Good Fun in a Small Crossover
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – When Mazda was totally redesigning the CX-3 for 2016, someone forgot to tell them that vehicles this size are not supposed to be fun to drive. Utilitarian, yes, fun to drive no!
But this is Mazda, a smallish car builder that believes you can have your cake and drive it too.
Fortunately, the CX-3 Grand Touring model with All-Wheel Drive arrived before the big blizzard hit greater Washington, D.C. with at least two feet of snow in these parts. Look closely at the snow picture accompanying this story – there’s a Mazda there somewhere!
As the storm was still building energy in the Gulf, I was able to have a delightful afternoon on curve laden back roads with the CX in Sport Mode and the fast acting paddle shifts extracting all the Skyactiv 2.0 liter, 146 horsepower four with 146 lb-ft of torque had to offer. No CVT here, the tranny was a conventional six speed.
While the four can get a tad raspy above 4,000 rpm on its way to the 6,800 redline, the powertrain delivers lots of spunk, Lou Grant notwithstanding. It felt more responsive than the roughly 8.5 second run to 60 that many testers have reported.
What you have is a suspension, engine, transmission, steering, and even front seats that join together in perfect harmony that is smoother than Scat Man Crothers. Make no mistake, this is not a sports car, but you will have more fun driving this one than all of its competition.
Inside, there is sufficient room for two adults up front with great seats that will hold your bod in place on the curves mentioned above. Right where it where it belongs, immediately ahead of the driver, is the easy to read tach. Speed reading comes in two forms. A digital read out at the lower right of the tach, and in a head up display that is a piece of clear plastic that pops up from the upper dash board upon ignition.
There is also a 7” color touch screen center dash that can be controlled by a large knob located on the center console. It can be rotated to select whatever function you desire.
However, there are some downsides here. You cannot use the console mounted front arm rest and the cup holders at the same time. The arm rest folds over them, and due to space restrictions, it will be an awkward arm twist to the rear to grab your beverage of choice.
Second row leg room will be limited especially if there are two six footers up front and there is not an abundance of storage space even with the second row folded. But these are things you will face, to one degree or another, in all the baby crossovers. Those desiring to haul more stuff should take a serious look at the CX-5.
Of course, its size does make the CX-3 easy to maneuver whether that is parking in a small spot surrounded by snow banks, (OK, I will stop referring to the storm) or in and out of big city traffic.
EPA mileage is 27 mpg city, 32 highway, for a combined 29 mpg. Because I loved Sport Mode, I came out with 25 mpg.
On the interstates things were not totally quiet inside, but wind and road noise were on par with the CX-3’s brethren.
Our top-of-the-line Grand Touring edition came with a long list of standard features, actually two of them on the price sticker. For $1,920 there was an optional I-Activesense Package with a number of safety features such as Lane Departure Warning, automatic braking and a forward collision mitigation system. Add in mobile start for $550 plus a rear bumper guard, and the well-equipped Mazda carried a reasonable MSRP of $29,690.
That included 18” alloy wheels, excellent LED headlights, heated front seats, Navi, and automatic climate controls that were adjusted via three large, believe it or not, KNOBS!!! Hurray!
A rear view camera, blind spot monitoring, traction control, and rear cross traffic alert were also on board.
Warranty? 60 months or 60,000 miles on the powertrain and 3 years, 36,000 mile bumper to bumper coverage.
If you want a nimble, fun runabout in the crowded small crossover pack, do check out the CX-3.