Overview

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Overview (Final Score: A)

Introduced as a new design last year, the Mazda CX-3 sees very few changes for 2017. For people who don't need a full-time backseat or a lot of cargo space, compact crossovers are a favorite choice. Some are becoming decidedly not-so-compact, but the CX-3 sticks with that name and uses it. For people needing something larger, the Mazda CX-5 fills that role.

The CX-3 is well-designed with a great exterior look, sporty presence and a fun driving dynamic. As the entry-level offering from Mazda for the crossover lineup, the 2017 CX-3 has a lot riding on it. And it carries that well, being one of the best vehicles available in the compact crossover segment.

The 2017 Mazda CX-3 is a two-row compact crossover that seats up to five, gets great fuel economy and feels fun while driving it. Despite its small price tag, standard equipment is plentiful and advanced technologies are easy to find in upper trims.

What We Love About the 2017 Mazda CX-3:


  • Fun drive dynamic with driver-centric appeal

  • Great exterior look matched by a beautiful interior

  • Responsive, energetic powertrain that keeps fuel economy high


 

What We Don't Love About the 2017 Mazda CX-3:


  • Fairly high road noise on the highway

  • Higher trim levels get expensive

  • Reliability expectation is only about average


 

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Exterior View (10/10)

The 2017 Mazda CX-3 has a look in line with most of Mazda's lineup, with similar but distinct heritage from the larger CX-5 and CX-9. Aside from footprint, the major differences from those two crossovers are its sportier design elements such as the more aggressively curved roof line and smaller rear quarter.

The signature acorn-shaped Mazda grille of the 2017 CX-3 is flanked by thin headlamps to either side. The grille surround cradles the open grille, mimicking the seagull wings of the Mazda emblem at center. The hood lifts up and curves back toward the windshield to hint at the engine power underneath.

To either side of the hood, heavy drops make large fenders, emphasizing sport, and smooth body lines give a faster pace to the CX-3's bodywork. The thinning greenhouse above and curved roofline with its floating rear pillar complete that appearance, as do the fender wells pushing to the edge of the rear bumper for sporty emphasis.

The 2017 Mazda CX-3 is a great-looking crossover from all angles. Like most Mazda vehicles, its distinctive style comes with strong curb presence and promises a great drive dynamic. Which, of course, Mazda always delivers.

Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (9/10)

The little CX-3 has learned a lot from the award-winning Mazda3 sedan and hatchback. That shows in the CX-3's interior, which is well appointed and nicely designed. The sleek look of the interior comes from smart use of quality materials and a simple, but effective function is form layout. The base model's gauge cluster is a bit boring, but upper trims have a nice replacement that's fully digital.

A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard in the 2017 Mazda CX-3, as is extremely comfortable front seating that's adjustable and well-designed, holding firmly without being hard. It's unusual in the compact segment to find as much legroom and headroom as what's offered in the CX-3's front seats.

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As is the norm in this segment, the rear seating is cramped and only marginally habitable by adults. It will do when required, but not as a daily thing. Children are well accommodated though, with plenty of room and ease of use for booster seats. Sitting three across, whether children or adults, is mostly an exercise left to theory than reality. Cargo space is likewise a bit small at just 12.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, but we like the standard split-fold rear seating and the flat floor for loading. Most will find the cargo space in the CX-3 to be very usable despite it's small size on paper.

Of note, the upgrade to the Bose system adds a subwoofer to the rear cargo area that subtracts over 2 cubic feet from the overall available space. Something to consider when making upgrade choices.

Technology (9/10)

Technology in the 2017 Mazda CX-3 centers on a 7-inch touchscreen interface backed by a knob controller near the shifter. The touchscreen aspect is great when parked or at a traffic light, while the knob keeps the driver or front passenger sitting upright and faced forward when the vehicle is moving.

Menus on the interface are well done for the most part. Some things, such as satellite channel surfing, may take some getting used to, but the knob makes this quick and intuitive. Standard features in the CX-3's infotainment include Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports and a crisp, clear infotainment screen. Upgrades include navigation, better stereo options and app integration.

Fuel Economy (10/10)

The 2017 Mazda CX-3 delivers best-in-class fuel economy. Its ratings are 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway in front-wheel drive models, and 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway in all-wheel drive models.

In the real world, we found most drivers can expect to see about 29 mpg on average in the AWD model, on par with the expected returns. That makes the CX-3 an extremely fuel-efficient option both on paper and in reality.

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Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (8/10)

The 2017 CX-3 has been given an "About Average" score from the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study. This is on par with all Mazda crossovers, but slightly less than what the company's cars tend to get. There are no significant recalls for the CX-3 as of this writing, and the Mazda brand as a whole enjoys a good reputation for customer service.

Safety (10/10)

Like all Mazda vehicles, the 2017 CX-3 gets top marks for safety. The 2017 model has been crash-test rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for five stars overall (out of five). This includes five stars each for frontal and side crash tests, and four stars for rollover tests.

Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the 2017 Mazda CX-3 its top rank of "Top Safety Pick+." It received top scores of "Good" on all crash tests, as well as for advanced safety items that include crash mitigation technologies.

Performance (10/10)

The 2017 CX-3 is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 146 horsepower running through a six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission is responsive and the engine doesn't hesitate to push out power. In a vehicle the size of the CX-3, that power output is excellent and makes the little crossover sprightly and nimble.

The 2017 CX-3 also has excellent handling and a firm chassis upon which to ride. Some folks may be put off the by CX-3's stiffer-than-usual feel, but this should soon give way to the fun experience driving Mazda's tiny crossover. Maneuverability is wonderful and the visibility afforded to the driver is very good.

The 2017 Mazda CX-3's performance package is second to none.

Pricing and Value (9/10)

The 2017 Mazda CX-3 has a great starting point as an entry-level vehicle for the Mazda crossover lineup. Most will look past the base model and be more interested in the Touring trim level, with its higher level of accouterments, better interior experience and more sophisticated feel. With a good amount of amenities for the price, we think the Touring FWD or Touring AWD models are a best bet for most buyers and will come in under $23,000 with desired upgrades.

Unless the size of the CX-3 is a must, we'd suggest you forego the upper-end Grand Touring trim and consider the Mazda CX-5 as a better alternative for the money at about the same price point.

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Total Score and Competitive Comparison (75/80, 94%)

The 2017 Mazda CX-3 adds to the proof that Mazda doesn't know how to make a bad vehicle. The CX-3 is best-in-class for many reasons. Chief competitors are the Subaru SV Crosstrek, which delivers a much inferior interior (say that fast) experience, and the Honda HR-V, which isn't as nice to look at. The Jeep Renegade is an excellent rival for those who want more adventure and pizzazz in their compact. In the end, none of these truly rival the CX-3 on all fronts.

The 2017 Mazda CX-3 is an excellent choice in the compact crossover segment. We feel that any buyer will be happy with this choice in today's market.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
SUV - AWD
Sport Sport AWD 4 Cylinder AWD 21210
Touring Touring AWD 4 Cylinder AWD 23210
Grand Touring Grand Touring AWD 4 Cylinder AWD 26240
SUV - FWD
Sport Sport FWD 4 Cylinder FWD 19960
Touring Touring FWD 4 Cylinder FWD 21960
Grand Touring Grand Touring FWD 4 Cylinder FWD 24990

Comparison of 2017 Mazda CX-3 with Similar Cars

2017 Mazda CX-3 MSRP Invoice
2017 Mazda CX-3 $19,960 $19,403
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2017 Dodge Journey $21,195 $21,097 2017 Mazda CX-3 VS 2017 Dodge Journey
2017 Jeep Compass $19,940 $19,818 2017 Mazda CX-3 VS 2017 Jeep Compass
2017 Jeep Patriot $18,040 $17,914 2017 Mazda CX-3 VS 2017 Jeep Patriot
2017 Chevrolet Trax $21,000 $20,160 2017 Mazda CX-3 VS 2017 Chevrolet Trax

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2017 Mazda CX-3 ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2017 Mazda CX-3 rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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