- Excellent fuel economy
- Sporty handling helps you have fun behind the wheel
- Impressively quiet at highway speeds
- Front seats are very comfortable and supportive
- Attractive, high-quality interior with appealing features
- Snug rear seat and humble cargo capacity limit the CX-3's versatility
Now in its second model year, the Mazda CX-3 reprises its role as the spunky, fun alternative in the subcompact crossover segment. It is Mazda's entry-level offering, and it debuted last year as yet another Mazda that we highly recommend. The CX-3 combines the currently fashionable tall ride height of a crossover with sporty handling and undeniable style inside and out. Few crossovers this inexpensive are this much fun.
It's not all about emotion, either. Segment-leading fuel economy is another draw to the 2017 CX-3 delivers. Its light curb weight and fuel-sipping engine combine to deliver 31 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA. You can also get the CX-3 with all-wheel drive, of course, and fuel economy is still very good at 29 mpg. Mazda also packs in the technology, fitting every CX-3 with a touchscreen infotainment interface and offering advanced collision avoidance features on the top Grand Touring trim level to help keep you safe.
Growth in the subcompact crossover segment has been explosive. Mazda isn't alone with the CX-3 — there are several similarly new entries with which it competes. The Honda HR-V is right up there with the Mazda at the top of the class, offering more cargo space and similar fuel economy. If European flavor is more your thing, there's the Fiat 500X, while those looking for an off-road bent will gravitate toward the Jeep Renegade. In the putting all the pieces together in the most convincing fashion, though, the CX-3 earns our hearty recommendation.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
For 2017, the CX-3 carries over unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Mazda CX-3 is a five-passenger subcompact crossover SUV available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels.
The base Sport starts with 16-inch wheels, automatic headlights, a rear roof spoiler, variable intermittent wipers, push-button ignition, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, air-conditioning, Bluetooth (phone and audio), a rearview camera, a six-speaker audio system (with a CD player, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack and Aha/ Pandora/ Stitcher internet radio), voice controls and a 7-inch touchscreen interface with a redundant rotary control knob on the center console.
The Touring adds keyless entry and ignition, 18-inch wheels, heated mirrors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a front-row center armrest, leatherette (premium vinyl) and cloth upholstery, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The Grand Touring adds adaptive LED headlights, LED foglights and taillights, a sunroof, upgraded instrumentation, a head-up display, leather and synthetic suede upholstery, a navigation system, automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a rear cargo cover, and a seven-speaker Bose audio system with HD radio and satellite radio.
If you want a CX-3 Touring with a little more luxury, you can add a Premium package that includes the Grand Touring's sunroof, rear cargo cover and Bose audio system.
Offered solely on the Grand Touring is an i-Activsense package that includes automatic high-beam headlight control, automatic wipers, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
With a keen attention to design, the 2017 CX-3's cabin looks sleek and contemporary, and it's trimmed in materials that look reasonably high-end. The plain Jane gauge cluster in lower trims makes way for a prominent central tachometer and integrated digital speedometer in Grand Touring trim. We're less impressed by the Grand Touring's awkward-looking head-up display, however.
All CX-3s are equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen interface that's also controlled by a handy control knob on the center console. It works well overall, although certain tasks that should be simple — such as changing satellite radio stations — require multiple inputs to accomplish.
The CX-3's front seats deliver outstanding comfort for this segment, with pleasantly firm support for long hauls and lateral bolstering that's well-suited for spirited driving. Rear legroom is at a premium, a common malady among subcompact crossovers, and adult passengers in the rear will probably need the front seat occupants to skooch their seats forward.
Cargo capacity in the CX-3 is decidedly modest, checking in at 12.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 44.5 cubes with the rear seatbacks folded down. Opting for the Bose system with its bulky trunk-mounted subwoofer shrinks those numbers to 10.1 and 42.3 cubes, respectively. By contrast, the Honda HR-V can swallow up to 58.8 cubic feet of stuff.
Every 2017 Mazda CX-3 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. As noted above, the Touring adds blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and the Grand Touring can be equipped with an i-Activsense package that includes advanced technologies such as a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
In Edmunds brake testing, a front-wheel-drive CX-3 Grand Touring stopped from 60 mph in 121 feet, a slightly shorter than average distance for the class.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2017 Mazda CX-3 is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 146 horsepower and a matching 146 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive offered as an option on all trim levels.
In Edmunds performance testing, a front-wheel-drive CX-3 Grand Touring accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, a quicker than average showing for this segment.
EPA-estimated fuel economy checks in at 31 mpg combined (29 city/34 highway) with front-wheel drive and 29 mpg combined (27 city/32 highway) with all-wheel drive. On the Edmunds real-world driving loop, our front-wheel-drive test vehicle achieved a solid 31.4 mpg.
With precise steering and alert handling reflexes, the 2017 Mazda CX-3 earns class-topping marks for athleticism in this segment. The only other offering that can rival the Mazda's buoyant fun-to-drive-ness is the Nissan Juke. The Mazda's 146-hp engine isn't quite as energetic, offering decent thrust but getting somewhat buzzy above 4,000 rpm. Still, the CX-3's acceleration is better than average and is aided by a surprisingly responsive and crisp-shifting six-speed automatic.
The CX-3's ride quality is on the firm side, especially with the lower-profile 18-inch tires on Touring and Grand Touring trims. If you're considering those trim levels, we'd suggest that you try out a Sport, too; it has 16-inch tires with taller sidewalls with which to absorb road irregularities. Either way, road and wind noise levels in the CX-3 are low compared to class norms, bolstering the premium feel established by the CX-3's cabin and driving dynamics.
Many compact crossover SUVs aren't so "compact" anymore. But the petite 2017 Mazda CX-3 might be just what you're after. It's stylish, easy to park and fun to drive. If interior space isn't a priority, this could be your ideal crossover.