Photo by Paul Clinton.
Mazda may have just obliterated the razor-thin line between compact cars and entry-level crossovers with its impressive CX-3 that should rise to the top of an increasingly competitive category.
Compact-car shoppers may not be able to resist the CX-3's fun driving dynamics, fluid body style, impressive fuel economy, and well-appointed interior. Whether the CX-3 will enter the fleet world remains an open question — the first CX-3s will be sold in the retail channel. However, these entry crossovers with their $20,000-ish price tags certainly offer an enticement, and we've heard some whispers from fleet buyers about this category.
The CX-3's body, which is made up of 63 percent high-tensile steel, offers up plenty of appealing curves, a longer nose, and arrow-like daytime running lights with LEDs.
The CX-3 is loosely based on the Mazda2, but it's leaner and a bit taller. Its dimensions (168.3 inches long) put it on the longer end of the spectrum when matched up with competitive vehicles such as the Honda HR-V (169.1 inches), Jeep Renegade (166.6 inches), and Nissan Juke (162.4 inches).
Mazda has a knack for designing vehicles around drivers, and the CX-3 is no exception. It starts with an ideal seating position that gives your eyes a slightly above center view of the road ahead. Mazda provides more than 6 inches of ground clearance for both the 16-inch and 18-inch wheel models.
Photo by Paul Clinton.
Mazda hasn't treated the CX-3 as a smaller CX-5 clone, and the vehicle's driving dynamics bear that out. Mazda has simplified the rear components compared with the Mazda3 to provide a rigid, yet lightweight chassis. And the automaker modified the suspension to better adapt to body roll.
I tested the FWD and AWD CX-3 models at a press event in the hills of Malibu in southern California that included sharp camber turns on mountainous roadways. The FWD CX-3 was very capable at handling sharp curves while maintaining stability.
The CX-3 interior doesn't present a stripped-down appearance. All models get the 7-inch touch-screen display, and details such as stitching and painted air-vent bezels raise the vehicle's finishing touches. Interior details are carried over even to the base trim model.