by: Mike Ginsca
What happens when you take a Mazda CX-5 and shrink it by ~20%? You end up with the all-new Mazda CX-3. In the ever growing and crowded crossover market, it seems that Mazda has done just that to entice millennials looking to purchase their first crossover vehicle.
Performance – Despite it looking a little bit like it’s bigger brother, the CX-5, the new CX-3 actually shares more of its components with the forthcoming 2016 or 2017 Mazda 2. The Mazda CX-3 is noticeably shorter than the CX-5 but it is also slightly smaller than the Mazda3 hatchback in terms of width and length. Up front, the only engine available with the CUV is a 2.0L naturally aspirated inline-4 with Skyactiv technology. The engine produces 146hp and 146 lb-ft of torque which won’t boggle the mind with fast acceleration, but that peak torque figure is reached at just 2800 rpms which is almost unheard of for a naturally aspirated engine. The high torque figure at low rpms gives the CX-3 a peppy attitude when accelerating from a stop as there is hardly any hesitation from the engine when you put your foot down on the accelerator pedal. Further adding to the sportiness of the Mazda CX-3 is a sport button which is situated next to the shifter and it improves throttle response and holds each gear for a longer period in between shifts. Speaking of gears, the Mazda CX-3 is only available with a 6-speed Skyactiv automatic transmission that is just like all other Mazda automatic transmissions, quick and smooth. Front wheel drive is the standard configuration on the CX-3 but a new generation all-wheel-drive system is available on all trim levels. The new AWD system is said to be faster at shifting the engine’s power from the front wheels to the back wheels and also “predictive” of when to do it.
In terms of handling, the Mazda CX-3 manages to be both sporty and still maintain a level of comfort. Compared with its competition from Honda, Jeep, Buick, Fiat, and Nissan, Mazda is known for offering the sportiest vehicle in its class and the CX-3 is no exception. Body roll is minimal through corners and steering feel is closer to that of the Mazda3 rather than a conventional crossover which is usually vague. Plus the added feature of all-wheel-drive is a confidence booster when you want to use the CX-3 off the beaten path and without fear of getting stuck. But with all of the sporty characteristics infused into this small crossover, the Mazda CX-3 is still a very comfortable vehicle for daily use.
Comfort – Mazda is one of the few manufacturers that can blend sporty handling characteristics with daily comfort. Driving over bumps in the CX-3 feels like you’re in a normal SUV with only really large potholes making the ride a bit jarring. Driving on a highway, the CX-3 is quiet and due to its small size, it feels very stable at speeds well into triple digit numbers. Adding to the comfort are the excellent front seats. Not only do they provide good bolstering when you’re pretending to be a racing driver, but they also provide good support when you’re stuck in rush hour traffic. I did get stuck a few times in heavy Vancouver traffic while test driving this vehicle and 3+ hours in the driver’s seat felt like only a few minutes. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the back seats. Leg and head room in the back is tight to say the least. An adult will struggle to even get in the back seats and while there is a recess in the roof for more headroom, it is still not enough. The back seats are there for small children or to be folded to allow for more cargo room.
Although space is limited in the cabin of the Mazda CX-3, the design of the interior is on par with vehicles costing twice as much. This GT trimmed model comes with leather and Lux Suede seating surfaces as well as door trim. There is also soft contrasting leather on the center console as knee padding and faux carbon fiber and aluminum trim cover the rest of the cabin. The majority of the dashboard looks identical to that of the Mazda3 with the exception of the air vents design and the “secret” air vent that is situated just right of the hazard button. It is also well equipped especially if you opt for the technology package. Standard features on this GT model include the navigation system, rearview camera, Bose premium audio, power moonroof, and automatic climate control. The technology package adds smart city brake support, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam control, and Sirius XM radio. The only dislike of the design of the Mazda CX-3 interior is the vehicle and navigation display on top of the dashboard. It doesn’t retract away like how you’d find on an Audi A7 and it just looks like an afterthought by the designers.
Odds and Ends – Mazda’s continuation of using the “Kodo design language” is clearly evident in the exterior design of the Mazda CX-3. The front grille has the same look as all other Mazda vehicles and the LED daytime running lights are almost identical to those of the recently redesigned Mazda CX-5. Where the CX-3 differs is in the design of the roof. The A-pillar is colour matched as the rest of the vehicle but the B and C pillars are black to give the illusion that the roof is floating. Overall the design of the CX-3 is very unique and there will be no confusion as to what vehicle brand it is when someone takes a glance at it.
For a vehicle with a starting price of just over $20,000 CAD and going up to just over $30,000 CAD with the technology package, the Mazda CX-3 is a vehicle that was designed to entice young adults who want a daily commuter vehicle but to also have enough room to store snowboards when the weekend comes around. This is by no means a vehicle for a large family but for a couple thinking of starting one and still want to have some fun, the Mazda CX-3 fits that category perfectly.
Thank you to West Coast Mazda for providing the vehicle and visit their website to view this and other vehicles that are available for purchase or lease. www.WestCoastMazda.com
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.