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2017 Mazda CX-3 Test Drive Review - AutoNation Drive

2017 Mazda CX-3 Test Drive Review
Jeffrey Ross

If you’ve always yearned for a Mazda Miata but you need more space than this two-passenger roadster offers, then check out the 2017 Mazda CX-3. This sporty and stylish CX-3 burst on the scene last year and quickly established itself as the most entertaining vehicle in a growing subcompact crossover segment.

This market currently includes models like the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Honda HR-V, but it is continuing to expand with the new 2018 Toyota C-HR going on sale this year and the 2018 Ford EcoSport hitting showrooms early next year. To see how the Mazda will stack up against such rivals, I recently spent a week in the fully loaded 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring FWD.

2017 Mazda CX-3 Exterior:
One reason to love the 2017 Mazda CX-3 is its stunning good looks. Mazda has always shown that affordable vehicles can be fun to drive, but its latest KODO – Soul of Motion – design language allows these cars and crossovers to look as good as they drive. For the 2017 Mazda CX-3, this starts with a long, sloped hood, a sweptback roofline and lots of intricate body lines and creases. The Grand Touring trim level adds a more upscale look with a power moonroof, chrome accents on front grille and black plastic side skirts as well as a full array of LED exterior lighting including the headlights, daytime running lights, fog lights and taillights. This look is finished off with the Dynamic Blue exterior paint and the two-tone, V-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.

2017 Mazda CX-3 Interior:
The small size and sleek styling make the 2017 Mazda CX-3 a unique offering on the market, but it does affect interior space. Although it is a five-passenger crossover, taller passengers will find rear-seat headroom lacking, and the Grand Touring trim level offers just 10.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. This small space is just par for the course for vehicles in this segment, and the level of content available inside the CX-3 easily overshadows this inherit shortcoming.

As the top trim level (Sport, Touring and Grand Touring), the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring gives this sporty CUV a more luxurious interior with three-tone leather seats and suede inserts. This trim level also adds navigation, automatic climate control, seven-speaker Bose audio system, steering wheel paddle shifters and the Active Driving Display – a head-up display unit that, unlike some projector-type HUDs, isn’t affected by polarized sunglasses. The Grand Touring gets a sportier instrument gauge cluster that features a large analog tachometer in the middle of the gauge cluster with a digital speedometer, and it also comes with the Mazda Connect infotainment system that uses a seven-inch screen that can be controlled by touch (when the vehicle is stopped) or by the center console mounted multi-function controller.

2017 Mazda CX-3 Powertrain:
The 2017 Mazda CX-3 is powered exclusively by the 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G direct-injected four-cylinder rated at 145 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque, and this engine is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift capability and Sport mode. All three CX-3 trim levels are available with the Active Torque-Split All-Wheel Drive system, but this CX-3 tester came with the standard front-wheel drive setup resulting in EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway**; in mixed driving, I saw real-world fuel economy of 32.1 mpg.

While that is decent fuel economy, the one reason to buy a 2017 Mazda CX-3 is its amazing ride and handling. The suspension tuning gives this small crossover nimble handling, and the electric power steering is light in low-speed driving and more responsive at higher speeds. The short wheelbase and sporty suspension leaves the CX-3 a little bouncy in some road conditions (like on interstate bridges with expansion joints), but it is extremely rewarding once the road gets even moderately twisty. One of the most important elements of Mazda’s SKYACTIV technologies is reduced mass, so with its curb weight of 2,809 pounds (for the FWD model), the 2017 Mazda CX-3 feels more like a sporty hatchback than a small crossover.

2017 Mazda CX-3 Safety:
With the 2017 Mazda CX-3, Mazda has debunked the misconception that small cars can’t be safe as this subcompact crossover gets top marks from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Not only can the 2017 Mazda CX-3 boast an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating and NHTSA five star crash rating, but it also comes standard with standard Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Adaptive Front-lighting System (Grand Touring only). Adding to the CX-3’s safety, buyers can opt for the GT i-ACTIVSENSE Package that adds radar cruise control, lane departure warning, Smart City Brake Support, rain-sensing wipers and High Beam Control; best of all, this package is now priced at $1,170, which is $750 less than last year making safety even more affordable!

2017 Mazda CX-3 Overall:
Mazda’s zoom-zoom attitude has already made it possible for compacts, roadsters and even mid-size sedans to be fun, affordable and economical, and now this is continued with the 2017 Mazda CX-3. With a starting MSRP of $19,960*, the 2017 Mazda CX-3 is reasonably priced, but if it’s a well-equipped, tech-filled model that you’re looking for, the Grand Touring trim level is the way to go and this particular example had an as-tested price of $27,260*.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Mazda dealership and test drive the 2017 Mazda CX-3 today!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.