Mazda owners think they’re a little special. They’re not as quirky as those Subaru owners. They’re more mainstream than Volvo owners and more down to earth than Audi owners. But there’s no question they think they know something you don’t. They think their cars are something special. And the problem is, they might be right.
Take the latest edition to the Mazda family, the 2016 CX-3. The company calls it a compact crossover, but it’s really more of a sub-compact. Call it a starter family car or something for empty nesters that want a little more cargo room. Size-wise, it compares to the Buick Encore or the Jeep Renegade.
So what is special about the CX-3 that makes those Mazda owners feel they’re on to something? Let’s start with the looks. Mazda calls it an evolution of the KODO – Soul of Motion design. Here’s their definition: “Mazda is dedicated to building cars that are more than just a mass of metal. We create cars that can communicate with the driver on an emotional level, as if the vehicles were alive.” That’s a pretty bold statement. But then, the CX-3 is a pretty bold design. All the lines seem to smoothly slide from the back all the way into the five-pointed grille. It has a nice dip in the belt line right at the door so it doesn’t come off as too angular. Bottom line, it’s a nice looking car.
The reality is that the performance doesn’t equal the looks in the CX-3, but it’s not bad. Your only engine option is a 2.0 liter, four-cylinder that will give you 146 horsepower. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. My test car was the all-wheel drive model. 146 horsepower isn’t overly impressive, even in this class. But Mazda does a good job of letting it work for you. Heck, even Consumer Reports said it’s a car that can deliver fun. I was actually able to chirp the tires pulling away from a dead stop. Remember that you’re getting 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, and the fun just got a little cheaper. And that’s for the all-wheel drive model. Go for the front-wheel drive only and it’s 29 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
Inside, the CX-3 has a surprisingly upscale look. I had the Grand Touring Edition that came with a two-tone interior and suede seats. I’m not going to say it’s as fancy as an Audi Q3, but you’ll definitely have friends admiring the look and wondering how much you paid. Unlike most cars, the center console doesn’t stretch to the top of the dash, which is nice. On the other hand, the display is stuck on top like it was an afterthought. It’s effectively placed, just not blended in very well. It’s not bad, I’ve just seen the integration done better with some other cars. The interior doesn’t have a huge amount of space inside. If you’re on the tall side, you might find the front headroom slightly lacking. On the other hand, average-sized folk will fit in just fine.
The CX-3 has three trim levels. You can get the entry-level Sport, the Touring, or the top of the line Grand Touring. The base price for the sport model is $19,960. My fully loaded Grand Touring edition came in at $29,590. But that included safety add-ons like radar cruise control, smart brake and lane departure warnings.
So does it all add up to something that warrants Mazda CX-3 owners thinking they’re special? Probably. Just don’t stare too much. We don’t want to fuel that feeling.