“Sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zone to realize how great something really is. This is exactly what happened while testing the 2016 Mazda CX-3.”
2016 Mazda CX-3 Review – The Cute Winter Slayer
The CX-3 is Mazda’s response to every other company that has successfully designed and lunched a crossover, which is basically every-auto-manufacturer. That being said, I’d be hugely mistaken to call the CX-3 just another crossover.
Unless we embark on a trip of some sort, most of our car advice is derived from the real-world testing we perform at our real-world proving grounds, otherwise called “public roads”. Meaning that Missi and I perform what most Moms and Dads do on a daily routine—take the kids to school, run late to school, run errands, run to meetings, run late to those meetings, and even go on a date-night once in a blue moon. This time though, we threw a completely different challenge at the Mazda CX-3…
The Detroit Driving Experience
Every year we make the pilgrimage to the Motor City for the North American International Auto Show, or as most of us call it—the Detroit Auto Show. The weather is typically hideous as it normally is in January across the Midwest, but somehow Mother Nature manages to make things extra-hideous (and dangerous) every year. The auto show could be in March and somehow Armageddon-ish weather would still roll in.
Our CX-3 was equipped with Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD system, which is a real-time, all-wheel drive system that constantly monitors road conditions in order to provide the right amount of power, balance and traction. And let me tell you, it works—flawlessly.
Driving the CX-3 on a road that resembled an ice-skating rink more than a interstate highway was nerve-wrecking, but the more miles we traveled the more confidence I gained behind the wheel. Also, it made me appreciate the incredible job that Mazda had performed to make such a small crossover feel big, planted, and confident under such gnarly conditions.
Hour after hour I switched lanes, braked, accelerated, and even passed other vehicles with confidence. The steering wheel felt extremely responsive, the suspension managed to soften the blow of the rugged ice craters, and that’s when I realized the CX-3 had definitely put on its big boy pants that day. It may look little, sporty, and even cute, but the Mazda CX-3 is by all means a winter slayer.
As we left Indiana behind and ventured into Michigan, the roads cleaned up and allowed us to travel at a normal rate of speed, which meant I could finally divert some attention to the CX-3’s tech offerings. Mazda’s radar cruise control gave me a much needed break, as it allowed me to set a constant speed and travel according to the traffic flow around me, which after nearly three hours of chaotic driving—it was happily welcomed. Thanks to Mazda’s radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning system, the last 90 miles of our trip were much more relaxing.
Once in frigid Detroit Rock City, we encountered slushy-snowy roads and hardly any ice, which presented an excellent opportunity to safely test the limits of the CX-3. I can tell you that after spending several minutes on an empty and snow-covered parking lot, I still don’t know what those limits may be, as the CX-3 gripped marvelously during every sudden change of direction. It was impressive!
Just because the four of us fit in the CX-3, it doesn’t mean that we promote it, or even enjoyed it. The biggest strengths of this sporty and capable crossover, are the same that hinder it in this category.
The Mazda CX-3 is nimble, fuel-efficient, easy to park, extremely comfortable, and for lots of people—convenient, but we couldn’t find any seating arrangement that fit our family, and it was a big bummer. First of all, fitting Josephine’s car seat was a pain, as the car seat itself could barely squeeze through the door opening, and it was quite difficult to maneuver it and anchor it into place.
In order to provide Josephine the slightest bit of leg room, the front passenger seat had to be pushed forward considerably. In fact, there is no way I could’ve sat in the front passenger seat with Josephine seating behind me. With the car seat taking up nearly half of the back seat, it was Nevaeh that had to seat behind me and also have to deal with little-to-zero leg room due to my driver seat configuration.
We are familiar with small cars, and have actually owned quite a few in recent years, and I’m convinced the CX-3 would only work for a 5ft tall family, max.
All in all, the Mazda CX-3’s interior is superbly designed and works to perfection like in most Mazdas. Interior cargo volume isn’t substantial (12.4-cu. ft.), but then it’s enough for most situations if you’re a skilled packer, plus you can fold the rear seats down to achieve 33.45-cu. ft. The driver’s seat is hands-down one of the most comfortable seats I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit on, and it should be the role model for all driver seats.
The conditions we experienced during our time with the 2016 Mazda CX-3 couldn’t have been a bigger departure from the norm, but I believe it was exactly that, which helped us realize what a great vehicle it is. Sure it may not fit my family comfortably, but it may fit yours, and guess what? There’s a solution to that problem—the Mazda CX-5.
- Incredible all-wheel-drive performance.
- Even with its small size, visibility through all windows is excellent.
- Delivered good fuel-economy even under harsh conditions. (28-mpg combined)
- Has a magical cell-phone holder built into the armrest which is super cool and convenient.
The not so great:
- Too small for most families with kids.
- Heated steering wheel not available.
- Rear ac/heater vents not available.
- Starts at: $19,960
- Price as tested: $29,590