Pint-sized 2016 Mazda CX-3 SUV impresses

Fully baked, this subcompact crossover oozes tasty appeal

Published: June 06, 2015 08:00 AM

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When sampling the current compact SUV offerings, it's easy to think that they were cooked up with a light bulb in an Easy-Bake oven. Entries like the Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, and new Honda HR-V each have an unfinished feeling to them. But the new Mazda CX-3 SUV is different. It’s the first vehicle in this segment that feels cooked all the way to completion.

The CX-3 rides on the same platform as the next-generation subcompact Mazda2, but it has SUV proportions and styling cues. Overall, we found the cute CX-3 quite pleasing during our brief initial drive.

Power delivery from the CX-3's 146-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine (shared with the Mazda3) is linear and polished. Don't expect an invigorating, sporty exhaust note, however.

While the 2016 Mazda CX-3 SUV’s ride is quite tight and firm, it’s not overly stiff. Quick steering response and minimal body roll give this compact SUV a dynamic road feel you won't find in the Chevy, Jeep, or Honda. It feels like the Miata of tiny SUVs making it fun to drive. And those small dimensions make it easy to park, too.

Photo: David Dewhurst Photography

The cabin makes great use of its limited space. Despite being a compact SUV, it doesn't feel cramped. The combo touch screen and control knob take some getting used to, but this design consolidates the controls, leaving a clean, minimalist dash layout. You’ve also got touches such as the rich-feeling, suede-like accents and padded panels on the doors and the sides of the console.

What's also impressive is that the CX-3 packs a ton of features into a small package and at a competitive price. Unusual for the class, it offers blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, smart autonomous emergency braking, and even an available head-up display (HUD).

The HUD is presented on a stub of glass that rises up from above the instrument panel. It's useful enough, but the system would work better if the readouts were beamed up higher, directly on the windshield.

Still, you’re getting a ton of features for around $26,000 for a loaded GT-trim model.

Good luck getting such equipment in a Chevy Trax, at this price–or at all. A base CX-3 Sport starts at around $20,000. A mid-level Touring trim will cost around $23,000. That’s very much in line with the Honda HR-V, but the Honda lacks the sportiness and flair of the Mazda

So far, out of this whole new class of tiny SUVs, the CX-3 comes across as having the feel of a finished, polished product that is truly desirable and a great value.

We have plans to buy our own 2016 Mazda CX-3 SUV when it goes on sale later this year. Check back to see how it stacks up with its peers.

Jon Linkov

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