Our editor, David Boldt, took you through Mazda’s all-new CX-3 not too long ago. And he was impressed with the product, leaving it with just a few reservations or wants. He also took time to go through some of the specifics of that car (which you can find in his review), so we’ll focus more on my opinion as a consumer closer in age to Mazda’s target audience. This is a car that I feel reaches directly to the txGarage audience and I’ve already had many readers and personal friends reach out to me asking my thoughts on this car. While they got a sneak peek at what this article is going over, you’ll have to read on.
We’ll start with the style of this compact crossover vehicle. One thing that brands like Hyundai, Kia, and Ford have really gotten in the past five years is this: design matters. While Mazda’s new slogan informs us that “Driving Matters,” they have also adopted an emphasis on design. Starting with the redesign of the Mazda6 in 2012, Mazda has been making some great moves in their architecture, and in their respective segments I’d argue they are among the best; this CX-3 is no different. When you talk about taking a car like the Mazda2 and essentially putting it on stilts, it seems that would be an easy thing to mess up in the design department. If you want a small sporty Mazda you always have the Mazda2 or the incredible Mazda3, so why design the same sort of car but with a little more ground clearance?
Those were my thoughts, but after seeing the car, first at the State Fair of Texas and then at our Truck Rodeo event, and finally spending a full week driving it, I can say this is not just a design I like but one I really grew to love. I still stare at them when I walk by one in a parking lot.
It’s not just the exterior that looks good, either. Mazda has done great work inside their cars making them feel more upscale and solidly built. This is important if you’re going to do any sort of light off-roading, as you don’t want things rattling around. We spent a little bit of time with it off road and it seemed to hold up pretty well.
Another area of the interior worth mentioning is Mazda’s infotainment system. Mazda has struggled in this area in the past, but with some of their newest offerings I think they’ve really found a solid system matched with great controls. I’d recommend jumping in one and playing with the controls and walking through some of the menus offered up.
So the design ended up looking good but how much utility do you really get out of this small crossover? If you’re really looking for utility wouldn’t you just buy the CX-5? Great questions! You guys are a smart audience. Obviously, you’re not getting the utility you would get out of a CX-5, and if that’s the kind of utility you’re looking for then I do suggest going for that vehicle. But the CX-3 will come in at a much lower price and, in my opinion, is better looking for the day-to-day, and it’s much less the “soccer-mom” vehicle.
Again, you’re not going to do any major off-roading in this or even hauling of big items, but if you’re driving off-road a little to a campsite or driving in the grass to park at an event, the extra lift makes a great deal of difference for confidence and maneuverability. You also get a slightly higher seating position that allows you better visibility and not feel so small compared to all the big vehicles driving on Texas roads. The hatchback isn’t going to fit large items but if you’re packing for a camping trip or road trip it’s easily adequate.
THE DRIVE – DOES IT DRIVE LIKE A MAZDA?
It actually does. If you’re used to driving any modern Mazda you’ll know they’re not all about speed (excluding the MazdaSpeed3); they’re more about handling and offering a solid feel. Despite being a taller ride you still get great feel from the chassis and it’s extremely easy to maneuver and drive when driving matters.
So, I really think the CX-3 has the styling it needs and just the right mix of utility and driving characteristics to make it a solid offering. For me this crossover goes directly against the Subaru Crosstrek. If you like the concept of a smaller crossover like this the Subaru offers more utility and a different overall driving feel, but the Mazda is the more stylish and fun to drive of the bunch. You can pick up a base CX-3 for around $20K, which I think is a great deal for what you’re getting. Our top of the line trim hit the scales at $29,590, giving us adds like navigation, a great leather interior, all-wheel-drive, radar-guided cruise control and a laundry list of other options. When you’re talking almost $30k it really becomes harder to justify over a more traditional crossover/SUV or a larger sedan.
Overall I still think it’s a great vehicle and would recommend it if it provides the utility you’re looking for. But I’d look at a less expensive model – and forgo the extra luxuries.