The CX-3, the smallest of Mazda’s trio of utility vehicles, competes in the burgeoning sub-compact segment. This is where much of the action has been, as Canadian car sales reach record heights.
The CX-3 has competitive value, content, fuel efficiency, reliability and resale value. It also has been developed by a team of people who insist that driving should be more than a way to get from point A to B. Everything from the response when you press the brake pedal, to when you turn the steering wheel, has been massaged to ensure the driver enjoys the art of driving.
The art of driving
I use the phrase “art of driving” because for some, that is how driving is approached. No abrupt inputs or last-minute braking, minimal steering corrections in a corner, eyes well down the road allowing you to anticipate change and blend into traffic. The Mazda CX-3 is rewarding for drivers like this.
For the other 99%, the CX-3 is a good-looking, well-equipped, fuel-sipping small ute. The CX-3 has a unique shape, like a tall wagon. From the distinctive Mazda grill, to the sloping roofline, it stands apart from the pack of two box designs. It has a tall seating position, and the added security of all-wheel-drive buyers seek.
The CX-3 comes in three trim grades, GX, GS and GT, spanning the $20,000 – $30,000 price range. The standard engine is a normally aspirated 148-horsepower 2.0-litre four cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is available on the GX model. A six-speed automatic is standard on the other trim levels.
Front-wheel-drive is standard, and al-wheel-drive available on all models. The AWD system uses input from 27 sensors that predict surface conditions. It does so seamlessly, without the loss of grip felt in other systems before they switch from FWD to AWD.
2018 model gets a number of upgrades
The CX-3 receives a number of updates and additional features for 2018.
In many respects, the most important may be the addition Smart City Brake Support. Standard on all models, this system automatically applies the brakes if it detects an imminent collision at speeds below 30 k/hr. As an example, say you were crawling along in heavy traffic, and the vehicle in front slows or stops suddenly. The CX-3 will automatically slow or come to a complete stop, if you were not paying attention.
The optional i-ACTIVSENSE Package brings radar-based cruise control, to maintain a set distance to the vehicle in front. Forward Obstruction Warning lets drivers know they are approaching a solid object or stopped vehicle. Lane departure warning, automatic high beams and adaptive, self-levelling LED headlights are included.
The constant push to improve the driving experience has made what the company calls G-Vectoring Control standard across the CX-3 trim range. Without getting too technical, suffice it to say this minute and automatic adjustment of the throttle, and steering, shifts weight to the front wheels momentarily when entering a corner. These subtle changes result in fewer steering adjustments during a corner and a greater level of comfort and control.
Subtle changes make big difference
If Mazda did not brag on this system, you would not know of its existence. I have tried in under controlled conditions with an on/off switch, and the difference is indeed noticeable.
Similar and related subtle changes have been made to things like suspension bushings, lower control arms, shock absorbers, and engine mounts. The development team has also fitted improved door seals, thicker rear glass and thicker sound suppression mats under the floor and behind the instrument panel, resulting in lower levels of NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness).
Even the base 2018 Mazda CX-3 is well equipped. Standard equipment includes: power windows locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, push button start, air conditioning, a pair of USB ports, backup camera, hands-free calling, audio pairing and Mazda connect. This latter feature includes a 17-cm full-colour screen controlled through voice-commands while underway or by touch when the vehicle is stationary.
The feisty little CX-3 is another example of why Mazda wins so many awards. Mine would come in the $450 stunning “soul red crystal metallic” paint.
Model: 2018 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD with technology package
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, 148 horsepower, 146 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: six-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway):8.6/7.4
Length: 4,274 mm
Width: 1,767 mm
Wheelbase: 2,570 mm
Weight: 1,355 kg
Price: $30,795 base, $33,140 as tested, including freight
Standard equipment on test vehicle: 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, radar cruise control, smart brake support, front obstruction warning, traffic sign recognition, 18-in alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights with auto-leveling, heated mirrors, 17-cm colour touchscreen, navigation, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt & telescope steering wheel, leather and suede upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, push button start, rearview camera, power moon roof, automatic on/off headlights, seven-speaker Bose Audio system.
Options on test vehicle: soul red crystal metallic paint $450