KBB Logo Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.

Editor's Overview

The all-new 2016 Mazda CX-3 catches the recent tidal wave of fresh small SUVs, and it offers attractive styling, a slew of nice-to-have features and a strong dose of fun-to-drive as its calling cards. While many carmakers are offering miniaturized versions of larger SUVs in this segment, Mazda has led with style while going lighter on cargo space.

You'll Like The 2016 Mazda CX-3 If...

If you want to emphasize sport in your small sport-utility, the uncommonly attractive Mazda CX-3 will deliver it in ways that its competitors don’t.

You May Not Like The 2016 Mazda CX-3 If...

Should your idea of utility revolve around cargo-carrying space for your active-lifestyle toys, the Mazda CX-3 comes up short versus some of the more commodious vehicles in the segment like the Honda HR-V and the Kia Soul.

What's New

The Mazda CX-3 is all-new for 2016, utilizing all of Mazda’s latest Skyactiv technology.

Interior Features

The base Sport trim offers a monotone black cloth interior that is good-looking; the Touring ups the ante to available Leatherette, and the top-of-the-line Grand Touring offers leather/Lux Suede seats with second-color piping. The GT also uses a soft material on the hood over the top of the gauges complete with a stitch-like finish. The gauges are housed in a well-defined nacelle, and information displays (including a standard 7-inch screen) and control systems are positioned in toward the driver in what Mazda calls its “Head-up Cockpit” concept. Mazda Connect features SMS text message audio delivery and reply, voice command and Aha/Stitcher/Pandora/HD Radio connectivity.

Exterior Features

According to Mazda designer Ken Saward, the goal of the CX-3’s exterior is to be a car that is “genuinely beautiful while practical.” This led to a small coupe-like cabin and a long hood. The CX-3 is tall for its overall length, but it is definitely not a miniature CX-5. With its compact 168.3-in. overall length and 60.7-in. height, the CX-3 could pass for a Mazda3 5-door hatchback, though it is three inches taller. While many SUVs are slab-sided, the CX-3 offers highly sculpted fenders and doors that convey movement. The price is less interior and cargo space.

Driving Impressions

While far from the most powerful vehicle in the subcompact SUV segment, the Mazda CX-3 vies with the Nissan Juke as the most fun-to-drive. That said, the CX-3’s fun-to-drive comes in a completely different way. While the fast-and-frenetic Juke is as subtle as a ballpeen hammer, the CX-3 seems very adept at carving through corners and slicing through traffic. With a stiff body structure, precise steering and a real multi-gear automatic transmission versus a CVT, the CX-3 delivers sophisticated performance reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz GLA. The 146-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine doesn’t sound especially impressive, but its fat torque curve aptly paired with its 6-speed automatic transmission enables drivers to get more twist-carving enjoyment than you might expect. In this continuously variable (transmission) era, we applaud the CX-3’s automatic for its Sport mode with rev matching on downshifts and its available (GT model) paddle shifters that actually (!) change gears.

Pricing Notes

We don’t believe that it is coincidental that the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the Mazda CX-3 starts at about $20,800 or right on top of the Honda HR-V. That’s slightly higher starting price than the lowest-level HR-V, but the Mazda is better equipped including a 6-speed automatic transmission while the Honda starts with a 6-speed manual. Starting just under $26,000, the built-in-Japan CX-3 Grand Touring – top of the line – also bears a base price a few hundred dollars more than the HR-V but again the Mazda offers a richer level of equipment. While figures are not in on a 5-year cost-to-own calculation, we would not be surprised if the CX-3 and HR-V were closely bunched at the very top of the class. For a glimpse at real-world transaction prices, we suggest you look at the KBB Fair Purchase Price for each vehicle and other competitors.

Notable Equipment

The CX-3 Sport (base model) is nicely equipped with 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G engine, 6-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift Sport mode, attractive cloth seats and a 60/40-split-folding rear bench seat. Also on the list is Mazda Connect infotainment complete with a 7-inch monitor, rearview camera, voice command and multi-function commander control that is reminiscent of controls in upscale European cars. Bluetooth hands-free phone pairing and audio streaming, push-button start, AM/FM/CD player, USB input, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, air conditioning, power windows and door locks and keyless entry round out an inclusive standards list.

Notable Options

The CX-3 Touring adds a 6-speaker audio system, heated exterior mirrors, moonroof, mirror-mounted turn-signal lights and center armrest. Leatherette seats are available, as are 7-speaker premium BOSE audio, power glass moonroof, SiriusXM/HD Radio, heated seats and cargo cover. The top-o-line Grand Touring features 18-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, leather/Lux Suede seats, and LED headlights, fog lights and daytime running lights. Plus navigation, BOSE premium audio, automatic climate control, Active Driving Display, paddle shifters, driver- and front-passenger seat heaters and rear cargo cover. The GT i-Activsense package includes Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Smart Brake Support and much more.

Favorite Features

UPSCALE FEATURES GALOREWhile many vehicles in the segment offer low-line models that are not especially well-equipped, every CX-3 features a push-button starter and Mazda Connect infotainment offering Bluetooth phone pairing, audio streaming, USB ports for phone charging and entertainment connectivity – all controlled by a knob on the console.STYLE BEYOND ITS PRICEDrawing on Mazda’s Kodo design philosophy, the CX-3 exterior is the most visually appealing and sophisticated in its segment with a long hood, short overhangs and available LED accents, while the interior could easily grace a luxury-brand vehicle.

Under the Hood

The headline for the standard (and lone) engine in the CX-3 is its heady 13.0:1 compression ratio. Unlike the hot-rod days of yore when big compression ratios were used to produce more horsepower, these days the Skyactiv Mazda 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine uses it to wring out excellent fuel economy. That’s good news, and the fact that the engine is backed by a real, live gear-changing automatic transmission is the even better news. The 6-speed auto, which in the GT is affixed with paddle shifters, does a nice job of channeling the power to the ground and contributes to the CX-3’s praiseworthy mileage figures.2.0-liter inline-4146 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm146 lb-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/35 mpg (FWD), 27/32 mpg (AWD)

Editors' Notes

Designed to tap into the trend to small crossover SUVs that is building into a tidal wave, the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-3 is a stylish 5-door based on a platform shared with the upcoming next-generation Mazda2. Available in three trim levels each offering front-drive or all-wheel drive (FWD, AWD), the CX-3 utilizes the suite of Skyactiv technologies for across-the-line fuel efficiency that can rival that of expensive hybrids. Its competitiveness in a crowded segment is fortified by premium-level controls and Mazda’s sophisticated i-Activsense driver assist and safety features. Those features plus its attractive "Kodo – Soul of Motion" design are its secret weapons in its battle against rivals like the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, Buick Encore, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X and Chevrolet Trax.

Road Test Video Reviews

2016 Mazda CX-3 Owner Reviews

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It's a very compact crossover. The AWD feature is great, gas mileage is good also and it's priced well enough. But if you're looking for a true crossover suv or if you travel and need the cargo space in the back this may not be the car for you. I have a hard time picking up 2 people from the airport and being able to fit their luggage in the car as well.

2016 Mazda CX-3

When I was in the process of purchasing a vehicle the Cx-3 was Mazda's new model out so there wasn't too much feedback from current owners of that model so I had to go by what Mazda's dealership told me. I had a few requirements including AWD, enough passenger space, as I was going to be using this car for work in real estate and need to be able to fit clients comfortably in my car to take out, and lastly decent gas mileage as well as affordable maintenance. At first I was just so happy to have a new car and was in a rush since I needed to purchase right away as my car had been totaled in an accident but I knew I wanted to go with Mazda or Nissan since our next car purchase was going to be an electric vehicle but Tesla has not yet come out with their more affordable model at the time. The car is very tight inside and I wasn't able to comfortably fit two people in my backseat without moving the front seats all the way up, which made my drive and the front passengers very uncomfortable. Also I had to have tires special ordered when there were nails and glass in the street ruining two brand new tires right after buying my car. I spent right about $600 on two tires and had to wait for them to be ordered because no one had the tires to fit this vehicle in stock at the time and there weren't options available when ordering I had to go with more expensive tires. Since both tires were ruined and I only had one donut and no spare at that time I ended up having to rent a car until the tires were delivered 5 days later. Even currently when looking for filters and other maintenance items for the CX-3 there's not many options compared to all the other Mazda models and find my air filters cost much more in comparison to the other filters available for the other models. Even cargo space is not as large as it appears and larger items are very difficult get into the car because the trunks small opening and door. My husband is happy driving the car, but he had a Honda Fit previously so he's used to a compact car. I can't consider this a "crossover suv" it's more the a compact hatchback with AWD. I would've went with another model if things would've been explained more honestly. But they made the car seem like consumers love it and it's roomy, with great gas mileage etc. I currently have to switch cars with a coworker every time I have to take clients out and if I wasn't lucky enough to have someone willing to do that we would've had to purchase another car for myself to be able to use for work.

- Christine N

All wheel drive that can really handle the most with the very least gas mileage.

2016 Mazda CX-3

My Mazda was a perfect fit for the kind of driving I needed to do to get to school, to work, and just around town. I wanted to have the convenience of a 4-door vehicle, but the size that takes on tight city streets easily. It also featured great storage features, with the seats that collapse in the back to create a larger trunk space, which I have used on many occasions to move house, manage furniture, and other feats. It is an AWD vehicle and it gets much better mileage than other cars I have driven, so it is kind to my wallet when I do have to pump for gas. It has a Bluetooth capability that has helped me stay connected to music, calls, and has two USB ports that keep my devices charged. It is not without faults, however, since there is no center console for storage, and I have had to take it in for issues pertaining to the ac and other electronic features. Other than that, this car has been a dream and I love the way it feels to drive it.

- Rachel R

More than just something to drive.

2016 Mazda CX-3

Smooth, comfortable ride. Quiet in the cabin. Great heating/ac system for front seat, allowing passenger and driver to individually control temps (no such extension to back seat). Radio easy to control from steering wheel but horribly hard to control from the center console. Heads -up display. Cruise control. GPS. Bluetooth. Only two USB ports, both in center console, none in back seat. Fold-down drink holder in back seat. Side mirror blind spot warning lights (love these!) And back up camera. Cannot pop hatchback from inside vehicle -- very inconvenient. Bigger/higher profile than a car, but still smaller than a true SUV. Mpg in the high 20's. Lately the computerized entertainment system has been freezing (unable to change stations or input source, etc.) -- can be re-booted, but irritating every time and it is been happening a lot.

- Carol C

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