Car Reviews

2016 Mazda CX-3 sub-compact CUV 

By Jim Robinson Wheels.ca

May 1, 2015 5 min. read

Article was updated 9 years ago

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Mazda CX-3 CUV 2016 at a glance

BODY STYLE: Sub-compact CUV
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front-/all-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 2.0-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder (148 hp, 148 lb/ft) with six-speed automatic transmission
FUEL ECONOMY: FWD, 8.2/6.7L/100 km city/highway; AWD, 8.8/7.3L/100 km
CARGO VOLUME: GX/GS, 452 litres behind rear seat, 1,528 litres folded; GT, 408 litres behind rear seat, 1,484 litres folded
PRICES: 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 not including $1,895 shipping fee

SCOTTSDALE, AZ- Small is big in Canada when it comes to cars and there is no better example than in the 2016 Mazda CX-3.

It joins a growing number of sub-compact CUVs such as the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V and Chevy Trax that are fuel thrifty with greater utility than a sedan or hatchback and, above all, are super stylish.

With the CX-3, Mazda builds on the Mazda2 platform much as the compact CX-5 CUV builds on the Mazda3.

In Mazda Canada tradition, there are three trim models starting with the GX ($20,695-$22,695) the mid-trim GS ($22,695-$26,195) and GT ($28,995-$30,495).

There is one engine and one transmission starting with the 2.0-litre version of Mazda’s Skyactiv inline-four cylinder engine producing 148 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque with a six-speed automatic (no manual in Canada) and a choice of front-wheel-drive (FWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) with AWD standard on the GT.

The NRCan fuel consumption for the FWD is 8.2/6.7L/100 km city/highway and for the AWD, 8.8/7.3L/100 km.

The automatic offers a sequential manual shift mode for the times when road surfaces are wet or covered in snow and ice. The automatic also has a “Sport” button at the back of the shifter housing that offers a little more power when needed, such as when joining the freeway flow of traffic.

Despite its small overall length, cargo space behind the 60:40 split/fold back seat is 452 litres on the GX and GS and 408 litres on the GT. With the seat folded, it is 1,528 litres on the GX/GS and 1,484 litres on the GT.

A neat feature on the GX/GS is a rear cargo board with two levels. The highest flattens and extends the cargo floor when the rear seats are folded. The lower level makes space for two large suitcases with the seat erect.

2016 MAZDA CX-3 cargo

A down side is the cargo behind the rear seat is only big enough for a few bags of groceries, which is a purchase reason for those with a bunch of hungry kids to feed. But, you can always lower the seat and leave one or both down, which I suspect most will. And those with kids will probably looking at something like the Mazda5 people mover.

Being based on the Mazda2, legroom is tight but adequate for short hauls.

During the launch of the CX-3 in Scottsdale with U.S. spec prototype models, my co-driver and I had a GT FWD (a model not sold in Canada) in the morning and Touring FWD (which equates to our GS) in the afternoon.

Mazda stressed these were pre-production vehicles and not indicative of the full-production models and it’s a good thing they told us that.

The FWD GT engine was gruff at startup and the steering felt heavy. There was a lot of road noise coming from the rear. I don’t think it was lack of sound deadening but more harmonics produced by the interaction of the rubber compound of the 18-inch tires and the road surfaces.

In the afternoon, the GS FWD was like night and day.

It felt faster and was noticeably quieter, especially idling, where I could not hear the engine at all from inside the cabin. Steering was more precise and the seats were more supportive as well.

I like cars with controls as simple to use as possible, and the GS had manual air, which I prefer.

It had a backup camera as standard (yeah) and the seats were cloth (a personal preference) and were heated (another preference).

2016 MAZDA CX-3 cargo interior

All in all, the GS would be my choice hands down and I’ll bet that is the case when the cars hit the showrooms in a few weeks.

As for the AWD system, which adds $2,000 to the price, I would have to think long and hard before buying it.

The system on the CX-3 normally runs at 98 per cent torque to the front wheels and shifts grip up to 50 per cent at the rear. But it can’t be locked in the few cases where deep snow/water is encountered.

It’s well known my family has three Mazdas and we run them with four snow tires in the winter and haven’t been bogged down yet.

But it seems each winter now is worse than the last, so I’m starting to consider AWD on my next vehicle, whatever that is.

I also have something like 20 years of owning Mazdas and they tend to be very reliable, but you have to keep an eye on the rust, particularly the rear wheel arches.

On that point the CX-3 now has a very substantial inner wheel well plastic liner that also adds to the looks, especially with the 18-inch alloys on the GT.

And styling is where the CX-3 really stands out, especially in Mazda’s signature Soul Red paint. Mix that with KODO styling grille and very tight roofline and you have that same sort of impish look as the Range Rover Evoque.

You might ask why Mazda wants to bring in the CX-3 when it already has the CX-5 or the Mazda3 Sport (hatchback) with more passenger and cargo room.

The answer is Mazda needs to increase the number of its CUVs. As the station wagon has all but disappeared, the hatchback is being increasingly supplanted by CUVs - smaller ones in particular.

Yes, the times they are a-changing and it’s to vehicles such as the 2016 Mazda CX-3 where consumers are migrating.

2016 MAZDA CX-3 cargo rear
RELATED: 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT Review




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