Class: Subcompact Crossover
Miles Driven: 291
Fuel Used: 10.1 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 27.7 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||C+|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||B+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 27/32/29 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $26,240 (not including $880 destination charge)
Options on test car: Mazda Mobile Start ($550), i-ACTIVESENSE Package ($1920)
Price as tested: $29,590
The great: Responsive powertrain, fuel economy, available high-tech safety features
The Good: Sporty handling, interior materials
The not so good: Control layout, cargo room
At its core, the all-new Mazda CX-3 subcompact crossover SUV is a nice enough vehicle, with sportier looks and a bit more fun-to-drive character than some of its competitors. Those are reasons why the CX-3 is a Consumer Guide® “Best Buy” in this emerging class of vehicles.
Not all CX-3s are born exactly equal, however. While they all share the same 146-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, plus the same passenger-room and cargo dimensions, there is an ascending rank of equipment for the benefit of shoppers who think they can spring for more bling. Indeed, CG’s second test drive in a CX-3 came in a line-leading Grand Touring with all-wheel drive.
What that means is 18-inch alloy wheels and 215/50R18 tires in place of the 16-inch wheels and rubber found on Sport and midlevel Touring models. Grand Touring seats are trimmed in leather with suede inserts, automatic climate control keeps passengers warmed and cooled as needs be, and a power moonroof stands overhead. There’s also a navigation system, 7-speaker Bose audio with satellite and HD radio, upgraded exterior lighting, and a cargo-compartment cover in the $26,240 base price. Of course, all of that complements gear carried from the other CX-3s like Bluetooth connectivity, the Mazda Connect infotainment system, a 7-inch color touchscreen, rearview camera, push-button starting, 60/40-split rear seat backs, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, advanced keyless entry, heated exterior mirrors, sunglasses holder, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The dohc powerplant delivers a good amount of power just about all of the time—all the more when the transmission’s “Sport” mode is toggled on. In that case, there’s a freer flow of power and quicker response to throttle inputs. EPA fuel-economy ratings for the AWD CX-3 are 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway. This tester averaged 26.97 after covering 110.7 miles, 73 percent of them in city-style driving. That wasn’t quite as good as he got earlier from an AWD Touring (29.57 mpg) with slightly more highway miles.
The pleasing ride isn’t fundamentally changed by the Grand Touring’s tire/wheel package. Steering responds well to driver inputs, and braking is predictable.
Aside from the upgrade in seat coverings, interior ambience is similar throughout the CX-3 range. Even at the top of the line soft-touch material is generally confined to the tops of the door arm rests and adjoining areas in the center of each door—in this case the door material was the same suede found on the seats, and dark red arm rests and seat piping shot some color through the otherwise black ensemble. Being a new Mazda, the infotainment system in the CX-3 is subject to the console-dial Commander Control that has yet to win any brownie points from this driver.
As for personal-item storage, the glove box is usefully large, but it is accompanied by small front-door pockets with bottle holders, 2 open cup holders in the console (that are inaccessible when the arm rest is flipped down), and a small open bin under the dash that holds power and USB ports. The 2nd row has a single pouch on the back of the front passenger seat and a bottle holder in each door.
Passenger room is better in the front than it is in back, where 2 adults—or perhaps 3 kids—will be cramped if front-seaters test the limits of seat travel. If front-seaters don’t need to stretch out all the way, though, there’s the potential for comfortable adult leg room. Rear head room is not so ample under the sloping roof. Driver vision to the rear corners suffers a bit from this design, and rear-seat head rests restrict the view dead astern.
The rear cargo area is as subcompact as the rest of the vehicle, but the floor panel can be removed to add a few more inches of depth—or left in place to serve as a cover for flat items that owners might want to keep hidden. To expand cargo capacity, the rear seats fold almost flat, and with a smooth, undivided transition from the rear cargo floor.
CG’s Grand Touring test vehicle had a bottom-line price of $29,590 with delivery and options—mostly a $1920 package with electronic safety features only available at the GT level. Other things that shoppers might find worthwhile, like navigation or the moonroof, can be ordered further down the line.
Consumer Guide recently enjoyed a welcome opportunity to evaluate identical examples of the same vehicle in very different climates. This past December, editor Rick Cotta spent time the 2016 Mazda CX-3 in the Phoenix, Arizona area, while the remaining staff test-drove a nearly identical vehicle here in Chicago.
Despite a temperature differential of as much as 80 degrees, our impressions of the CX-3 were uniformly positive. We’ve named the CX-3 a 2016 Consumer Guide Best Buy, and additional time with the little crossover served to underscore that decision.
The single performance metric that varied between the two test vehicles was fuel economy. Rick, in warmer Arizona saw 31.1 mpg, this in mostly highway driving.
With a bit more stop-and-go driving, and with temperatures hovering around freezing, our Chicago test vehicle eked out a still-impressive 27.7 mpg. It’s worth noting that both vehicles were equipped with AWD.
With its limited 2nd-row passenger space, the CX-3 is best suited for small families or individuals with little need to ferry more than one additional adult. That said, this smallest Mazda crossover is efficient, nicely finished, and fun to drive.