omission when you try to use the stereo … that doesn’t exist; instead of a head unit, you are presented a CD slot on the dash (why did they even bother?) along with knobs in the center console for audio operation through Mazda’s infotainment system (more on that later). The only physical tracking buttons are on the steering wheel. There are no controls on the dash at all save the CD slot’s eject button. The arrangement is definitely something you’ll need to get used to; I found myself reaching toward the dash all week long to either change a track to adjust the volume, only to realize I’m an idiot again and again before performing the task at hand through the steering wheel controls or center console knobs.

Other gripes: there is no center console cubby or armrest — console- or seat-mounted — in the CX-3. On long drives, that’s irritating when wanting to steer from the bottom of the wheel, but space is a premium in a millennial mobile.

On the other end of the spectrum, the seats are some of the nicest I’ve seen, touched and sat in in any car less than $30,000. They are beautiful to look at, hug well, and despite there firmness are still comfortable for weekend-long journeying.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (11 of 25)

Infotainment
Just like the Mazda3, the iPad-on-dash display is present in the CX-3. Love it or hate it, it’s there — and it’s standard equipment. The 7-inch Mazda Connect display is clear and crisp to the eye and still manages to arrange information and functions in a way that’s logically sound when driving. However, the way the HMI Commander Switch interacts with the screen sometimes feels backwards. You navigate options usually by turning the knob, and when you do the highlighted option is sometimes the opposite of what you meant to pick. Maybe this is my issue.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (12 of 25)While you may decry my lack of audio-specific impressions on new cars, the fact is I am fairly tone deaf, so my impressions won’t matter. The stereo sounded clear to me. Your musical mileage may vary.

The navigation, on the other hand, is something I feel fully qualified to, well, qualify. It’s dead simple to use and the visual presentation is excellent. Digging into the menus can be slightly confusing, but once you do it once or twice you’re good to go.

Yet, I still don’t understand Mazda’s aversion to letting someone use the touchscreen in motion. Yes, I understand the safety argument, but what about passengers? Why should they be locked out of using the touchscreen functionality? Also, if you are in motion 99 percent of the time you’re in the car, why even bother with having a touchscreen at all? Either unlock the screen and let me use it or get rid of it altogether. Please.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (3 of 25)

Powertrain
Here’s another item that further confuses consumers into thinking the CX-3 is based on the Mazda3. Underhood is the same exact SKYACTIV-G 2-liter engine as its sedan and hatchback stablemates. Yet, unlike the Mazda3, the CX-3 is not available with the optional 2.5-liter SKYACTIV mill.

The 146 horsepower and 146 pounds-feet of torque doesn’t make the CX-3 slow by any stretch, and down low the 2-liter is great for the stoplight drag race. On the highway, the SKYACTIV four does show its one flaw, though, and that’s its lack of passing power. When you are traveling on two-lane secondary roads and need to pass an RV piloted by 78-year-old tourists from Connecticut, you really need to pick your moment. Compounding the pain: The issue could be remedied with a manual gearbox, which isn’t an option in North America. Instead, we are saddled with a six-speed automatic as the only transmission offered, unlike other parts of the world.

Now, there’s nothing especially wrong with that six-speed auto. Actually, for an automatic, it’s quite good. Shifts are smooth, as is getting away from a stop. Shifting with the paddles is (gasp!) fun! Sport mode, which holds back shifts just a tad bit longer, won’t get you going any quicker at full trot. However, it isn’t as aggressive as some other sport transmission tuning I’ve experienced in the past, and it actually makes the experience more than bearable.

On our mostly highway-limited trip, the Mazda CX-3 clocked in just above its combined EPA rating of 29 mpg.

Drive
Let’s quickly get a few things out of the way so we can talk about what’s truly important about the CX-3.

  • The ride is good, though has typical Mazda firmness built in for that “sporty” feeling.
  • The seating position is great, a good mix of slightly raised without feeling you’re driving a truck or more conventional SUV.
  • Overall, it’s a great car.

Yet, as a non-car loving consumer, you might think the CX-3 is a jacked up Mazda3, and I am sure Mazda is banking on it.

“Why would I spend $18,945 on a Mazda3 when I can spend $1,000 more and get a crossover based on the same car?” those millennials might ponder to themselves.

Meanwhile, buyers are unknowingly spending $4,000-5,000 over that mythical Mazda2 that doesn’t exist in the U.S. market, taking their new CX-3 home assuming it has the same interior space as the Mazda3, then wondering why Rover keeps hitting his cone-shaped golden retriever head repeatedly on the dome light. It’s at this point the Mazda CX-3 buyer realizes they’ve been had and it’s too damn late.

It’s a good thing we decided to leave the dogs at home.

Let me be crystal clear here: The CX-3 costs more than the Mazda3, and for that extra $1,000 you get 1) less utility, 2) less choice (no manual), and 3) optional all-wheel drive that isn’t meant for off-roading.

My parents, those millennials of yesteryear, had it right. Two vehicles served as solutions to two different problems. The Firefly was a stellar little runabout. The Sidekick was great for my dad’s work and also provided a spacious enough interior to go camping with three meatbags and an additional furry meatbag. The CX-3 tries to solve both while being completely successful at neither.

Fortunately it isn’t a matter of the car itself being bad and Mazda can fix it all by just calling it what it is. Rename the CX-3 the CX-2 or Mazda2 CrossVenza or whatever. But CX-3? Truth in advertising — or in nomenclature — this Mazda is not.

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132 Comments on “2016 Mazda CX-3 Review – Nomenclature, Be Damned...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Stupid question, which Ford is the Mazda CX-9 based on? I’ve never been able to tell.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    I’m shocked – Shocked! – to find _marketing_ going on in this establishment!

  • avatar
    319583076

    Jesus, Mark. Is English your second language?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    But this is the tradeoff you get when buying a CUV from any manufacturer. You always lose a bit of interior space at the same price point. Let’s look at some pairs of CUVs and sedans/hatches with similar prices.

    RAV4 (Corolla-based) & Camry
    CR-V (Civic-based) & Accord
    HR-V (Fit-based) & Civic
    Forester (Impreza-based) & Legacy
    Cherokee (Dart-based) & 200
    Edge (Fusion-based) & Taurus
    Escape (Focus-based) & Fusion
    etc…

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Ugly runt, Richard III of crossovers. Only Akio’s C-HR is uglier and less welcoming of 6’+ bipeds.

    But the C-HR is at least still a concept and may through adult intervention be rescued. This thing is already cast in squashed metallic deformity.

    Fortunately, it’s just a Mazda and no great loss.

  • avatar
    wolfinator

    Looking at the side profile makes one thing clear: this vehicle does not have enough wheel. The designer’s job isn’t done until the profile is 80% wheel, dammit!

    This review complains about poor ground clearance. How do you get poor ground clearance out of 18″ wheels??

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    How’s the build quality? I don’t think I’m ready to buy a Mexican car yet.

    BTW, for $1000 more I can buy a CX-5 with the same engine, an honest-to-god clutch pedal, and made in Japan.

    Tell me again why a CX-3 is a good idea.

    • 0 avatar

      The CX-3 is built in Hiroshima.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      You cannot buy a CX-3 or a CX-5 with AWD and 6MT in any market. It does not exist.

      If you buy the FWD model of either car, you CAN get the manual.

      I need AWD considering the winters we get (same area as Mark), always use 4 snow tires (AWD and 4 snows since 1988 – to counter the idiots on here who think two wheel drive with snow tires is the pinnacle of man’s achievement on the planet and will get you anywhere- try living in the hills in Nova Scotia these past two winters)

      Mazda3 is not available with AWD, and I find the CX-5 hulking, so CX-3 AWD it is, auto and all. It looks good, handles well, is a bit slow, unfortunately. It also seems quieter with respect to tire roar than the 3, and that is due to the new thicker floorpan design. Brother’s CX-5 has been great, the HR-V looks like birdcrap and is powered by milquetoast, the CR-V vibrates at idle and low speed and is subject of a class-action lawsuit because of it.

      But first, may as well beat my current car to death, and before my knees fail. Quite a few CX-3 around here already. Mazda is twice as big saleswise as Subaru in Canada, smaller in the US for reasons that escape me personally. They drive far better, and it’s stunningly obvious when you have the two side-by-side to compare as I have.

      • 0 avatar

        As much as I truly enjoyed driving the CX-3, I would never recommend one. If the greenhouse were bigger and it had the same cargo capacity as a Mazda3, it would be the ticket. As it sits? Not so much. I wish they would just add AWD to the Mazda 3, give it some bodycladding a la Golf Alltrack (coming soon to a dealer near you!), and call it a day. At highway speed, the CX-3 isn’t deafening, but I’d rather be in a Micra.

        Last winter was brutal, and surprisingly enough the only vehicle that got me stuck was the Canyon. Go figure.

        P.S. I drive by your store all the time. One of these days I should stop in.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          Saturday morning’s good, usually not too busy – retired some time ago but I drop in for the usual gossip. The warehouse is gone, they brew beer there now. Go to 2813 Agricola, corner at Almon. Use my screen-name to establish contact, they all know it.

          Meanwhile, until the LGT dies, it has way more power, trundles quietly down the Valley without effort at 7.9 l/100 km and 120 klicks (measured), has superb AWD and it’s paid for. Still, for just running around, the CX-3 appeals to me. It’s not completely anodyne and shows mild signs of life.

        • 0 avatar
          Daniel J

          So what’s wrong with the CX-5. I’m really confused about the complaint. The only difference is the CX-5 is a few inches wider than a Mazda 3.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Brings up a good question…does anyone have any data on Mexican-built Mazdas versus the ones built in Japan?

      I’ve been shopping the 3, which is built both in Mexico and Japan (I believe the higher trim levels are Japanese-built) but I can’t perceive any real difference between the two quality wise.

  • avatar

    Okay, good review, good vehicle, its just…

    The entire conclusion of the review was something that could be levelled at the entire segment. That’s just what this segment is, that is the limitation of it, innately. It’s not restricted to the CX-3, which is arguably one of the best examples of a vehicle in this segment.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe I am the only one here that still wishes automakers would cut it with muddying the nomenclature waters. And I am probably starting a losing battle. However, if I am going to shell out more for a crossover versus its nearest model in the lineup (Mazda3) I want at least the same interior volume, not less, and I want it to be called what it’s based on.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Exactly. Review basically says what other reviews have that Mazda have another class leading vehicle and yet Mark obsesses about the name and that some people could be duped. Surely any buyer could sit in a 3 or CX5 if they wish. If manual is important they could get one of those (no option in CRV or RAV4). It sounds like you just want to put a negative spin on the review.

      • 0 avatar

        “If manual is important they could get one of those (no option in CRV or RAV4).”

        Which isn’t the competitive set here, at all. You can get a manual in a Mazda3 but not in a Camry, which is a comparison that makes just as much sense.

        If you don’t think people can be duped by the naming, you have much more faith in the average buyer than I do.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I don’t get this Mazda thing. I mean MX-5 is almost in a class by itself and is cool and all, but the other models really aren’t that more impressive, or even different, than their competition. Cadillac has 1.1% market share and is pretty much a medium grade failure as a brand while Mazda has what 2%? Why does this brand seem to garner so much attention? Does it even matter in the grand scheme of things today?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Because everything Mazda sells is (according to the print rags) the “Enthusiasts __________”

      Car and Driver called the CX-9 the “Enthusiasts 3 row crossover” and Jack Baruth had high praise for the CX-5 he reviewed.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Thanks for the reply but I don’t buy into that BS. Boring wrong wheel drive beigemobiles aren’t that exciting no matter who makes them.

        • 0 avatar

          I wouldn’t call the CX-3 boring, but it isn’t exciting. File it under “Neat.”

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          Mazda is held in high regard because pretty much every vehicle they have (from the Skyactiv era) is either class leading or amongst the best for styling, economy, reliability and fun.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          “Boring wrong wheel drive beigemobiles”

          Well, there’s your problem. If you can’t tell the difference, don’t belittle those who can.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I’ll only say this:

            Between the much despised ’03 Dodge Neon and the beloved ’03 Mazda Protege I tried on, they didn’t seem that different to me.

            The Protege had better roof design, more spacious and easier to get in and out of. But the Neon isn’t rusting on top of the front strut towers. That and the Neon isn’t throwing misfire codes.

            Handling-wise they were identical, mpg is better in the Neon (better highway gearing), Neons easier to get parts for.

            And the Neons radio knobs never popped off.

    • 0 avatar
      I_S

      Alex Dykes’ reviews of both the 3 and particularly the CX5 are most flattering. It seems that Mazda products are perceived as class leading for their driving dynamics and interior quality while having a product portfolio that (more or less) matches the market, while Cadillac is building the BMW that no-one asked for while bankrolling itself on overpriced Silverados.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      At Dan: It should be noted that Mazda is a regular sponsor of Car n Driver.

      With the Mazda love I don’t get it myself, yes the Miatas a fine sports car, yes their expensive rotary sports cars were unique if very maintenance picky.

      Mazdas very happy to advertise the “racing tech” that goes into their cars, racing tech like collision-detecting brakes I guess.

      If anyone wants to know why Mazda cant sell just look at the closest 3-6-Protege or whatevers in your lot, note the paint flaking off, the rust on the rear wheels, the 110+ CEL comments on carsurvey.

      Yes they’re good at the “illusion of sporty”, they’re just not good at “quality”.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        @Ryoku

        Since 2001, I have driven a Mazda for 11 of the past 14 years. I started with the Protege5, then Mazdaspeed6 and now an 2014 Mazda6. I drive them on the worst roads in the US, Detroit Michigan. Extreme salt in the winter, potholes galore. In all those years and approximately 250k miles of motoring in Mazdas I have had ZERO rust, Zero paint defects, Zero mechanical failures leaving me stranded. Not Sporty? Well, I guess you could tell that to the taillights of my old speed6 as I fly past you. The 2014-15 6’s are a blast and a bang for the buck compared with just about any 4 cyl midsizer. The protege5 was slow as heck but gocart fun to throw around.

        And they all look good. You can pick any car around and go to a owner forum and find pages of complaints, so the anecdotal evidence isn’t really worth much. You don’t have to love Mazda, but there is a reason so many people do.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Good for you, for your one Protege there are atleast 50 others with CELs, rust eating at their strut towers, rust eating the rear wheel well, paint chipping off the hood…

          A fellow on Jalopnik would post pictures of local Mazdas, all of them with rust eating them up. They weren’t seeking out the cars as much as they just kept showing up. They too briefly owned a newer Mazda.

          fyi if speeds your measurement for sporty just go buy an RX-8.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Let me add:

            Between Mazdaspeeds, RX-8s and Miatas, I’m convinced that Mazda can do good rustproofing, they just save it for the more expensive cars.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You bought the wrong Mazda and this is how you pay.

          • 0 avatar
            Demetri

            Protege is a well known rust bucket. If he went from Protege5 to Speed6 he probably just didn’t own it long enough to start rusting. Early Mazda3 rusts too. I think the 6 is fine though. I heard some info that the rust issues were addressed in the late model years of the first Mazda3. We’ll see.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Well, all I can say is I have a few Mazdas, a few VWs, a few Fords…and have had a few more of many other makes these past 10 years.
      And none, not one of them, have the Mazda drive. They are better feeling other ways, such as the solidity, interior quietness (my Mazdas are a bit noisy)…but none have that feeling like a slot car.
      My 09 6S is still an awesome car I look forward to going out for a loaf of bread in.
      And the 04 3S all these years later STILL runs around the city and mountain curves like no other little hatch. And for the 18K I got it for, no way there was another more fun hatch.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Way to completely miss the point of the conversation.

        Mazdas arent the only “fun”, FWD family sedans on the road.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          Way to again miss the point.
          Never said they were the only fun car…just the best. At the price.
          Conversation? Or just your knucklehead portion?

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Way to miss the point again, we weren’t talking about price.

            You say Mazdas are fun for being cheap cars, but haven’t said how or why they’re more fun compared to the competition.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I don’t get the Mazda love (Miata excepted) either. I’ve had pretty much all of them as rentals, and not a single one wowed me in any way. Particularly the Mazda3 – never felt any sort of enthusiasm from them. Though I guess if your basis of comparison is the equivalent Toyota or Nissan, they probably seem pretty great.

      The Miata is a delight though, had I not bought a Spitfire 19 years ago I certainly would have one in the garage by now.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        There is one thing I’ve really enjoyed about my various Mazda rentals: the automatic transmissions. They’re more in tune with my driving style than those from any other maker. I want to strangle the Ford and GM FWD 6-speeds; the automatics from Toyota and CVTs from Nissan are a little better. But the automatic from Mazda always knows what I want.

      • 0 avatar

        I enjoyed the 2016 CX-5 rental I had while my Golf SportWagen was in the shop after a minor collision. It had poor outward visibility, but they did throw in blind spot monitoring…

      • 0 avatar
        Demetri

        “Though I guess if your basis of comparison is the equivalent Toyota or Nissan, they probably seem pretty great.”

        That’s what they’re supposed to be. Don’t know why you would expect otherwise. It’s still a mainstream brand. If you think they need to drive sportier, they can’t push that envelope too far. The general public doesn’t want to drive a car that drives like an Integra Type-R, and there are cost constraints. There’s only so much you can do with a car like the Mazda3 that sells for $16,000 for a base model.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I expect more because the buff books rave about them. Having driven them myself, I don’t get it. I don’t think the Mazda3 drives as well as even a base Golf, never mind a GTI.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “I don’t get this Mazda thing.”

      Drive a 3 or a 6 back to back with any of the other cars in their class, and you will.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I’ve driven just about every car in each of those classes, multiple times, for up to a week at a time. I don’t find the Mazdas to be worth the raving that they seem to get. VW does it better across the board.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Another vehicle with “utility” in its name, which fails a basic test of utility:

    If you use the front bumper for its intended purpose, i.e., bumping, it will break and cost you $1000+ to replace. Even worse, there’s not even a pretense of a bumper, just a giant grille opening made of brittle plastic.

    I want my 5 mph bumpers back!

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      To be fair a good number of modern cars will require expensive repairs after the lightest of collisions.

      I too wish real bumpers would return, I don’t need a huge goofy grille covering up my bumper.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    So…

    There’s round vents.

    Except for the left-side of the passenger set; it’s rectangular.

    WHAT THE HELL.

    (I mean, I don’t really like Mazda’s design language these days, but I think the CX-3 does just fine, correcting for that.

    But that odd-man-out vent.

    WHAT?)

  • avatar
    I_S

    Hi Mark, some practical questions:

    1. Rear seat comfort: does it exist?

    2. How does it compare to the competition – i.e. Trax, Encore, HRV, in terms of interior space use and comfort? Cargo practicality?

    3. If your tester had the paddle shifter, why was passing such a drama? Dropping 6-4 was insufficient?

    4. DK was raving about the automatics on all Mazdas. Is this one programmed any differently than the one in mazda3/CX5?

    Thanks!

    • 0 avatar

      1. Honestly, I didn’t try the rear seat at all outside of taking photos of the interior, but I would guess you’d be tight behind a driver at my height (6’1) based on the maneuvering I had to do.

      2. The rear hatch opening in the CX-3 is really small, at least visually. All-wheel drive also cuts into the cargo volume if you spring for it and felt incredibly constrained on our camping trip; that’s not good for a car supposedly aimed at #active #millennials #that #do #things. Trax and HR-V both have much, much more interior volume for cargo. Also, the roof of the CX-3 is incredibly low for a crossover.

      3. Actually, I think it might have dropped all the way to third. Peak torque hits at 2,800 rpm. Maybe there’s a steep torque fall-off further into the rev range?

      4. The only thing I noticed with the transmission was it would hold a lower gear on some fairly mild grades when I thought it could easily go to the next gear up without issue. Other than that, no transmission issues. I quite like it too.

      • 0 avatar
        I_S

        Thanks, interesting observations re: torque curve and transmission programming. Makes me wonder if the CVT a-la HR-V is the more practical transmission for this kind of vehicle – if the (relatively small) engine is tuned towards low-end torque, the gear drop would need to be significant for highway passing, and the CVT should be right at home for this application.

        I was quite disappointed to hear about the small trunk opening and low cargo volume. I’m the target demographic for this kind of vehicle (city dweller + outdoors lover), and my 2006 Accord requires some mad tetris skills to fit 4 peoples’ worth of camping gear for a weekend canoe trip.

        Response much appreciated!

  • avatar
    Fred

    If they can’t retract the info screen ala Audi, then put it in the dash like every one else.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    The only thing wrong with the CX-3 is the lack of a manual transmission with AWD. Yes, I realize that combo (and manual transmissions in general) are becoming seriously scarce, which is why I just bought one of the few car models with which no automatic or CVT is offered.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    “for that extra $1,000 you get 1) less utility, 2) less choice (no manual), and 3) optional all-wheel drive that isn’t meant for off-roading.”

    That’s the CUV formula in a nutshell, but add 4)overall worse mpg, cornering, braking, and acceleration compared to car version.

    I suppose with snow tires it would be pretty good in moderately deep snow, but nobody actually does that.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      No, it is not going to be good “in moderately deep snow” because its clearance same as sedan. It has no extra elevation at all. So, think of a car with AWD

      • 0 avatar
        Driver8

        Egads. So *no* advantages then?

        • 0 avatar
          TonyJZX

          You get the advantage of that smug feeling you have knowing you own a CUV, the fast growing segment on the planet.

          Thing is these CUVs are moving from the boxy shape that makes them practical.

          I do like the Mazda 3 SP25 which is available as a manual with the 2.5 engine (obviously). The hatch cant really take it all… the sedan is obviously worse but the sedan looks so good.

          I feel you really need to move up to the next size, ie. CRV, Xtrail/Rogue to be TRULY useful at load capacity and ride height.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Driver8, I made this exact same point in a thread here about why CUVs are popular, and practically got institutionalized and crucified for it.

      Their “logic”: If they sell well, therefore any criticism of their functionality is invalidated because the buyers don’t care.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      You guys clearly don’t understand what a real winter is like. For me, almost every day for four months of the year, a 2WD vehicle is unpleasantly slow to accelerate in city traffic while an AWD vehicle goes like it’s summer.

      Yes, I do use winter tires. There must be a dozen AWD/4WD vehicles in my circle of friends, and they all run studded winter tires. The difference between the functional performance of an AWD/4WD vehicle and a 2WD vehicle for winter city driving is much greater than the difference between a supercar and a compact economy car during summer.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    It is a wonderful little thing. But just like other wonderful little things – Juke and Soul – is too impractical and IMHO is not set right. Soul has manual only on low 1.6L trim, Juke has 1.6 turbo that requires waiting period. And finally, CX3 has 2L engine but somewhere in the process they forgot to add manual transmission. I would love one of these 3 for my next ride, even if it cost more than cheaper sedan. Well, there is always a fail-back, called Mazda3

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Exactly. There is choice, if you don’t want a CX3 then buy the cheaper 3. They even give you two practical body styles unlike the Corolla or Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      Powerlurker

      The Soul is impractical? It’s probably the most practical (and ironically, least soulful) of the CUVs. It has ample cargo space and can comfortably seat adults in the back seat. It’s also decently roomy in the front.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        @Powerlurker
        I misused word ‘impractical’ with Soul. It is practical in the utility sense. But in car sense it is not. It is not as fuel efficient as larger cars. And it doesn’t come with desired features + MT. In this sense, it is impractical. for example, 2.4L CR-V gets 27/34 mpg. 1.6 Soul… 24/30. This is impractical in car sense…

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        The Soul is a great little car with excellent height and front-seat roominess for its segment and cost. But precious little cargo with the rear seats up and they don’t fold flat.

        Minor quibbles, though. Home run for Kia.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    “On the highway, the SKYACTIV four does show its one flaw, though, and that’s its lack of passing power.”

    Its ONE flaw, huh? Having what I believe is the lowest specific output of any 2.0L four being sold today is a pretty big flaw. More like SKYINACTIVE.

    And why does any Japanese car that doesn’t make onlookers want to puke have to be discussed in terms of its design “language”? How do all of the European and American brands manage to release good- or at least inoffensive-looking cars without any self-conscious references to some design “language” nonsense?

    Memo to Mazda: see the 2015 Golf for some hints on how to make a hatchback look good AND have large windows, so that you can see out of it.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think peak horsepower and torque matters as much as how it’s delivered. In that vein, the torque is delivered down low and feels like it drops off quite a bit when you get into the revs.

      As far as design language, I reference it because a Mazda wrapped in KODO is easily identified as a Mazda. I’ve written about Chevrolet design language in the past and its lack of cohesiveness. Mazda is cohesive. Chevrolet is not (but it’s getting there).

      Also, the Golf design works … for the Golf. If every car looked like the Golf, I’d cry a big cry.

      • 0 avatar
        300zx_guy

        if by cohesive, you mean all the cars and trucks within the brand look the same, I don’t understand why this has become an all-consuming desire of every brand. I didn’t used to be this way, and the result, to me, is some models within a brand end always end up looking awkward because the designers are forced to use styling cues that don’t necessarily work on every vehicle shape. What’s wrong with making good looking cars, and if someone wants to know what it is, they can look at the badge? The real odd part about this is that with design language changing every redesign (for most brands other than BMW, Audi, Cadillac), you always end up with a line-up of cars that don’t match anyhow because they don’t all launch at the same time. Then at the mid-cycle refresh, the new face is forced onto the older cars, even if it doesn’t match (see Mercedes E-class, Chevy Cruze and Genesis coupe for examples of new faces that don’t work well with the rest of the car)

        • 0 avatar

          I agree, but unfortunately there isn’t much else to differentiate model lineup between each other these days. Almost everyone has a 2-liter four cylinder engine making the same amount of power and delivering the same fuel economy. Design is, really, all they have left.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Many reviewers have put the CX3 ahead of the HR-V, Encore and Trax in most comparisons, after reading this excellent review, it makes me wonder if this new class of car has much of a future when buyers realize that for less money, they can get more car in another class.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Not unless those buyers and/or the traffic around them get smaller.

      I’d get small in a heartbeat if I could.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I think what you will find is that no one buys two of them. Instead, car makers hope to build loyalty and get them to upgrade.

      To check that, it’d be interesting to see how many B segment buyers opt for another B segment car.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      But that “more car” won’t have high ride height. That’s the most important feature for a lot of buyers. These are succeeding because they have high ride height for cheap.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Car and Driver also noted the compromised interior space, which seems kinda lame compared to a 2003 Protege I drove which was quite spacious for a compact.

    “there is no center console cubby or armrest”

    We live in an era where 6 cupholders are mandatory, no one buys a CUV without an arm rest.

    • 0 avatar
      iganpo

      I’m surprised no one mentioned the lack of arm rest earlier. That’s a deal breaker imo because how else can I rest my elbow while texting?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Even a vestigial armrest, like the one on my sister’s ’08 Kia Sportage, is a no-go. Other than that, there’s nothing really wrong with the car, but I can’t drive it comfortably longer than a few miles.

    • 0 avatar
      Powerlurker

      An armrest is still technically optional ($400) on the Juke.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I never really did care for the Juke, ’tis another reason for the list.

        Perhaps thats why they’re all gray, to save money for that super fancy $400 arm wrest!

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Even though I like Juke, I have more problems with it than armrest. How about it being made by Nissan – this 1 issue and already proven when recall for timing chain was made. Then, 1.6L Turbo engine. More Nissan parts to go bad. I would prefer less HP but more responsive 2L. Fuel efficiency for such small car is also not too great, especially in times when Mazda3 hits 40mpg. Nismo is pretty cool. But have you tried to get in and out of that thing? (I am talking of the seats). Looks like mpg improved for 2015 but then, again, turbo and premium fuel. No. Too many drawbacks to Juke to make it worthy of purchase. So, I will continue to like it, while looking at it.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            The Juke lends well to toys, the real thing is a treat demonstration of “How much space can we eliminate for style?”.

            Incidently, like Mazda, auto journos and fans found the Juke to be a very “fun” car, but they could never figure out what made them fun.

  • avatar
    redav

    “the nomenclature is, I think, incredibly confusing to consumers. Also, I think it’s one of the reasons why Mazda is having a hard time making inroads in the U.S. market despite fostering some of the best products in the industry.”

    Bullshit.

    Smaller number = smaller vehicle. Larger number = larger vehicle. If that’s confusing to you, it’s not the car maker’s fault. The buying public doesn’t give a rat’s asterisk what platforms go together.

    Mazda can’t sell cars because they don’t know how to sell cars (their advertising sucks, their dealer network is small–and not well regarded, they don’t get much visibility outside of enthusiast circles, which let’s be honest, only accounts for a few percentage points of sales). They’ve always had these problems, even when their cars had names.

    • 0 avatar

      “Smaller number = smaller vehicle. Larger number = larger vehicle.”

      Or, in the case of the CX-3: bigger number = same size (vs Mazda2) and same number = smaller size (vs Mazda3). I think you just proved my point.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Larger number = vehicle we’re MARKETING as larger. Again, this is all about marketing.

        People like tall CUVs because the ride height makes them look bigger than they are. Put a CX-3 and a 3 hatch next to each other and ask 100 general public yahoos which is bigger inside. 99 of them will tell you confidently that the CX-3 is bigger inside and out.

        • 0 avatar

          And you’ve proved my point. It’s a bait and switch. The CX-3 is no taller (ground clearance) than a Mazda3, has a smaller interior, and its only killer app is all-wheel drive.

          • 0 avatar
            Daniel J

            Subcompact Crossover vs Compact Hatch, and we are surprised the compact Hatch has more room? I’m not. The Atenza Wagon has more cargo space than CX-9 behind the front row. Granted, we don’t get the Atenza Wagon.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            But what are the buyers trying to buy? I would argue they’re buying the IMAGE of a larger vehicle, not actual interior space. In which case they get exactly what they want with the CX-3.

            No one with actual interior space foremost on his or her mind is going to buy a Mazda CUV in the first place. They’ll be looking at RAV4/CR-V/Forester, the packaging kings of the segment.

  • avatar
    buzzyrpm

    It really shows what a mess the Mazda3’s exterior design is, that the CX3 looks significantly more aggressive and sporty. And this is from someone who dispises SUVs. Something about the proportions of the Mazda3 has made it the ugly duckling of the current range of Mazda’s. Hopefully the 2017 refresh of the Mazda3 fixes things but I think it may be best if they start from scratch.

    • 0 avatar
      mazdaman007

      ^^This. I’ll be driving my 2010 3 (or replacing it with another Gen II) until the next generation 3 comes out. I can’t stand the long hood of the current version. It just doesn’t fit (to me) with the rest of the car’s proportions. As I understand it the length of the hood is partly to do with the longer 4-2-1 headers required by the Skyactiv engines high-compression numbers. Funnily enough though the new Mazda 2 with Sky seems to look OK but I would need at least the 2.0 dropped in that before I would buy it.

      • 0 avatar
        buzzyrpm

        I agree about the long hood. They have justified it by saying that it makes the car look less like a FWD but it’s not convincing. I do think the 2017 refresh is going to be fairly extensive and include redone door panels. If it was going to be a light refresh they would have already done it with the 2016 Mazda3.

        • 0 avatar
          mazdaman007

          I hope you’re right about the 2017 and the door panels but the length of the hood would seem to me to be pretty fundamental to the existing engineering decisions that were made during design. I just don’t see it changing enough for my liking. I guess I grew up with FWD and small cars and have always preferred the short hood “cab-forward” styling.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “Let me be crystal clear here: The CX-3 costs more than the Mazda3, and for that extra $1,000 you get 1) less utility, 2) less choice (no manual), and 3) optional all-wheel drive that isn’t meant for off-roading.”

    That’s a pretty succinct description of what I don’t like about this class of vehicle. I can understand the RAV4 class, they are excellent utility vehicles. I don’t understand the B-segment CUV. A B-segment car is cheap with an efficiently packaged interior (Fiesta aside). Stick AWD, big stupid wheels, and the latest craze in high-beltline swoopback styling on it and you rob it of every strength it had.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Could be price perception, people think their B-Segment CUV is better than the cheaper bigger sedan when half the time its more worse, a mix of that and the extra styling on top.

      Imo its kinda low for Mazda to do this with a smaller cheaper platform, but I bet it handles extra sporty like a race car!

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      Isn’t this the case with ALL crossovers? In the last 10 or so years, the compact CUVs have been the same price or more than the midsized sedans. So, why would a subcompact crossover be less than a compact sedan or hatch? It wouldn’t be. While Mark is hung up on the utility aspect of it compared to the Mazda 3 hatch, a subcompact CUV has much more utility than a compact sedan, and not all companies have a compact hatch.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Mark is hung up on what he regards as deception, with CX-3 being smaller than Mazda3, but more expensive. Half of the rest think the car is too small. And this. And that. Fine, everyone has an opinion.

    Apparently, the population at large are complete dolts and incapable of figuring out the size of a vehicle when, you know, they actually sit in it. And inspect it. Then they can actually, gasp, drive the thing to see if that passes muster.

    I disagree completely with the naysayers. Those basic attributes are exactly what normal people look at – price and size and whether they like it. The darn thing is right there when you get off your duff and go to the dealer to see it. It’s a fool’s errand to look at a finished product and then complain it doesn’t fit your needs, but would have if they had just done this and that. They didn’t. If it doesn’t suit you, find something that does. What could be simpler? It isn’t rocket science.

    Nobody’s forcing anyone to buy anything. Or is someone going to argue about that as well?

    • 0 avatar

      But here’s the issue … nobody shows up at the dealer with a CX-3-sized load of camping gear to test out the usability of interior cargo area. They sit in the driver’s seat, go for a 15 minute drive, sit in the back seat, gaze into the back with the hatch open, and call it a day.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        That’s the average customer’s problem. When we were looking at CUVs, we brought empty boxes and a tape measure. The empty large boxes were mainly for scale. What we did notice was that some CUVs, while lots of space, had smallish openings or the wheel wells were huge.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I’m sorry, but this “car” is just following the trend of B-Segment crapboxes commanding up to THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS – Mazda is just cashing in on what the Encore/HR-V/Trax buyer seems to perceive – if it’s got a high seating position, AWD, and lots of plastic cladding, it’s worth the extra cash.

    I have nothing against this class of vehicle, but honestly, they’re overpriced for what are only perceived advantages.

    • 0 avatar
      boogieman99

      Price is my biggest criticism as well. I like that the CX3 makes no pretenses about what it is (Mazda 2 hatchback) and drives well, but you can get a 2.5L 3 hatchback for almost the same price as the mid-ranged CX3…

      Then again the CX3 is competitively priced with the HRV, Trax, and Encore. I feel bad for anyone who gets duped into buying these small CUVs

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    We looked at all of the new Mazdas this weekend, just for fun. The CX-3 really impressed me with its stance and overall visual appeal. Then there’s the lovely interior, which looks and feels very high quality, especially when compared back to back with a Trax or HR-V.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    “Let me be crystal clear here: The CX-3 costs more than the Mazda3, and for that extra $1,000 you get 1) less utility, 2) less choice (no manual)…”

    About that “choice” – in theory it’s true, but I’m trying to buy a Mazda3 2.5L MT (yes, really) and there aren’t any within 250 miles of here. I was hoping for a red one, but at this point I’ll be lucky to find a 2.0L MT. There are 6 of those out of 614 Mazda3 on dealer lots within 250 miles, and 5 of them are an ugly shade of gray. There’s a dark blue one without any of the options I wanted. I’ll consider it, but at this point I might not want to pay new car money and just get a 10-year old who-knows-what.


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