Four years into its first generation, the 2019 Mazda CX-3 is upgraded from last year’s model. It’s a good thing since the subcompact-crossover sport utility vehicle competition continues to intensify.
More support and comfort are now in the seats and leather upholstery is an option. Noise, harshness and vibrations are improved via an adjusted, smoother-running 2.0-liter engine. Equally subtle changes include: The anti-fog lights and B and C pillars get black trim; the front spoiler now has silver trim.
The taillights and grille have also been revised, with the latter now featuring four horizontal bands, three less than previous editions.
Since its debut as a 2016 model, the Mazda CX-3 found a strong market. But there are other newbies in the mix, including the Honda HR-V and Hyundai Kona. The Subaru Crosstrek and Jeep Renegade are the veterans vying for a market share, with the former the only option in the category with all-wheel-drive standard.
And there are the Kia Soul and Nissan Juke. They’re solid choices for buyers tired of the mainstream and seeking funky alternatives.
The Mazda CX-3 stands out in the crowded group via its versatility. The Hyundai Kona is sporty-looking and attractively priced. The Honda HR-V is spacious for the class. The Mazda has superior styling, top-rated safety equipment and strong resale value.
Equipped with a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine with 148 horsepower, the CX-3 has a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shifting sport mode. The Mazda’s high safety marks begin with what the manufacturer calls the Mazda Connect Infotainment system. A dash-mounted 7-inch monitor with a rearview camera, multi-function dial control and voice command highlight the long list of standard features.
But there’s a lot more: A Bluetooth phone, audio streaming, USB port, push-button start tilt/telescope steering wheel, cruise control, keyless entry and power windows/locks. A feature called Smart City Brake Support can automatically apply the brakes at under 19 mph.
The top-line Grand Touring model, my review vehicle, takes the Mazda CX-3 to a new level and makes it a top value. It’s loaded with optional equipment sometimes not found in cars twice as much as the subcompact’s $29,625 price. Consider: LED headlights, fog lights, navigation, Bose audio, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and all-wheel drive.
The Premium Package ($710) featured six items, including a heating steering wheel, power-adjustable driver’s seat, radar-based cruise control, driver’s seat memory, traffic sign recognition and driver’s power lumbar support.
Acceleration from 0-60 miles per hour is 8.0 seconds, better than some competitors, not as quick as other options. Fuel economy is 27 miles per gallon city driving, 32 miles per gallon on the highway.
The Mazda doesn’t have much backseat room, but that’s an inherent trait for the class. It’s more noticeable since the CX-3 has a sporty exterior style, with a narrow cabin and an extended front. The result: there are only 12.4 cubic feet of storage behind the back seat. With the rear bench seat down, cargo space nearly quadruples to 44 cubic feet.
The SUV marketplace continues to flourish. But the subcompact description clouds the original description. The Mazda CX-3 doesn’t hold much cargo and it isn’t much of a people mover.
But for a one or two-person family without children or pets and not much to haul, the upgraded Mazda is at the top of its segment. Its shortcomings aside, it’s fun to drive, it’s particularly nimble, priced right and maintains its value used.
Article Last Updated: August 7, 2023.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.