Mazda has always had a knack for putting “zoom zoom” into all of its vehicles as its marketing message has promised for all these years.
So it should come as no surprise that the latest addition to the Mazda lineup, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 sub-compact crossover SUV is just as much a driver’s car as all the others in the fleet.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 is the fifth model in Mazda’s new generation of vehicles that offer Skyactiv technology and what they call their KODO — Soul of Motion design.
The small crossover SUV segment is a relatively new one in the automotive world, but small is big, especially in Canada, so Mazda has high hopes for the CX-3, built on the sub-compact Mazda2 platform.
The Japanese automaker no longer brings the Mazda2 into Canada, but the CX-3 should more than make up for any lost sales if early indications prove correct.
This is a segment that is growing by leaps and bounds with entries like the Honda HR-V
, Mitsubishi RVR
, Subaru Crosstrek
, Chevrolet Trax
, Fiat 500X
, Buick Encore
and others in the mix.
If you take the month of September as an example, the CX-3 sits third in the segment with sales of 916 units, trailing only the HR-V (1,076) and the Trax (986).
Our tester was a top-line CX-3 GT AWD, which listed for $32,390 with options and $1,895 for freight and PDI. Starting price for that model is $28,995, however ours had the $1,500 technology package, which includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam control and Sirius XM satellite radio.
As a longtime Mazda owner and currently with a slightly larger 2013 CX-5 GS in the driveway, I was especially anxious to get behind the wheel of this smaller, new model to see how it compared.
So when we had the opportunity to take a CX-3 for a weekend getaway over the border to Detroit and Frankenmuth, Mich. I jumped at the chance.
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When you park the CX-3 next to its CX-5 sibling, there’s no questioning the Mazda DNA, particularly from the rear.
In fact, one neighbour seeing the cars side-by-side in our driveway quipped, “I didn’t know your car had a baby brother!”
Not surprising because the CX-3 appears to be a shorter, lower version of the CX-5, a hit from the get-go from Mazda when it debuted in 2013.
But why the CX-3 when Mazda already has the hatchback Mazda3 Sport, which is similar in size and utility? It’s because of the fickle nature of consumers who are quickly gravitating away from sedans, hatchbacks and particularly wagons to crossovers and sport utes.
The CX-3 is an ideal vehicle for young families or couples. Its size makes it small enough to manoeuvre through clogged city streets and urban parking lots, yet with enough cargo space to satisfy most appetites.
Despite its small overall length, cargo space behind the 60:40 split/fold rear seat is 402 litres. With the seat folded, it is 1,484 litres.
As we discovered on our weekend getaway, with the rear seats folded, cargo room is quite generous for a sub-compact. With the seats upright, space is at a premium with room for just a few grocery bags.
Being a sub-compact, legroom was just adequate for this six-footer. However, the seat was comfortable with just the right adjustability, while the steering column both tilts and telescopes.
The interior is nicely finished, particularly at the GT level with leather upholstery accented by dark red stitching and aluminum-look metallic accents.
This is a nicely outfitted trim level with standard features like 18-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, seven-speaker Bose audio system, paddle shifters, LED headlights and foglamps with adaptive front lighting system and automatic headlight levelling.
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The GT is one of three trim levels in Mazda’s CX-3 Canadian lineup, starting with the GX ($20,695-$22,695) the mid-trim GS ($22,695-$26,195) and GT ($28,995-$30,495).
Only one engine is offered in the 2016 CX-3, the same 2.0-litre Skyactiv inline four-cylinder powerplant as is found in the CX-5 GX model. This engine makes 146 hp and 146 lb/ft of torque and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. The GX and GS offer a choice of front- or all-wheel drive (AWD) and the GT comes in AWD only.
The Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption rating is 8.8 L/100 km city and 7.3 highway for the AWD version and 8.2/6.7 for FWD.
On our weekend road trip, the CX-3 was a treat to drive, as I expected from a Mazda. The seats were comfy, even a three-hour-plus drive to Michigan, and the interior had a definite upscale look— perhaps more than one would expect in this segment.
Wind and road noise in the cabin is kept to a minimum with good use of insulation
There is a seven-inch display screen at the top of the centre stack for audio and navigation, while other information is displayed on gauges directly in front of the driver. There is also a handy head-up display at the base of the windshield, directly in front of the driver.
Outside, the styling is bold with powerful lines, a short rear overhang and a solid, planted look on the pavement. The face is also bold, centred around the grille that extends through the chromed signature wings into the headlamps.
Power is adequate for any driving situation and the ride and handling are first rate. It’s not often you yearn to take a CUV on winding country roads, but the CX-3 might be an exception.
All in all, the CX-3 has a lot to offer. Good looks, decent performance and an upscale interior, particularly in GT trim.
While Mazda looks to Millennials as the target market, empty nesters will undoubtedly find the CX-3 to their liking because it’s right-sized for today’s crowded urban environment.
RELATED: 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT Review
2016 Mazda CX-3 at a glance
: Sub-compact CUV.
front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive with six speed automatic transmission.
2.0-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder (146 hp, 146 lb/ft).
FWD, 8.2/6.7L/100 km city/highway; AWD, 8.8/7.3L/100 km
: Not recommended.
GT, 402 litres behind rear seat, 1,484 litres folded.
: GX FWD/AWD, $20,695/$22,695; GS FWD, $22,695/$24,195; GS AWD, $24,695/$26,195; GT AWD, $28,995/$30,495. As tested, $32,390 including $1,895 shipping fee.