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by Tony West and Sommer Thornton
Mazda makes a splash in an emerging segment with the 2016 Mazda CX-3. The subcompact crossover has major hutzpah and offers a fully-loaded interior that could rival some luxury crossovers. The Mazda CX-3 with its long hood and short wheelbase is like a turbo whip on the road with efficient Skyactiv powertrain, and refinements to the transmission and suspension. I was very impressed with this action-shorty that starts at just $19,960. What’s more impressive is the 3 trims offered along with the base; the CX-3 Sport -$19,960, CX-3 Touring $21,960, and a Grand Touring model that starts at $24,990.
The base model is a great first car for a teenager or college grad. Thanks in part to SkyActiv technology, little will be spent at the pump with a combined EPA of 29 mpg. And the low whip is fast on the high way, able to get up and go and turn with precision. The interior fully loaded is more functional than luxury, but still full of modern safety tech along with a 7-inch touch screen, navigation, and available 7 speaker Bose Audio System.
We reviewed the 2016 Mazda CX-3 Touring AWD with a Dynamic Blue Mica paint job and a dope contrasting black leather interior with burgundy stitching.
Turbo Shorty with Youthful Style
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 looks like a Mazda 3 raised up a bit. The long sloped hood with 101 inch wheelbase gives the whip an athletic edge on the highway. Big standard 16 inch alloy wheels give the crossover fresh swag. Also standard are cool features like bright finish exhaust, a shark fin antenna, and rear roof spoiler.
The Grand Touring model has LED daytime running lights, fog lights and LED headlights with adaptive technology.
The new CX-3’s front fascia also has subtle changes that give it more character. Updates to the wing grille make it more pronounced. And subtle creases in the hood add highway prowess. I like the connectedness of the front fascia’s created with an available LED illumination line that extends from the wing tips to the headlamps. And headlamps are recessed back, and lower intake flushed forward for a more aggressive side profile with a sporty edge. D-Pillars are blacked adding sleekness to the whip in motion.
Cool new paint job options make the new CX-3 stand out among other subcompact crossovers. For 2016 new Ceramic Metallic hues are available.
Amazing Turbo Performance with Efficiency and Refinement
At first glance of the 2016 Mazda CX-3 is cute- but looks like a chick-car. But with the tap of the gas the whip jets off with fastidious aggression. And shorty backs up its turbo character with a clean efficient powertrain and responsive trans.
All models boasts a SkyActiv 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine with 146 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm.
The CX-3 has some real get-up and go, switching gears seamlessly and delivering fine-tuned torque at low revs. The efficient engine is matched to an impressive Skyactiv-drive 6 speed automatic transmission that feels like an 8 speed in manual sport mode. The front-wheel drive CX-3 boasts a class leading 31 mpg combined EPA (29 mpg city/ 35 mpg highway}, and the i-Activ AWD model has an impressive 32 mpg highway EPA (27 mpg city/ 29 mpg combined).
The CX-3 also has MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam axle rear suspension that’s better than some sedans. I was able to coast over bumps and swerve the CX-3 on the highway at high speeds with full confidence. And I was bending corners with very fluid rack-and-pinion steering. Ventilated front and solid diagonal hydraulic rear disc brakes stops the lightweight CX-3 with ease at any speed.
Front-wheel drive is standard. All models offer all-wheel drive that helps the whip perform like a mini-truck in bad weather. Monitoring temperature, steering angle, weather, and road conditions the Mazda CX-3 will send power to each wheel to avoid slippage. The 2016 Mazda CX-3 also uses a newly developed power take-off and compact lightweight rear differential.
Safety features in for the 2016 Mazda CX-3 are also better than some of its $19k peers with standard ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Dynamic Stability Control, Hill Launch Assist, and Traction Control.
The available i-ActiveSense safety suite features pre-crash and active safety technologies that cost much more in SUVs and sedans, but goes for an extra $1,920 in the CX-3. The suite includes a cool rearview camera, blind spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, High Beam Control, Adaptive Front Lighting, Smart City Brake Support, and Smart Brake Support.
The blind spot monitor was a little OCD, activating and warning me of vehicles yards behind my blind spot, which became more of a distraction.
Especially cool are the Smart City Brake Support that warns the driver of an impending collision and the Smart Brake Support that will gently brake the CX-3.
Adding extra driver confidence is the lightweight Skyactiv-chassis for rigid responsive handling, and Skyactiv-Body that ensures resilience in a collision along with aerodynamic rigidity. The overall composition of the 5-passenger CX-3 is 63% high-strength steel and 29% high-tensile steel.
Compact Interior More Ideal for Millennials
The interior of the 2016 Mazda CX-3 is small with legroom ideal for a teenager or an adult shorter than 5’5”. The narrow interior is said to have ideal hip room, but Editor Sommer is a 140 lb 5-foot tall and had trouble getting comfy in the 6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat.
Cloth seats are standard in the base model with available two or three-tone variations. And leatherette seats are available with a CX-3 Touring model. While the CX-3 Grand Touring boasts heated leather seats with available Parchment leather and Lux Suede with cool piping. Carpeted floor mats are also available.
My other issue with the interior layout is that there is no center armrest or center console so it was harder to sit comfortably.
Legroom is typical in the rear- good for young people, but not as much legroom for an adult over 6 feet tall. And the driver doesn’t have 100% visibility in the small rear window.
Storage is also scarce with no center storage. And cup holders only can hold slender short cups. Storage in the trunk however is more ideal, especially with the 60/40 split folding rear seats down.
The interior does boast the latest new lux-like perks like the push button start, advanced keyless entry, the pollen filter, a moon roof, and a semi digital driver’s dash.
I’m also a fan of the center stack with its simplistic controls with brushed silver trim and 7 inch touchscreen with a multifunction command control. Drivers can access the screen with touch, the MCC, and the steering wheel.
The touch screen houses the controls for Bluetooth, navigation, settings and infotainment. A 6 speaker audio system is standard. The 2016 CX-3 Grand Touring has a really cool navigation system that shoes 2D or 3D mapping, tunnel views and highway names, speed limits and gas stations in range.
And a 7 speaker Bose premium audio system is available with the Grand Touring along with Sirius XM Satellite radio, HD radio and automatic climate control.
Standard Mazda Connect is an in-car infotainment system that enables hands-free phone, Aha, Pandora and Stitcher.
The top-of-the-line 2016 Mazda CX-3 GT is still below $25k which is truly impressive considering how far ahead of the compact SUV game it is. The whip is fun to drive and heeds little wear and tear. It’s perfect for a teen to rip the highway safely and confidently- but still feel like a speed demon.