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2016 Mazda CX-3: Small City Crossover

By Arv Voss, August 15th, 2015

Mazda has launched the 2016 CX-3 calling it a vehicle that represents an all-new dimension for a crossover SUV. And they mean that, literally.

It is bigger than both the Mazda2 and the Mazda3, but smaller than the Mazda CX-5. An ideally sized crossover, the CX-3 is also taller than the Mazda3, but with reduced overhangs.

The Mazda CX-3 comes in three trims: the entry-level base model CX-3 Sport, what is expected to be the core mid-range CX-3 Touring, and the top-of-the-line Mazda CX-3 GT or Grand Touring.

All feature SKYACTIV technologies found on CX-5, Mazda6, and Mazda3, which share a similar platform, but the CX-3 is significantly smaller, while still delivering Mazda's "Zoom, Zoom" driving dynamic and showcasing its "Soul of Motion" design philosophy.

Ten variations are available from the CX-3 Sport FWD starting at $19,960, to the CX-3 GT with a beginning price tag of $28,160.

Power for all Mazda CX-3 models is provided by a 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G, DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder engine with gasoline direct injection that delivers 146 horsepower at 6,000 rpm while generating 146 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. The engine is coupled to a six-speed automatic with electronic lockup torque converter, manual shift mode, and a Sport mode that gears motive energy to either the front or all four wheels via Mazda's predictive i-ACTIV AWD System for an additional $1,250.

Visually, the new CX-3 displays a bold athletic look that emphasizes the model's stylish proportions. The grille stacks seven fins to create flowing concentrated energy, while the signature wing grille surround forms the starting point for a sense of speed and power that flows over the entire body.

All CX-3 models also come with Mazda Connect, a 7-inch, full-color touchscreen infotainment suite that is integrated with a commander control knob and Bluetooth hands-free phone pairing and audio streaming. Mazda Connect helps keep drivers and passengers safely connected, integrating phone controls, radio, internet radio services like Pandora and Aha by Harmon, and available navigation into a single system. All 2016 CX-3s also have a backup camera and push-button starter as well as power windows, power door locks, and remote keyless entry.

During the national press launch, I was afforded the opportunity to put both a FWD and AWD Mazda CX-3, each in Grand Touring trim, through their paces in various driving scenarios. The FWD version had a base sticker of $24,990; the AWD example CX-3 came to $27,620.

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 is the right-size CUV and will serve most drivers ideally from a cityscape to a more adventurous landscape sojourn. The seating fills the sweet spot in a variety of ways -- by providing a clear view of surroundings, by mitigating the feeling of speed (a good thing for some, for others, not so much), by eliminating the distraction of the lights of oncoming vehicles, and by easing entry and exit.

In terms of its performance, the all-new CX-3 with its SKYACTIV powertrain delivers a claimed world's highest gasoline engine compression ratio of 13:0:1. Would turbocharging enhance the performance? You bet it would, but not without sacrificing some fuel economy.

The SKYACTIV Drive six-speed automatic shifts smoothly in automatic mode, but is more pleasing in Sport mode using the paddle shifters. The handling characteristics are crisp and sporty, with a positive on-center feel and flat, stable ride during challenging and spirited maneuvers.

The hatchback configuration and easy folding rear seats increase functionality and versatility. The new Mazda CX-3 is poised to compete favorably with the other new kids on the block: the Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, and Honda HR-V.

The CX-3 is without question a most desirable CUV with all the right things going for it: good looks, satisfactory performance, comfort, versatility, affordability, and economical operation. Perhaps best of all, the CX-3 is a Mazda through and through, with lots of "Zoom, Zoom" DNA.


Base price $24,990 (as tested: $29,700)
Curb weight 2,809 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Engine type 16-valve SkyActiv-G 4-cyl. w/DI
Epa mileage rating 29 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 12.7 gal.
Horsepower (net) 146 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 168.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 146 at 2800 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact FWD CUV
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