By on February 27, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-3 AWD – Image: Mazda USA

Operating in the burgeoning subcompact crossover market that’s soon to welcome new entries from Toyota and Ford, the still fresh Mazda CX-3 is already suffering from declining sales.

And the CX-3 is not declining from a particularly high and lofty point achieved earlier in its short lifecycle. There was no hot start for the Mazda CX-3, no early high-volume response to hyped-up demand from which sales would inevitably decrease.

Over the last three months, U.S. sales of the Mazda CX-3’s direct competitors have grown 21 percent, year-over-year. Yet sales of the CX-3 during the same period have declined 4 percent.

The Mazda CX-3 is a new model, only on sale for a year and a half. It’s attractive and highly regarded by reviewers. Yet sales are slowing at the very same time as sales of its competitors are flourishing.

Mazda doesn’t intend to chase volume for volume’s sake, but Mazda does intend to get the CX-3 product mix right before the CX-3 is labelled a flop.

“Initial supplies were all higher trims with all-wheel drive, which is definitely more of an emphasis for driving higher transaction prices,” Mazda spokesperson Jacob Brown told TTAC last week.

Indeed, even now, two-thirds of the roughly 3,000 CX-3s in stock are all-wheel-drive models. All-wheel drive is a $1,250 option on each of the CX-3’s three trim levels.

Among the more popular competitors, slightly less than half of the Honda HR-Vs in stock are equipped with AWD. In fact, the CX-3’s AWD mix is even marginally higher than the AWD mix for the Jeep Renegade.

Moreover, approximately 40 percent of the CX-3’s on dealer lots are priced above $25,000, leaving only around 1,800 CX-3s on sale for less than $25,000. Honda has nearly 10,000 sub-$25K HR-Vs in stock.

But that AWD emphasis “doesn’t help with volume in a price-sensitive class,” Brown says. “Most B-segment crossover shoppers are traditionally those who would have purchased C-segment cars.”

Mazda dealers have therefore been able to sell high-priced CX-3s, just not very many of them. In 2016, only 3.5 percent of the subcompact crossovers sold in the United States were CX-3s. Only the defunct Mini Paceman, transitioning Mini Countryman, and genuinely flopped Fiat 500X sold less often.

In January 2017, the second consecutive month of decline for Mazda’s entry-level crossover, CX-3 volume declined 14 percent and its market share slid to 3.1 percent.

2017 Mazda CX-3 & CX-5: Image: Mazda USA

It’s not as though the Mazda brand was trending downwards last month. January 2017 marked the brand’s highest-volume January in five years, Mazda car volume grew 2 percent, and the larger CX-5 and CX-9 jumped 28 percent. Yet January was the lowest-volume full month for the CX-3 so far.

Mazda won’t suddenly determine that the CX-3 must become a high-volume contender. But, says Mazda’s Jacob Brown, “There’s room to grow, and as more customers see how good CX-3 is, we hope to grow volume with them as well.”

In order to get those potential customers to more seriously consider a CX-3, Mazda needs more affordable CX-3s. “We’re going to be adding more entry and mid-level CX-3s into the mix, as well as more with front-wheel drive, because there is room to grow where we have not carried much inventory in subsegments of B-CUV where it makes sense,” Brown told TTAC.

A more affordable CX-3 won’t soon become a more spacious CX-3. Surprisingly balanced ride and handling, a six-speed automatic that makes the most of the CX-3’s 146 horsepower, and tasteful styling still won’t be enough for everyone.

The Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade — a pair of popular subcompact crossovers that outsell the CX-3 by four-to-one and six-to-one, respectively — can both carry people and stuff more effectively. The HR-V provides 11 percent more passenger volume and 61 percent more cargo volume than the CX-3; the Renegade offers 16 percent more people space and 28 percent more space for cargo.

But surely a subcompact Mazda crossover has the potential to outsell the Porsche Macan, Audi Q3, and Volvo XC60, three premium utility vehicles that generate more U.S. sales than the little Mazda.

Fortunately for Mazda, there is one key vehicle the higher-margin CX-3 manages to outperform. Between 2011 and 2014, the Mazda 2 that was indirectly replaced by this CX-3 averaged fewer than 15,000 annual U.S. sales.

Mazda sold 18,557 CX-3s in 2016.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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57 Comments on “Don’t Call The Mazda CX-3 A Flop — Yet...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Having driven one, I can make some observations:

    1) It’s fun to drive, or at least as much fun as cars in this class can be.
    2) Having said that, it’s slow.
    3) Terrible back seat.
    4) Somewhat expensive for the class.

    The 3 provides far more utility for fewer bucks, and has fewer platform-based compromises.

    I wanted to like the CX-3 a lot more than I actually did.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The back seat, engine and price really work against it versus it’s competitors: this isn’t a market where people are looking for rockets on rails.

      The other, larger issues are across the showroom: the Mazda3 and CX-5 do what the CX-3 does, only better and, in the case of the 3, for less money. Either the CX needs more crossoverishness (room, ride height) or it needs to be priced lower.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’d actually argue that it needs more power.

        It’d take a complete redesign to fix the utility / back seat issues with this car, but what’s the point? The folks who want an appliance aren’t going to buy a Mazda to begin with. They’re off to buy an HR-V.

        But with more power, this car would be seriously fun to drive, and THAT speaks to Mazda buyers. It’d also speak to VW intenders, many of whom might just be tempted away from that brand given all its’ issues.

        Mazda needs to play to its’ strengths, versus trying to make believe it’s Toyota-lite.

        • 0 avatar
          syncro87

          Drop the 1.5T from my wife’s Civic into the HR-V, and I’d own one.

          • 0 avatar
            brettc

            I’m wondering if/when Honda is going to do that.

            It’s in the CR-V now so it seems like eventually it’ll be an option.

            All of these small CUVs are weak in the engine department, Mazda could maybe differentiate themselves if they’d offer something with more power.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    I recommended one of these for a relative. A single young woman deep in the Snow Belt who wanted a stylish AWD replacement for her old Civic. She loved its strengths, and none of its deficiencies put her off.

    That said, I’d wager most CUVs are being sold as family cars of some sort, so it’s hard to do much volume without a usable back seat.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Give it Skyactive 2.5, manual transmission, and AWD in a “GT” package!

    It has to sell then. – Said Every Internet Commenter Ever

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I do agree that ICE CEOs can be a bit…. short sighted.

      But Mazda needs to give up the ghost and succumb to turbocharging. Outside of the 2300lb Miata, naturally aspirated SKYACTIV-G engines just aren’t good, compared to something like the VW 1.8 TSI. They could probably get away with a 2.0T applied across the board in various states of tune and spec (i.e. a 180 or so 2.0T probably doesn’t need dual VVT or even direct injection for that matter).

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “But Mazda needs to give up the ghost and succumb to turbocharging.”

        This, this, this, a hundred times this.

        Mazda’s problem isn’t “road noise”, which is usually trotted out by the B&B as the root of Mazda’s issues. That’s not it at all. The problem is that the road noise isn’t offset by higher PERFORMANCE.

        Put a lightweight 2.0T in the 6 sedan, and all the sudden the road noise becomes a lot less objectionable. In fact, it’d make sense. Higher performing cars make more noise. The people who buy cars like that understand this tradeoff.

        Now, would the 6 start outselling Camry all the sudden? No, but this is a niche brand. It doesn’t need to have the top selling car in any category. All it needs is a devoted bunch of buyers. And given that the other main player in this niche is Volkswagen, there’s an opportunity to pick up market share. Heck, they could probably pick up sales from Audi as well.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Worth a shot but personally I don’t think the brand can be salvaged (a bit like Cadillac).

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I think both are eminently “salvageable.”

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            I agree with Freed. Mazda doesn’t have what kills a brand: disrepute. It isn’t disrespected like Pontiac or Cadillac or FCA’s Dead Brands Walking. It just isn’t doing big enough numbers.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I respectfully disagree, neither needs to exist at this point and offers little to nothing compelling in the segments they compete (I speak for USDM, not other markets I can’t speak for).

            Too many brands, too many mfg. Let the cull begin.

        • 0 avatar
          Der_Kommissar

          That’s a good perspective. I think in the absence of more performance, the NVH comes across as cheap rather than sporty. It’s a lot of fun up to 50 mph. After that, its a tin can of a commuter.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        Absolutely nothing wrong with the 2.5 in the CX-5 or the Mazda 6. Reasonable HP and torque bands, and no turbo lag.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      You forgot the diesel

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Don’t Call The Mazda CX-3 A Flop — Yet”

    Fair enough but can I call Mazda a flop?

  • avatar
    syncro87

    I really wanted to like the CX-3.

    Then I went and test drove one.

    Too many cons and not enough pros. Not enough of a compelling case to buy.

    Cons: Cargo area too small. Rear seat area too small. Ground clearance too minimal, or maybe the front fascia is the problem–can see it getting torn off in snow/ice, etc. Price too high relative to value received. No manual.

    Pros: Good looking. Non CVT. Relatively fun to drive.

    The main alternative people probably shop, the Honda HR-V:

    Cons: Power train is a total dud. Styling not as good as the Mazda.

    Pros: Far, far better interior space utilization than the Mazda. Manual option, but only with FWD.

    As it stands, pass on both options.

    The ideal vehicle in this class would be a combination of the two. Give me the HR-V with a decent engine/trans. The 1.5T from the Civic would transform the HR-V, and Mazda would never sell another CX-3 in the States. Obvious exaggeration, but you get the point. A Jeep Renegade would come close to my ideal small utey thing, but only if Honda or Toyota or Mazda built it for Jeep, similar to the Yaris iA situation. Fiat product sold by Jeep dealer, hard to pull that trigger.

    One point from the article that I totally agree with. The launch product mix was crap. I searched for miles around for an AWD Sport to no avail. Dealers were chock full of Grand Touring AWD and FWD. Now, I do think that AWD is a sales hook, but not at Grand Touring prices. Mazda should have made a lot more Sport AWD available early on.

    Mix, however, isn’t the core problem. The thing is too tiny inside. Not enough utility. Even if they slashed the price, the effect would be limited.

    • 0 avatar
      ZCD2.7T

      Ever driven a Kia Soul? (not AWD, but winter tires would take care of that issue for most…)

      • 0 avatar
        syncro87

        Yes. I was unimpressed with the MPG and the engine power. If you want the stick, they saddle you with the small engine.

        I’m really curious to drive the new turbo Soul. The addition of that engine would seem to do a lot to make the Soul more interesting.

        Kia depreciation scares me. Maybe it’s not that bad anymore. The Soul that made the most sense to me was the base model with a manual, you can buy those for next to nothing. But they are somewhat underpowered. Too bad Kia doesn’t drop the base engine and make the larger NA engine standard with the stick shift and entry trim level.

        I totally agree with you on winter tires. I have a set on steel wheels for my current Civic.

        • 0 avatar
          ZCD2.7T

          I agree that the 1.6L engine is lacking, particularly in the 2014 and newer models, which are about 300 lbs. heavier than the previous version.

          Ours is a 2012 Exclaim with the 2.0L/AT combo, and it has plenty of power for what it is. 0-60 in the mid-8s is fine for a car like this. The newer models are a couple of tenths slower, but also smoother and quieter, so there’s that.

          Yep, the turbo would be the one to get, but of course you have to get the ! (Exclaim!) model to get that engine, AND you can’t get it with a manual trans.

          All of that said, the Soul is a remarkably well-rounded vehicle, IMO – funky yet practical, fun to drive for what it is.

          • 0 avatar
            syncro87

            What kind of MPG do you see out of yours?

            I agree that the form factor is pretty good. I could live without the manual transmission if the alternative was good.

            If a dealer near me gets a no-option package turbo in stock, I may have to pay them a visit to take a look.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          Ours is the 2012 Plus trim with the 2.0/6MT combo. I love that car. I think I’ve been saying for the past year how much I love that car. Every time I get to drive it (daughter’s birthday present, so she has all the fun) it makes me smile and makes me jealous.

          Shame on Kia for nixing that combo. Absolute shame!

          • 0 avatar
            syncro87

            Hmm. I forgot you could get that combo once upon a time. Might have to look at the local used inventory. Thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      ZCD2.7T

      @ syncro87

      “What kind of MPG do you see out of yours?”

      About 27 mpg combined. 30-32 hwy, 24 city.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I too expected to like the CX-3 better. I thought it would be the perfect vehicle for my diminutive former girlfriend, whose primary considerations included a small footprint for easy parking in her little old garage.

      She would have spec’d a relatively basic but still well-equipped FWD GS version with cloth seats, as even quality leather is unpleasant at -40C. Almost every one in stock that wasn’t a loaded GT had plastic seats and AWD. No matter, as it was just a test drive at that point. It was funny that the salesman suggested to me that she’d want AWD because that’s what women tend to gravitate toward. But she wanted the vehicle to be as efficient as possible and has first-hand knowledge of how well FWD works with a set of European studded winter tires. I said that I’d have considered AWD if ESC is easily disabled because I enjoy exiting corners sideways, but she has no interest in such things.

      The size was perfectly acceptable, but it felt cheap and flimsy driving over our terrible spring roads on 18″ rubber band tires. I told the salesman they’re doing the vehicle a disservice by using that trim level as their demo. But the killer for her was the visibility. Sitting so far forward, the A-pillar blocked too much of her view, and even with that seating position the front door is so short that the B-pillar blocked her peripheral vision as well. She’s used to having full visibility to her left in any vehicle, especially the MX-6 that she was transitioning from.

      So it came down to the HR-V vs. the Mazda3 hatchback. I would have taken the CX-3 over the HR-V – despite the availability of a manual in the HR-V and the fact that I even preferred the HR-V’s CVT to the CX-3’s auto during my short time behind the wheel – because the seats in the HR-V were so clearly designed for a 5′-0″ woman that they were intolerable to me. I didn’t mind that I felt like I was wearing the CX-3, like a Miata, because the ergonomics worked for me, and I love driving Miatas. The steering feel of the HR-V was also non-existent. But the seats fit her fine and she didn’t care about the steering, so she appreciated the feeling of solidity and interior quality of the HR-V. But she liked the Mazda3 equally, and since it is more fuel efficient than the HR-V she chose a brown manual Mazda3 GS hatchback. She wasn’t even initially considering it because she thought they were ugly at first sight, but it grew on her after we drove it.

      Test drive everything you can!

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    The problem is that it’s just plain too cramped inside.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    It’s a Mazda 2 with a lift kit. Why is everyone surprised it’s small?

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      If Mazda was aiming for a lifted 2, they need to lift it more. If I’m not mistaken, the CX3 is only something like 1.5cm or .6″ superior to the 2 in ground clearance. Not enough to add any significant foul weather or dirt/gravel road capability over a small sedan or hatch. Higher hip point? Yeah, maybe.

      It’s not so much that the CX3 is small, but it comes across as using the space it has relatively poorly. The Honda HR-V is only about 10 or 12% larger in interior volume, but feels a lot larger inside than that compared to the Mazda. Honda figured out how to package theirs better, at least to appeal to North Americans.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Which would imply that it’s pretty over-priced. Or a great profit center on the small volume that they do sell.

    • 0 avatar
      gomez

      Because it didn’t need to be THAT small. If Mazda had squared off the rear a bit more, it would have created a vehicle with a much larger cargo area with minimal impact on styling and no impact to performance. It wouldn’t have helped the rear seat situation, but people buying vehicles in this price/size category rarely use the rear seats. But they do use the cargo area.

  • avatar
    nguyenvuminh

    Mazda is living and dying by their zoom-zoom sword. Want AWD on their CUV, there are Jeeps. Want to demonstrate your unique persona, get a Subaru (with a history of AWD). Want a small and practical CUV, get a Honda. Want a small and hip CUV, get a Kia Soul. Want a zoom zoom, get the Mazda. Unfortunately, those that want zoom are far outnumbered by those that want the other stuff. Throw in a an average reliability reputation and non-competitive price, and Mazda’s sales performance should not be a surprise.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    If this were an FCA product – and not Mazda’s – it would’ve been derided as a flop 6 months ago…

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    This is the car that, unwisely, convinced me to buy a Mazda 3. Fun to drive with good interior quality, it’s fatal flaw is that it’s not big enough inside to support a single person with an active lifestyle, much less a family. There’s not much of a market for this car if you can’t even sell to the dude with a bike.

  • avatar
    joc6812

    I’m actually considering a CX 3 this summer when lease is up on current vehicle. Also considering Encore and Renegade. I don’t need a lot of space, other than front seat comfort (6’3, 230 lbs.). Haven’t driven any of the cars yet. I like the Mazda idea, my concern is the dealer network. Everywhere I’ve lived, the Mazda dealer was always the dreariest, most run down facility with the sleaziest sales people. If this is still true (it is where I live now), it seems they need to address this if they want success in the US market.

  • avatar

    Mazda’s sure seem to rust out here in the rust belt.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      There’s been some good conversations on this by the more informed TTAC commentators who have extensive experience with OEM paint processes, but the general rule of thumb seems to be:
      * New Mazda (second-gen 3 and later, most CXs) = fine
      * Older Japanese-assembled Mazda (Protege, 3 & 5) = rustbucket
      * North American-assembled Mazda (any 6, Tribute, B-Series, CX-9) = fine

  • avatar
    BuzzBNY

    This may sound weird but I really think one of the things that hurts the cx 3 is the lack of a roof rack standard. Even if many people dont use their racks often they are very handy for those that do. Always seem to be a big point for the Subaru owners I know.

  • avatar
    Funky

    In my rural small town neighborhood I see many Mazda CX-3s. The nearest Mazda dealer is at least 30 miles from our town (there are two; one is something like 35 miles and the other is about 45 miles). And yet I often see CX-3s on the road and in the local parking lots.

    In my suburban neighborhood I don’t see CX-3s as often. And there are at least three Mazda dealers within about a 20 mile radius.

    I don’t really have a point. I just thought I’d throw that out there for consideration. And, for anybody who didn’t already pick up on it in my previous comments on previous articles, I’ll add the disclaimer that I own a 2017 CX-3 GT with which I am extraordinarily happy.

  • avatar
    amca

    Someone finally designs a CUV I find appealing. And it’s a flop.

    I’m hopeless out of step with the times.

  • avatar
    arcuri

    Protege was the last good car Mazda made.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      As a former Protege owner, I want to agree, but that car:
      * Was ridiculously geared and thusly noisy as all-hell at highway speed
      * Rusted away if you looked at it funny

      As a counterpoint, I would say that Mazda has made, and continues to make, a lot of good cars (every 3 & 6, the 5, CX-5, Miata and RX-8), but has trouble pitching and positioning them correctly. It’s not that they’re _bad_ cars, but they’re up against competitors that are better-pitched at the meat of the market, whereas the Mazda equivalent often has a small, subtle flaw.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I say this as a Mazda fan. I’ve owned two Miatas, two Mazda5s, and a Protege5 over the years. The CX-3 just makes no sense to me at all. What customer need does it fulfill? My old Protege5 had more interior space… or at least felt like it. The backseat of the CX-3 would barely be comfortable for my 8 year-old, and the availability of AWD doesn’t change the awkward packaging.

    Why would someone choose this vehicle over the many other options on the market? It seems expensive and I personally find the styling awkward like it doesn’t know if it wants to be a sporty hatchback or an SUV, so it’s bad at both. The other cars in the Mazda showroom just all make a lot more sense. Ok, I suppose the CX-3 makes more sense than the Nissan Juke and it looks better, but I wouldn’t consider one of those, either.

    This whole class of CUVs with no real-world “U” but with premium prices is just silly. The Kia Soul, on the other hand, does well because at the end of the day it has great space utilization and offers a lot of value.

    Similarly, my 75 year old aunt loved her first-gen Scion xB (in bright yellow with chrome wheels) because she could get it with a stick shift and her bicycle fit in the back easily without having to take off the front tire. Demographics be damned… a practical and affordable car will find a larger audience than an overpriced compromised design. At the end of the day, marketing targets and customer profiles go out the window and the manufacturer just wants sales.

    I’ll harp on this again… why do the manufacturers think that there is a market for these ridiculously focused niches but that there isn’t a market here for something like the Mazda6 wagon? VW and Subaru sell a large number of compact and mid-sized wagons. Used wagons sell for a premium (have you seen what clean 1st gen 6 wagons sell for?!). Like I said, practical and affordable cars don’t generate press but they generate sales.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    My $0.02.

    If you’re considering a Mazda (there goes a huge number of buyers to begin with)…. you walk into a dealership with the Mazda3 and CX-5 sitting right there.

    And I can’t imagine that for most people, in this day, over a long loan or a lease, that a 3 or a CX-5 costs much more than the CX-3 per month.

    But you get way more performance and utility.

    Didn’t drive a CX3 but space inside is just BAD. This simply screams to me of a lets-take-advantage-of-the-SUV craze and they jacked up a cheap car and try to charge 25k for it. I’m not singling out Mazda on this, everyone does it in their SUV’s vs sedan platform-mates, but Mazda certainly didn’t make the CX-3 better enough over a Mazda 2 to justify the price they’re trying to get.

    RE: Mazda and turbo… Please no. Everyone else has gone turbo. I honestly believe that a big reason Mazda scores so well in reliability is because of the N/A motors. Even ignoring for enthusiasts they’re more enjoyable to wind out, a non-turbo engine I think is just going to last longer, with fewer issues. If Mazda loses their top reliability rankings, they they really have very little to go on to get people to buy their cars.

    I say all this as a 4 time Mazda owner.

  • avatar

    This whole compact SUV segment makes me sick. The cars are heavier, taller, slower, less fuel efficient, costlier, ride more harshly, handle worse, and have less interior space. Just so that buyers can say they have a “crossover”. It’s ridiculous. I love everything that Mazda makes, notably the Mazda3 and the CX-5, yet I loathe the CX-3. The reorientation of the great Mazda3 into a crossover simply ruins it for all the reasons stated above.

  • avatar
    fred0804

    I’ve had numerous Mazda’s, the cars have been fine but as stated in prior post the dealerships are from 30 yrs. ago but more important is the total lack of knowledge about the product from the “sales” staff. They don’t know what skyactiv philosophy is, nor how the center control pod functions. They try to bluff answers. The only purpose of the “sales” staff is to run offers to the sales manager, and make deliveries. I live in central Florida, not much need for awd and the 3 hatchback runs rings around the CX3 for thousands less.

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