2018 Mazda CX-3 in Snowflake White Pearl Mica (a $200 color option)

2018 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD in Snowflake White Pearl Mica (a $200 option)

2015 Audi Q52018 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Class: Subcompact Crossover

Miles driven: 517

Fuel used: 18.7 gallons

Real-world fuel economy: 27.6 mpg

Driving mix: 65% city, 35% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 27/32/29 (city, highway, combined)

Base price: $26,415 (not including $940 destination charge)

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 ComfortC+
Power and PerformanceB+
Fit and FinishB+
Fuel EconomyB+
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
Big GuyC+
Tall GuyC+

Options on test vehicle: Premium Package ($1435; includes Radar Cruise Control with Close Proximity Warning, Smart Brake Support System, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Control, Distance Recognition Support System, 6-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, heated steering wheel, Traffic Sign Recognition), special paint ($200)

Price as tested: $28,990

Quick Hits

The great: Acceleration is at the top of the subcompact SUV class, nimble handling

The good: Swoopy styling, upscale interior materials in Grand Touring trim

The not so good: Not as spacious inside for people or cargo as most class competitors, subpar vision to rear corners

More CX-3 price and availability information


John Biel

Little by little, Mazda is making an already-good subcompact crossover SUV better. For 2018, its third model year on the market, the CX-3 targets handling and cabin noise as areas for improvement.

The handling part is being, uh, handled by the addition of “G-Vectoring Control,” which subtly adjusts power delivery during cornering, thereby shifting vehicle weight to enhance stability. Thicker window glass and added sound-squelching materials are utilized to hush things up. There’s a little shuffling of standard and optional equipment throughout the lineup, too.

2018 CX-3, White

CX-3 Touring models come standard with 18-inch wheels, LED exterior lighting, and a sunroof. Thick rear roof pillars compromise the view to the rear corners, though blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also standard.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that the Grand Touring model remains atop the model pecking order. Consumer Guide® tested an all-wheel-drive example sprayed with extra-cost Snowflake White Pearl Mica paint, and loaded up with the tech-and-comfort Premium Package option group.

A sporting flair, in its looks and in its driving character, has made the CX-3 a CG favorite right from its debut. It’s not a utilitarian little box. But this does come at the cost of some interior space and rear-corners vision.

2018 CX-3 Cabin

The CX-3’s dynamic styling carries over to the interior as well. Passenger room trails many class rivals, however. The front seat can be cozy for tall adults, and the rear-seat headroom is compromised by the sloping roofline.

All CX-3s come with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 146 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 146 lb-ft of torque that peaks at 2800 revs. The sole transmission is a 6-speed automatic with a selectable “Sport” mode and manual-shift capability. That’s sufficient power to move the 2952-pound AWD Grand Touring with some spring in its step. However, unlike earlier test drives in CX-3s, this test vehicle’s transmission felt slow to kick down for passing, and the Sport mode’s altered shift points seemed to extract more noise than power.

EPA fuel-economy ratings for this drivetrain are 27 mpg in city and 32 mpg on the highway. This tester averaged 26.58 mpg after covering 252.7 miles, 70 percent of that in city-type operation. Instrument-indicated potential range at fill-up was just another nine miles, but with almost 2.5 gallons remaining in the 11.9-gallon tank, the math suggests the test car might have gone a little bit further. (Note that the lighter front-wheel-drive CX-3 has room for a 12.7-gallon tank and is rated 2 mpg higher by the feds.)

2018 CX-3 Cargo Area

The sloping rear roofline also intrudes a bit on rear cargo space, which is not a CX-3 strong point. Folding the rear seats frees up a total of 42.3 cubic feet on CX-3 Grand Touring models; the Honda HR-V boasts up to 58.8 cubic feet.

Engine-room spunk is complemented by enjoyable driving dynamics. Ride feels nicely planted over surface undulations, though nastier pavement blemishes can induce a pronounced rear-end hop. The Grand Touring rolls on 215/50R18 tires affixed to 18-inch alloy wheels. Steering has an acceptable level of feel, and responds well to driver inputs. The CX-3 keeps its head well in lane changes or when hooking around expressway ramps. Braking is predictable.

Grand Touring seats come in perforated leather with suede inserts. Other top-level standard features include a head-up display, automatic climate control, a power moonroof, navigation, 7-speaker Bose audio with satellite and HD radio, upgraded exterior lighting, and a cargo-compartment cover. That builds on more broadly available items such as Bluetooth connectivity; Mazda Connect infotainment system with voice-command capability; 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, shifter knob, and parking-brake handle.

2018 CX-3 Engine

All CX-3s are powered by a 146-hp, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s one of the peppiest powertrains in the subcompact SUV class–especially when pulling away from a stop.

That’s what you get for the $26,415 base price (which is $1250 more than a front-wheel-drive Grand Touring costs). The costs of delivery and options ran CG’s test job to $28,990. The Premium Package added things like adaptive cruise control, braking assistance, lane-departure warning, headlight high-beam control, and a 6-way power adjustment and power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, plus newly added driver’s-seat memory, a heated steering wheel, and full-color traffic-sign recognition on the head-up display.

The test truck’s cabin had a sporting look with the headliner, central dash pad, and leather seat trim in Parchment; suede seat and door inserts in Black; and dark-red accents on the seats, door armrests, and knee cushions on either side of the center console. Even in the top-line model soft-touch material is primarily confined to the armrests and adjoining areas in the center of each door. As in some other Mazda vehicles, a large analog tachometer dial confronts the driver. It is flanked by oblong windows that cleanly display additional vehicle information. The infotainment system is managed—at the cost of some driver concentration—through “Commander Control” with a console-mounted twist-and-tap knob. A series of three dials provides more convenient operation of the climate system.

The glove box is usefully large, but other personal-item storage isn’t always as accommodating. There are small front-door pockets with bottle holders, and a small open area under the instrument panel that holds power and USB ports. The console contains a pair of cup holders, but they are inaccessible when the center armrest is in use. The rear row has just a pouch on the back of the front passenger seat and a bottle holder in each door.

Front passengers will find a surprisingly good degree of room—especially if they get to fully stretch out. However, if they do, rear passengers will be somewhat cramped. Even under the best of circumstances, the rear seat can hold two adults. Front headroom is ample enough, but some rear headroom is sacrificed to the sloping roof.

The CX-3’s small footprint begets a small rear cargo area, but the floor panel can be removed to add a few more inches of depth—or left in place to cover flat items that owners might want to keep hidden. Even with the upper panel in place, the floor rests below a lip. When the need arises, rear seats fold almost flat, and with an undivided transition from the cargo floor.

The CX-3 is a comfortable and lively little hauler best suited to singles or families with a young child or two. And, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles, it goes from being a good deal to a great one.

2018 CX-3, profile, white

If you value a sporty driving personality and dynamic styling more than passenger/cargo room in your subcompact SUV, then the CX-3 is a fine choice. Fuel economy is laudable, as are interior trimmings in the Grand Touring model.