The Mazda CX-3 is full of pleasant surprises. It’s a striking little crossover that manages to be cute and aggressive at the same time. It’s got the power to move you around with alacrity, and an interior that would make your boss think they pay you too much. To me, it screams urban-dwelling professional. Someone who needs a car for groceries or Ikea trips, but also needs it to weave through traffic with ease on the daily.
The CX-3 is small. There’s no way around that fact. It’s based on the tiny Mazda 2 platform, Mazda’s smallest car. While the CX-3 looks small on the outside, it doesn’t feel all that small on the inside. There’s space for 4 adults, no problem, and there’s a surprising amount of leg room in the second row. The cargo area is also bigger than I expected, too, but you’re not going on a week-long road trip with three friends any time soon. Drop down the seats, however, and you’ve got lots of space for bringing home flat-packed Swedish home furnishings or a long road trip for two or three people.
The cabin is beautifully designed and put together, and along with the outside, contributes to the sense that you are in a far more expensive car than the $22,695 you spent for the mid-level GS trim would suggest. Adding to that high-end feeling was the black leatherette interior with the deep red accents throughout the cabin that came with the luxury package (a $1,500 option). It feels like Mazda said “hey, let’s build our own version of the Audi Q3, and then charge $10,000 less for it.” If that was their plan, mission accomplished.
Now for my first gripe with the CX-3. Where are the arm rests? Sure, the door has an arm rest. One side of me is comfortable, but why not both sides? I’ve only driven a couple cars that don’t have arm rests and it throws me off each time. It seems small thing, I know, but it’s like when you’re lying face-to-face with your significant other and one of your arms just has no place to be. Awkward. That’s what it is.
Mazda is now synonymous with great handling and the CX-3 meets expectations. In my opinion, it was made to be driven in the city. It’s very comfortable over rough pavement, yet didn’t roll or dive when cornering or breaking. It really shines at lower, city speeds but also feels very stable at highway speeds. Something that you might not expect from such a small vehicle. Nimble in the city and stable on the highway? Well done Mazda.
The 146hp 2.0 litre 4-cylinder motor in the CX-3 was more than enough to motivate the cute ute around. On the highway, you could easily command extra speed to pass. In town you had ample power on tap at all the times. I didn’t wish for more power at any time. The engine even turned out solid fuel economy. I consistently saw between 6.8 L/100km and 7.5 L/100km which is right in line with Mazda’s claimed fuel economy.
My second gripe with the car was the engine’s sound. Here you have a car where everything about the car says “sporty” and “premium” except the sewing machine sound coming from the engine bay. It’s not cheap sounding, mind you. It’s got a mechanical sound to it that feels precise. It just lets down the rest of the package. Imagine you see someone sexy – their look, their physique, everything about them is so well put together – but when they open their mouth and they have an annoying voice. It’s like that. I probably wouldn’t have raised it if I hadn’t driven the MX-5 (Miata) a couple weeks prior. It employs the same motor, but the motor and exhaust sound great – so I know Mazda could make it sound good if they wanted to.
Overall the CX-3 is very good. Great to look at, good to drive, and easy on the wallet. Would I recommend it? Actually no. Unless you’re in love with the CX-3’s look and size, I would recommend (as I often have) its bigger sibling, the CX-5. For about 10% more money you can have a lot more car, with equally great handling, and yes, even an arm rest in the center.