There are few cars I really dislike, as there really are no bad vehicles out there… though some might think that a bit of a mirage… however, it’s generally the truth. So, as most cars are like-worthy, it’s when they become great that they really stand out from the pack.
Well, that’s what Mazda’s done with the CX-3: they’ve made it great. From its looks, to its interior and drivability, this thing is amazeballs. I know it seems like something I say often, but I really do feel like I could have a CX-3 in my driveway, and I’d be uber happy living with it.
Small but mighty
I’m living proof that things in small packages are often not to be messed with -- and the 2016 Mazda CX-3 helps drive that point home. Based on the same platform as the itty-bitty Mazda2, this compact crossover is just that: compact. However, it’s its small demeanor that is perhaps one of its most attractive features.
Perfectly proportioned, the CX-3 looks poised and ready to pounce as it prowls urban city streets. Sporting KODO exterior design elements, it has some serious presence on the road, despite its small size. My particular tester in Soul Red with 18” gunmetal finish alloy wheels was fantastic to behold. The sweeping shoulder line and raised rear with a roofline that seemingly floats about the rear taillights kept heads turning no matter where I went.
That small-but-mighty attitude continues inside the CX-3 (especially in GT guise), with a three-tone colour scheme that features red, white and black accents. Lux-Suede white leather seats with black and red stripes aren’t only inviting, they’re aesthetically pleasing and perhaps a step up from what you might expect to find in a compact crossover.
Big on its wheels, too
Then there’s the drive; and that’s just as big and loaded with attitude as the look. Equipped with a fabulous SKYACTIV-G 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that produces an even 146 horsepower and torques, the Mazda CX-3 is a joy. No, it’s not the quickest on the block, nor the most aggressive-sounding, but it’s fun and it doesn’t put the driver to sleep out of sheer boredom. In my books, that’s a winning combination.
In GT guise (like my particular tester), not only do you get the SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission, but there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel, as well, for an added sporty feel.
On the road, the Mazda CX-3 is poised and well-behaved, especially in the city. This is truly an urban dweller. Quick commutes through busy, stop-sign-laden streets is when the CX-3 is the most content. The SKYACTIV engine and transmission mesh beautifully for smooth gear changes and easy driving, even in stop-and-go traffic.
Of course, should the open road present itself, the CX-3 is just as happy to comply with a good prod to the throttle. Power is evenly distributed, and the 2.0L has a pleasant note when pushed hard. Corning is also tons of fun thanks to the Mazda’s short wheelbase and well-balanced nature. Also, the CX-3 is available with AWD (my GT was equipped just so), and so the surefootedness of the drive is evident, and while I did not test it in any sort of snow or unstable road conditions, I feel confident the compact crossover would not disappoint in said situations.
Life with the CX-3
Here’s where the 2016 Mazda CX-3 really impressed me: day-to-day life. This is also the reason I could see myself living with it.
From installing my son’s car seat (a breeze, save for the lack of headroom in the rear that had me squished between the headrests and the roof to tighten the rear anchor) to groceries, packing for a weekend at the grandparent’s, and everything in between, the CX-3 excelled and outperformed.
Because it’s just my son and I, we were never wanting for more space. He had plenty of legroom in the rear (even if a friend came along in the passenger seat up front). Trunk space was more than adequate for our two-person grocery trips and outings, and just the overall feel of the CX-3 worked for me, and my lifestyle.
I fit perfectly in the driver’s seat and visibility was great all around. All controls and buttons are well at-hand and the HMI is a breeze to get used to and fiddle with on a daily basis. In truth, there’s very little I didn’t like about the CX-3.
Wait, I lie: I would have loved a manual transmission. Tack on a manual in this puppy and the driving dynamics would have skyrocketed for sure. Already full of character, the addition of a stick would have upped it all the more. Also, the suspension felt almost too “sporty” at times (read: harsher than necessary on uneven surfaces).
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 is in a savagely competitive segment along with the brand new Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, and Jeep Renegade. Those are some seriously heavy-hitting vehicles to go up against, but I think the CX-3 stands its ground quite nicely. With an entry price just over the $20k mark, the compact crossover from Mazda has so much to offer, you’d be silly not to consider it if you’re in the market for a compact crossover.