|It’s hard to argue against CX-3 styling, especially in top-line GT trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
You’ve spoken Canada, and the automakers are listening. Yesterday’s Mazda6 owner is today’s CX-5 and CX-9 buyer, while even the once mighty Mazda3 is watching its market share slowly erode thanks in part to the highly successful compact CX-5 and this little subcompact CX-3. I can understand why. As much as I still like the Mazda3, especially in five-door Sport form, if push came to shove I’d more likely lay real money down on a compact SUV.
|Mazda got the rear proportions of the CX-3 just right too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Just the same, I can’t help but wonder if the folks at Mazda Canada’s Richmond Hill headquarters are starting to look over their shoulders at some of the latest competition now that Toyota’s sporty looking CH-R has shown up, just like Honda is probably hoping the HR-V’s sales lead
|The new grille seems to fit all models to a T. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In total, the subcompact SUV category’s 13 entrants include the bestselling HR-V with 12,371 sales last year, the runner-up Crosstrek with 9,723 deliveries, the third-place CX-3 with 9,354, the Chevrolet Trax with 9,072, Mitsubishi RVR with 6,196, Buick Encore with 5,533, Nissan Juke with 4,442, Jeep Compass with 4,252, Jeep Renegade with 3,962, Fiat 500X with 766, and Mini Countryman with 694. I can’t decide if the Mini and Buick should be counted in the subcompact luxury SUV segment because they’re priced higher, but in reality they’re somewhere
|LED headlights add sophistication to the CX-3’s unique styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Other than a requirement to mention the upcoming Ford EcoSport (due to arrive later this year), the just announced Hyundai Kona and Kia Stonic, plus rumblings about a new Volkswagen entrant that can now be sized slightly smaller than the outgoing Tiguan now that it’s grown up into the larger compact category, that’s the current state of the subcompact SUV segment. The CX-3 remains near the very top for all the reasons just stated as well as Canada’s adoration of its independent Japanese parent.
|Mazda has managed to combine an equal balance of sport and elegance to the CX-3’s design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I’ve read others knock its styling on social media, but I love every inch of the little Mazda sport ute, especially in as-tested top-line GT trim. Moving up from the $20,695
|These 18-inch rims are standard with the GT. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Want details? How about adaptive cornering capability and automatic leveling on those headlamps, LED signature daytime running lights, LED taillights, AWD, paddle shifters, proximity-sensing passive entry, auto climate control, a heads-up Active Driving Display, navigation, voice activation, and seven-speaker Bose audio. I know, I might as well be listing off items from well equipped BMW X1 or Mercedes-Benz
|LED taillights look sharp. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
My tester also had a $1,500 Technology package that added satellite radio, automatic high beam assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), the latter using a near infra-red laser to detect vehicle activity up to six metres ahead before applying the brakes automatically to avoid a potential accident.
As mentioned before, the CX-3 comes in base GX and mid-grade GS trim too, with some of the features being pulled up to GT trim just as impressive, such as remote
|Love this unique two-tone red and black luxury-lined interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As noted earlier, much of that kit comes in an interior that borders on premium, and while I would’ve liked to see its gorgeous taupe-grey Titanium Flash Mica exterior paintwork contrasted by the CX-3’s optional Pure White leather upholstery, which is probably better described as Mazda does in the U.S. by calling it “Black and Parchment” leather because its two-tone design, highlighted by the same red piping as the all-black interior, doesn’t look anything like the much more elegant “Pure White” perforated hides in the CX-5 I tested last year, it’s
|That’s psuede covering the door inserts, plus bright red leatherette armrests. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It would need fabric-wrapped pillars along with a soft-touch dash-top and door uppers to be a full-fledged premium product, but Mazda covers the primary instrument hood in stitched leatherette for an upscale look and feel, whereas the centre portion of the instrument panel gets a contrast-stitched and padded leatherette bolster across its middle. This is visually separated by an eye-catching metallic trim strip that elegantly integrates the centre vent, which would otherwise
|Mazda’s unique approach to sporty luxury makes the CX-3 stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Even more enticing was the satin-silver polished detailing surrounding the wing-like analogue and digital primary gauges, plus the twinned lower steering wheel spoke and upper door garnishes around the door pulls. Additional metallic trim surrounds the tablet-style infotainment system perched atop the dash, while nice knurled metal rims surround all three automatic climate control dials. Knurled metal detailing surrounds the infotainment controller on the lower console too, which itself is surrounded by various quick-access buttons for the main menu, audio system, navigation, radio favourites, and the back button, while a handy rotating volume selector gets the same knurled metal treatment.
|This brilliant partially digital primary gauge cluster is highly legible in all lighting conditions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The aforementioned pop-up head-up display projected key information up above the dash-top, which kept eyes on the road more often than not, while the Bose audio system provided superb sound quality. Again, just a couple more premium-level features.
|Rather than displaying graphics on the windshield, Mazda’s head-up display projects them on this pop-up "window". (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
This said it could be a lot sportier, because Mazda joins many other manufacturers in unforgivably making their normally standard six-speed manual transmissions unavailable in top-line trims, the CX-3’s sportiest GT standard with its six-speed automatic with manual mode. At least
|The navigation mapping was clear, precise, and extremely accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
This transmission is one of the reasons I’d place the CX-3 high at the top of the sportiest subcompact SUV list, plus the wonderfully zippy four-cylinder engine. This little ute loves to zig and zag too, especially in GT trim that provides those larger rims wrapped in 215/50R18 Yokohama Avid all-season rubber. Even at higher speeds its very controllable, something I’ve experienced each and every time I’ve had one at my disposal. This time I took the opportunity to test it on some of the rural backroads that surround farmland in the outskirts of my lush delta
|The red bolsters are soft so as to protect the inside knee of driver and front passenger. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As noted before AWD comes standard with the GT, which aided traction in dry and wet yet didn’t detract much from overall efficiencies as noted by a five-cycle Transport Canada fuel economy rating of 8.8 L/100km in the city and 7.5 on the highway compared to 8.2 city and 6.9 highway in the manual-equipped front-drive model.
|Love the knurled metal detailing on the large rotating infotainment controller and smaller volume knob. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It’s tighter in back, which is the norm for this class, with about two inches ahead of my knees when the front seat was set ideally for me, plus a little more room next to the door for shoulders and hips. On that note I was surprised to find more than four inches above my head, which means someone six-foot-four should fit back there providing their torso isn’t much longer than
|Leather seats with psuede inserts plus red piping and stitching. And they’re comfortable too! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Those back seats fold in a 60/40 configuration via latches that are easily accessible from behind, making it possible to flip them forward when loading things into the back without having to walk around to the side doors. Another CX-3 benefit is a good rear headrest design that’s not only comfortable when sitting inside, but slide completely down and out of the way to allow excellent rear visibility when not in use.
|The rear seating should be large enough for most. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
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