2018 Mazda CX-3 review with video

The basics:

Starting price: $19,995 + tax (GX)
As tested: $19,995 + tax
Fully kitted out for $27,995, AWD GT model
Fuel economy over our week of testing: 6.8 L/100 kms (34 US MPG)
Competition: Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota C-HR, etc.

We’re on a bit of a Japanese sub-compact crossover kick right now. It’s a segment that has really taken off over the last five years. Take the Mazda CX-3, it’s one of the earliest cars we tested on the site when it was first released for the 2015 model year. Since then, it’s actually outstripped its largest sibling – the CX-9 – in terms of sales here in Canada. Meanwhile, these subcompacts are not really taking off in the US. There were almost as many CX-3s sold in Canada this past year than in America. Now, although it’s still in its first generation, Mazda has been playing with the recipe a little for 2018 – introducing new standard tech to improve cornering feel and, here in Canada anyway, we’re now getting a six speed manual transmission offered. But even as subcompacts go, this is a mini little thing so check-out our full video review to see if you think it could work for your family. Or check-out our bullet point report card below.

– Even on the base trim, the interior looks unique and high end. Switchwear, including the redesigned steering wheel, feels solid and consistent throughout the cabin. Our tester didn’t feel like a chintzy $20,000 entry level vehicle
– It also packs some solid value, despite being made in Japan. Standard equipment is further improved for 2018 and now includes push button start, smart city brake support (autonomous braking under 30 kms/hr), a seven inch infotainment system with a rear back-up camera and two USB ports. But I was missing Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and heated front seats
– Great to have a six speed manual transmission now offered to the Canadian market (not available in the USA). But sadly, it’s only available on the base trim with front wheel drive. Having driven the CX-3 with both its automatic and manual transmissions now, this stick shift makes it far more engaging and exciting to drive
– It may not be a spirited driver but it is a fuel efficient little thing. In the all wheel drive version of this car with the available 6 speed automatic transmission, we averaged 8.5 L/100 kms back in our 2015 test. And this time around, in our front wheel drive test with a manual transmission, we’ve average 6.8 L/100 kms, despite regularly punching it off the line
– Despite a lack of power for confident highway cruising, this car on a twisty road or in the urban environment is a little whip. The manual transmission helps a lot but so does the arrival of G-vectoring control. It’s now standard on all trims for 2018 and automatically senses when you’re entering a corner and reduces the drive torque. Then ramps that torque back up as you’re exiting the corner. It makes for a more composed cornering feel and also reduces the amount that you get tossed around in the cabin. That’s a pretty clever bit of technology for a car that starts at under $20,000
– Its cornering is also enhanced by a well tuned suspension system and very connected steering feel
– On top of all that, Mazda focussed on three areas for improving the driving experience – noise, vibration and harshness. And it’s paid off. This is a composed, quiet, comfortable cabin. We averaged 62 decibels at 100 kms/hr this week
РThe CX-3 also has a Top Safety Pick + rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Рwith some new safety features for 2018 on the higher trims like radar controlled cruise control and traffic sign recognition software

– The 2-litre 4-cylinder engine puts out a rather tame 146 horsepower. The manual transmission certainly helps but you can’t get the new stick shift with all wheel drive so it’s a bit of a moot point for most Canadian crossover shoppers (only a third of CX-3s sold in Canada have been front wheel drive this year). – -Regardless of transmission, the CX-3 feels underpowered for highway travel. Countries outside of North America also offer a 1.5-litre turbo diesel, which would kick the performance up while also further improving fuel economy
– If you want all wheel drive, not only do you lose the stick shift, and have to spend over $3,000 more on top of the base price – which kicks it up into Subaru Crosstrek territory
– Seat comfort is pretty sub par. I’m a skinny guy and even I feel like the seats are too narrow for me. The foam doesn’t feel supportive enough and there’s no lumbar adjustment
– Visibility out of the small rear window is quite limited for backing-up. Thank goodness for the back-up camera on all trims
– The big issues with the CX-3 start behind the first row. The second row is properly tight – even compared to its direct competitors. There’s over 4 more inches of leg room in the Honda HR-V and 1.5 more inches in the Subaru Crosstrek. But it actually feels even tighter than that. It’s a pinch. You’ll get almost five inches more leg room in the Mazda CX-5’s second row – which is going to be much more usable
– Trunk capacity is also a serious weakness. And while subcompact crossovers are not going to offer vacuous room for cargo, the CX-3 takes that to the next level. At 452 litres behind the second row seats, it’s well behind the 632 litres in the Crosstrek or the 657 litres in the HR-V. Even the Toyota CH-R’s pithy feeling trunk had more space at 538 litres. The usefulness of the trunk is further affected by a sloped rear window that cuts into headroom for a family dog or taller, bulkier items. Again, to keep it in the Mazda family, you’re going to find a far more practical 875 litre capacity in the CX-5

Family Wheels report card:

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 3/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 4/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 3/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 4/5 (62 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 3/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 2.5/5
Family Wheels trunk test score: 2/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 4/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4/5
Family Wheels value score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels overall score: 33/50= 66%

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