People, pets, and cars all arrive on this planet in different shapes and sizes. Alert readers know this author’s proclivity for Large Machines which bend the macadam with their shocking curb weights and lot-hogging girth. I remain unrepentant.
It was a surprise, then, for the diminutive little roller skate you see here to spin my crank in a positive direction. Yes, it measures several sizes smaller than most other crossovers — smaller, even, than some of its direct competitors.
Like a Jack Russell terrier, what the Mazda CX-3 gives up in size it more than makes up for with excited exuberance. It’s like a Miata with a backpack.
Ok. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, as this car-on-stilts will obviously bow to the laws of gravity much more quickly than an MX-5 if you try to whip it through a set of corners with too much élan. Still, it is much more playful than its competitors, which is the point I’m trying to make.
The Mazda lineage is easy to spot, both inside and out. The zoom-zoom company isn’t the largest maker of cars in the world and, lacking the ability to draw upon the bank account of a corporate parent, common parts must be strewn around the interior like sawdust at a lumber convention. This is not wholly a bad thing, for two reasons.
First, flying solo allows Mazda to be more nimble and employ changes to their product without having to first pass the alterations though five hundred different departments. If a snake is discovered at Mazda, they kill it. If a snake is discovered at BigCarCo, they’ll have a meeting and then create a committee to study snakes before deciding to leave the snake alone because its shop steward threatened job action. Mazda is unfettered by such complications.
It helps that the parts bin from which they are drawing interior bits is filled with well thought out toys. The CX-3 driver faces a set of gauges whose tachometer is front and center with a tidy digital speedometer tucked in its corner. Infotainment is of the iPad-on-the-dash variety, but it works well paired with the rocker/rotary dial that controls the thing.
Knobs like these (no, I’m not describing my TTAC workmates), especially ones which rock and roll, sometimes feel wobbly and cheap as they make pathetic attempts to spin 360-degrees while simultaneously operating on ABXY axes. Not here. The just-inches-away volume dial is fine for passengers, and five redundant buttons provide shortcuts to major functions.
It is remarkable, really, given that the unit must integrate into just about every car and crossover that Mazda makes, not to mention they probably designed the thing on a relative shoestring — at least compared to companies where $100,000 is a rounding error.
This CX-3 is the Canadian-market GT version, bearing the weight of an all-wheel drive system. Its equipment level is equivalent to that of a Grant Touring in the States, a unit which wears a Monroney of $33,140 when shod with power at all four corners. An equivalent American trim trips the financial scales at $29,445. It’s worth noting that you lot south of the border get dinged $145 extra for the Soul Red paint shown here, more if you account for exchange ($595USD vs $450CAD).
The white leather makes the car look much more expensive than it really is, although long-term wear in a family environment might be a challenge. I’ve had to pry melted crayons and gelatinous gummy bears out of the Charger’s seats and thanked FCA for its durable black cloth every time I did so. That wouldn’t fly with this interior.
Every CX-3 being floorplanned on dealer lots today is powered by a Skyactiv-G 2.0 L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine. This power team is good for 148 horsepower and 146 lb-ft torque, which doesn’t sound like much, but it shoved the CX-3 along the road with an alacrity not found in small-utes from other manufacturers. In a segment where most machines are more morose than a brooding teen or have the personality of wallpaper paste, the Mazda takes its sporty heritage seriously, offering drivers a dose of good cheer along with their commute, proving that driving fun and family hauling need not be mutually exclusive.
Just not too much hauling, though. The CX-3’s cargo area suffers from a fast roofline that gives the rig a sporty shape like that of an athletic shoe but eats into cargo space something fierce. The Subaru Crosstrek, just to name one, does a better job of packaging and delivers more room as a result. Be sure to bring along most of your daily detritus during the test drive to make sure you can live with the 12.4 cubes of cargo space behind the rear seat before you sign the papers.
Addressing my “MX-5 with a backpack” comment above, I do believe the comparison is apt, as most backpacks are designed to simply supplement a person’s carrying capacity by providing space for a minute’s worth of gear, while leaving the wearer free to jump around and have a bit of fun. So, too, does the CX-3.
Long-time Ace of Base readers (thanks, all five of you) know I enjoy and recommend the cheapest version of just about any given model. Guess what? Given all CX-3’s are powered by the same engine and are imbued with the same driving dynamics, I hold fast to that belief here as well. The entry-level CX-3 stickers for several thousand less than this GT but is imbued with the same engine and sprightly manners. All-wheel drive is neither necessary nor desired in any parts of the country. Those who do live in the snow belt would be well advised to buy four good winter tires for their front-drive CX-3. That’s what I do here in the Great White North, a place sodden with bull moose and treacherous driving conditions.
This pint-size tall hatchback proves the hackneyed old saw of good things coming in small packages. Winning over this 6’6” Large Person is no small feat, though those relegated to the CX-3’s second row should have small feet.
I’ll stick to my stretch-em-out Charger, no doubt. But anyone who’s in the market for a crossover rig with Size S on the neck tag would be well served to give this Mazda CX-3 their attention.