Mazda CX-3: A Mighty Compact Crossover

By Arv Voss, September 2nd, 2017

Mazda's CX-3 represents a different dimension in the crossover SUV marketplace: It is bigger than both the Mazda2 and the Mazda3, but is smaller than the Mazda CX-5. Ideally sized, the CX-3 crossover is also taller than the Mazda3 car, but with reduced overhangs. It is the smallest iteration of Mazda's SKYACTIV-generation lineup, yet may well be one of its mightiest, as the 2017 CX-3 returns for its second model year.

The Mazda CX-3 comes in three trim levels: the entry-level base model CX-3 Sport; next, what is expected to be the core model, the mid-range CX-3 Touring; and the top-of-the-line Mazda CX-3 GT or Grand Touring. All feature the SKYACTIV technologies found on the Mazda 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 their KODO "Soul of Motion" design philosophy.

For 2017, the CX-3 Touring adopts 18-inch wheels, trickling down from the Grand Touring trim level; the Grand Touring i-ACTIVSENSE package of safety features costs less than the outgoing model and comes available with Mazda radar cruise control, automatic Smart City brake support and Smart brake support, lane departure warning, high beam control, automatic on/off headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

Power for all Mazda CX-3 variants is provided by a 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G, 16-valve, 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 SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic with electronic lockup torque converter, manual shift mode, and a Sport mode that gears motive energy to the front wheels or to all four wheels via Mazda's predictive i-ACTIV AWD System.

Visually, the new CX-3 displays a bold athletic look that emphasizes the model's stylish proportions. The grille stacks seven fins with available silver-painted front edges that create a horizontally flowing concentrated energy. The signature wing grille surround is three-dimensional and substantial, as if it were machined from solid metal. It forms the starting point for a sense of speed and power that flows over the entire body.

The styling focuses on creating the rich expression and subtle changes in each of the body surfaces. The front half of the body features a long nose with a flowing shape, the cabin section presents a sleek look achieved by blacking out the D-pillars, and the solid mass at the rear of the body conveys a look of strength and power. All 2017 CX-3s also have a backup camera and push-button starter, as well as power windows, power door locks, and remote keyless entry.

I was recently able to spend more time in a FWD version Grand Touring CX-3 with a Dynamic Blue Mica exterior and a Parchment and Black interior with Maroon trim accent panels and stitching. The base sticker read $24,990 with final total rising to $27,260 after factoring in options and destination charges.

The 2017 Mazda CX-3 will be just the right size CUV for many consumers and will serve ideally from traversing cityscapes to more adventurous landscape sojourns. The seating hits the sweet spot in a variety of ways: by providing a clear view of surroundings, by mitigating the feeling of speed by eliminating the distraction of the lights of oncoming vehicles, and easing entry and exit.

The exterior design of the CX-3 is exceptionally attractive and appealing with pure and refined proportions, while the interior serves up simplified, yet dynamic and comfortable, surroundings with a modern feel while delivering old-world craftsmanship.

In terms of its performance, the 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G 146-horsepower, four-cylinder engine delivers a 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 foldable rear seats increase functionality and versatility.

The Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring is poised to compete favorably with the other diminutive competitors -- Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, and Honda HR-V. The CX-3 is without question a most desirable crossover utility vehicle with all the right things going for it -- good looks, satisfactory performance, comfort, versatility, affordability, and economical operation.

Specifications

Base price $24,990 (as tested: $27,260)
Curb weight 2,809 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Engine type 16-valve SKYATIC-G 4-cyl. w/GDI
Epa mileage rating 29 mpg city, 34 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 FWD compact CUV
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