Driving Fun Versus Crossover Utility
We Like: Best-in-class steering, snappy Sport mode, and induction howl.
We Don’t Like: Cramped rear seat and tiny cargo capacity.
From the driver’s seat, the CX-3 is everything we want in a small crossover.
“It’s great to look at and has a great steering wheel,” Jason Cammisa said. “It might be the best automatic here. Beautifully neutral handling.”
Stay tuned to MotorTrend.com as the 2016 Motor Trend SUV of the Year contenders and finalists are revealed in advance of the official winner announcement on the evening of November 16. Learn about other SUV of the Year contenders at the links below. Check out the SUV of the Year evaluation process HERE, and read about the evolution of our Of The Year awards HERE.
It’s also a lot of fun to drive. “This engine really loves to rev,” Christian Seabaugh said. “The transmission programming is perfect, and steering is sublime for the segment.”
Noted Chris Walton: “Sport mode is insanely good, like selecting Sport+ in the AMG GT S. It rips downshifts under heavy braking, landing in precisely the right gear for the corner. It has excellent tuning and shows that Mazda does, indeed, sweat the little stuff that drivers really appreciate.”
The problem is that Mazda didn’t sweat the big stuff that non-drivers would appreciate—mainly everything behind the front seats.
“I sit close to the wheel and barely have enough rear legroom behind my front seat position,” Frank Markus said. “I have enough headroom, but my shoulders are below the window line, which heightens the sense of claustrophobia. Also, there are no power outlets back here.”
Walton added that he couldn’t recommend the Mazda CX-3 to anyone but a single person. “The interior accommodations are so lacking in space,” he said. “The back seat and cargo area are incomprehensibly small.” Incomprehensible is right, especially compared against the Honda HR-V‘s Magic Seat and flat-floored cargo area.
The CX-3 is also noisy, though entertainingly so. On the road, wind, tire, and suspension noise percolate into the cabin and mix with the engine’s pleasing intake buzz. Drift out of your lane, and a spacey beam-me-up tone bleats from the direction of danger. Who knew lane keep assist could be so fun?
A humble suggestion to Mazda’s product planners: You’ve built by far the best driver in a class full of compromises. There’s not much that can be done about the lack of utility at this point, so add a turbo and manual transmission and make a bitchin’ Mazdaspeed CX-3.
|2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD|
|Price As Tested||$29,650|
|Vehicle Layout||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||2.0L/146-hp/146-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|Length x Width x Height||168.3 x 68.1 x 60.9|
|Curb Weight (F/R Dist)||2,988 lb (59/41%)|
|Acceleration, 0-60 mph||8.6 sec|
|Quarter Mile||16.6 sec @ 83.0 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||117 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.85 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||27.6 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||27/32/29 mpg|
|Energy Consumption, City/Hwy||125/105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 Emissions||0.67 lb/mile|
|Real MPG City/Hwy/Comb||29/34/31|
2016 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contenders:
- BMW X6
- Chevrolet Trax
- Fiat 500X
- Ford Edge
- Ford Explorer
- Honda HR-V
- Hyundai Tucson
- Jeep Renegade
- Kia Sorento
- Land Rover Discovery Sport
- Mazda CX-3