The CX-3 is the smallest of Mazda's crossover SUVs, positioned below the CX-30, CX-5, and CX-9. It was introduced for the 2016 model year and has since seen a slight facelift and the addition of standard driver-assist active safety features, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. The single-trim CX-3 competes alongside other subcompact utelettes including the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Venue, and Ford EcoSport.
Looking for info on the slightly larger Mazda CX-30? Head here for the full story.
The CX-3 is a strong representation of what we loved about Mazda five years ago; it's an inexpensive enthusiast's pick in a mostly underwhelming segment. This subcompact crossover provides precise steering and great body control unmatched by most of its competitors. Its 148-hp four-banger provides ample acceleration and great fuel economy to boot.
Unfortunately, the CX-3 is not immune to Mazda's foibles. Its interior is loud on the highway, and both rear seat space and cargo volume fail to impress. The infotainment system can take some getting used to as well. As long as you're not trying to help a friend move or go on a road trip with more than one other full-sized adult, the CX-3 is a stylish, fun-to-drive little SUV.
Mazda has officially announced that the CX-3 will be discontinued for the 2022 model year. We can't say the decision surprises us; the CX-3's age and overlap with the CX-30 made it a less appealing choice in the lineup. Still, part of us is sad to see it go. It was a nice little vehicle that at times placed higher than the CX-30 in our subcompact SUV rankings. Nevertheless, the CX-3 served its purpose for Mazda, and now the brand is moving on. Model year 2021 will be the CX-3's final year on sale.
Regardless of trim, every CX-3 is powered by a 2.0-liter non-turbo four-cylinder developing 148 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. Buyers have a choice between FWD and AWD layouts but all CX-3s transmit power to the wheels with help from a six-speed automatic. Front-drivers are EPA-rated at 29/34 mpg city/highway; AWD models lose 2 mpg in both categories. In our testing, a FWD CX-3 can hit 60 in 8.2 seconds and the heavier AWD car trails it by 0.2 second.
The CX-3 is a very strong performer in IIHS safety testing. It earns the highest available designation of 2021 Top Safety Pick+ with excellent crashworthiness scores, Acceptable headlights, and Superior front crash prevention. The small Mazda also receives a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, with the caveat that the left rear door panel intruded on the cabin during the side barrier test, striking the torso of the rear passenger dummy.
Starting in the 2020 model year, Mazda's i-Activsense collection of active safety features has been standard on the CX-3. The bundle of features includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The CX-3 seats five with 41.7 inches of legroom up front and a relatively tight 35.0 inches in the rear. There's only 17.8 cubic feet behind the rear seat, but if you fold those seats down, capacity expands to 42.7 cubic feet.
The CX-3 operates with an older version of Mazda's rotary dial-controlled infotainment system. In this application, it features a 7.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support plus six-speaker audio.
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