2016 Mazda CX-3 debuts well in tough small SUV field

James Raia

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 is a new subcompact crossover.

Among the newer car industry segments, the subcompact crossover is chock full of worthy vehicles, including the new 2016 Mazda CX-3. It’s the younger stablemate of the still-toddler CX-5 and it joined an expanding, diverse field that also features the new Honda HR-V, Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade.

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 ideally helped define the segment. It featured the maneuverability of a hatchback with the expanded (but not too large) size of a crossover SUV.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

As per the manufacturer’s lineup-wide signature, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 has a long list of standard features, all offered in three trims. My weekly driver was the top-line Grand Touring trim, which, of course, featured the standard equipment of the lower trims and embellished it with a host of upscale materials and equipment.

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 is a new subcompact crossover.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 is a new subcompact crossover.

It’s quite a collection. Consider the base Sport trim. It includes: 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, dual exhaust outlets, a rear roof spoiler, variable intermittent wipers, cloth upholstery, push-button ignition, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, Bluetooth (phone and audio), a rearview camera, a six-speaker audio system (with a CD player, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack and Aha/Pandora/Stitcher Internet radio), voice controls and a 7-inch touchscreen interface with a redundant rotary control knob on the center console.

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 has an intuitive navigation system.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 has an intuitive navigation system.

The Touring trim added heated mirrors, a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless entry and ignition, a front-row center armrest, leatherette (premium vinyl) and cloth upholstery, heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

The Grand Touring trim added 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, LED foglights and taillights, a sunroof, upgraded instrumentation, a head-up display, leather and synthetic suede upholstery, a navigation system, automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a rear cargo cover and a seven-speaker Bose audio system with HD radio and satellite radio.

My test vehicle also included the oddly named GT I-ActiveSense Package ($1,920). It added cruise control, variable rain-sensing wipers, lane departure warning auto on-off headlights, high beam control and smart brake support.

Beyond all of its standard and optional equipment, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 offered a steady, comfortable ride. It accelerated with more authority than the Honda HR-V, but it wasn’t as quiet or spacious, particularly for rear passengers.

Like many SUVs categorized as five-passenger transporters, the Mazda CX-3 is better suited for four adults. Overall vision is good and the functionality of the gauges and dials is intuitive, although it’s a mystery why the radio volume control is on the console between the front seats.

Another oddity: When the dual-functioning, movable narrow armrest and storage compartment is positioned flat, it’s difficult to set the parking brake.


Strong driving dynamics.

Efficient, intuitive, well-lighted navigation system.

Hefty list of standard features.


Tight back seats.

Small cargo area with small, nearly unusable space under the rear cargo floor.

Mazda should re-do its static, above-the-dash navigation system position.

Plastic head-up display screen.

Facts & Figures: 2016 Mazda CX-3

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 8.7 seconds.
Airbags: 6.
Fuel economy: 27 mpg (city), 32 mpg (highway), 29 mpg (combined) six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.
Horsepower: 146.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $26,240.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.mazda.com.
Price As Tested: $29,890.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“An all-new model in the subcompact crossover segment, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 combines a well-built interior, class-best driving dynamics and a small footprint into a curvy body. Excellent fuel mileage, available all-wheel drive and numerous standard and optional features make it one of the top picks in this expanding category.” — Edmunds.com.

“The subcompact-crossover segment is erupting like an overdue volcano-witness the new Chevy Trax, Fiat 500X, and Honda HR-V joining other wee hatchbacks on stilts, such as the Buick Encore, Jeep Renegade, Kia Soul, Mini Countryman, and Nissan Juke. Now, having spent several hours behind the wheel of Mazda’s new CX-3, we think it just may be the most compelling of the bunch.” — CarandDriver.com.

“With a projected starting price of around $20,000 and topping out near $30,000, the CX-3 is attractive, value-filled, and most importantly, fun to drive. American buyers will find much to like about the little Mazda crossover once it goes on sale here this fall.” — MotorTrend.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“With a healthy list of standard features, impressive gas mileage and a confident feel on the road, the Mazda CX-3 is a strong contender, but it’s more expensive and not quite as refined as the Honda HR-V.”

Article Last Updated: July 27, 2023.

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