“The basic ingredients aren’t so basic even in the base model!

“Standard equipment includes cloth seats, split-folding rear bench, push-button start, rearview camera and Mazda Connect infotainment system.”

2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3

Phoenix, Arizona.

Sheesh, just what we need… another crossover vehicle.

Well, at least that was my thought when Mazda invited me to drive its new compact CX-3 in the desert.

One roll of the eyeballs later, after reading the line about it being an ‘exciting new urban crossover’ and my thoughts turned to sun and heat.

Things didn’t start well in the pre-drive presentation at the exotic Camelback Mountain Resort when an earnest man from Mazda showed a video of how the CX-3 outperformed its key rivals – the new Honda HRV and a Subaru Forester – in taking-off from on a snow-covered hillside road. Some chance of us putting that boast to the test in the sizzling desert.

See: The First-Ever Mazda CX-3 – ‘Adventure At Every Turn’

Then the presenter moonwalked around the stage to demonstrate how we subconsciously adjust our gait when feel an icy surface beneath our feet. That’s what the CX-3’s all-wheel drive system does in milli-seconds before deciding how much power to dispatch to each wheel in order to gain traction. Artificial Intelligence is truly here.

First sight of the CX-3 dispelled some of my early wariness. It’s not often I say this, but this is one handsome little vehicle from that little Japanese company that could and does regularly outshine in design the products of its giant rivals. This is not just a shrunken CX-5 or a Mazda3 on steroids, though there are clear familial similarities with the former. It’s positively sporty looking and appears capable of springing forward at pace on green.

Looks can be deceiving. The Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre, 146-horsepower four-cylinder, engine is not going to enable the burning of rubber, even on a steep, downward incline. Paddle shifters in the GT edition and pushing the efficient six-speed automatic transmission into Sport mode can further the sporty illusion.

However, the CX-3 is not designed to be a rally car. It does get up to speed and it performs more than adequately in passing on the highway. It is a pleasure to drive in desert or town so I guess that does make it truly an urban crossover, as described. The road holding and handling abilities in the twisties do allow one to fantasize about the track. If you really must.

My co-driver Mark Richardson frequently stops to take photos. Once, while tire deep in gravel, a broad grin appeared. We had found our desert snow.

“Morgy, turn the wheel and gun it!” he yelled, quickly retreating to avoid pock marking of his visage.

Not one nearby cactus was harmed in our rigorous pedal-to-the-metal test. The A.I. kicked in and it pulled away smoothly with neither a judder nor a slip.

Later, while Mark was reliving his boy racer youth at the wheel, flipping between the modes, I took a longer look and listen at the interior. Yes, listen. While Mark gunned the engine, it was pretty quiet in the cabin. In addition, the added height, offered that commanding view of the road seemingly so desired by many drivers.

It’s listed as a five-seater but it’s not if all occupants are adults and the journey, or more likely commute, is long. It’s essentially a car for a couple and maybe one genetic unit but once that family grows then the CX-5 will appear on the family shopping list. That said, it’s a comfy ride in all seating positions.

The rear cargo area is wonderful with rear seats flattened but limited otherwise. It’s probably fine though for this car’s intended use and perfectly adequate for the weekly Big Shop.

Upscale is a word rarely used when describing the fit, finish and looks of a compact car’s interior but it fits here. The lines flow pleasingly throughout and the use of red and metallic accents coupled with upmarket stitching is simply classy.

The basic ingredients aren’t so basic even in the base model! – Standard equipment includes cloth seats, split-folding rear bench, push-button start, rear view camera and Mazda Connect infotainment system. The more deluxe models add nicer materials, offering premium safety and audio technology.

The Front Wheel Drive version could be a good urban choice but I think Canadians will opt for the AWD CX-3. The fuel economy numbers are not dramatically different between the two options – 7.6 L/100km (FWD) 8.1 L/100km (AWD), combined city/highway.

The CX-3 should arrive in local dealerships any day now. Prices have just been released.

The base GX FWD starts at $20,695, the AWD version adds two grand to the sticker price, and that is also the base price for the GS. The GT starts at a hefty $28,995 and rises to $30,495. Take a long look at the GS versions.

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

One thought on “Mazda CX-3: Urban Crossover with a Mind of its Own

    K Schick says:

    How would you compare the mazda x3 to the
    Honda HRV

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