It’s not news that I’m a fan of Mazda. I think the company’s doing a great job upgrading its entire vehicle line, centered on both the SKYACTIV driving and engine tech and the KODO design that the company calls its “soul of motion” appearance. The 2017 Mazda CX-3 is the fifth model of Mazda’s crossover line (presumably the “CX” designation), a compact that lives in the gray area between a sedan and an SUV.
I had a week to drive the brand new CX-3 and liked it a lot, though with some substantial concerns and reservations. The biggest issue I had with the car was around size: at 6’3″, it was tricky for me to be able to get in and out of the car, particularly before I’d adjusted the seat as far back as it would go and the steering wheel as close to the dash as possible.
But let’s start with a vehicle photo, shall we?
It’s a cute little car, as you can see, and with a base MSRP of $19,960, it’s attainable for a lot of car buyers. As configured, I should note that this particular CX-3, the 2017 CX-3 Grand Touring AWD, prices out at $28,510 so it’s pretty tricked out with an almost 50% premium.
The CX-3 also has the now-trademark Mazda front grill and longish nose. This vehicle also had the larger 18-inch wheels (standard on the CX-3 are 16-inch wheels) which helped it have a good road feel I appreciated while zipping about.
The new dashboard design also featured a much appreciated minimalism, as best highlighted by the main dash display:
The only odd thing here is that the big dial shows RPMs while the numeric readout on the lower right is the speed. But with a SKYACTIV automatic transmission system, why do I care about having a tachometer at all? Still, the dash is elegant and with the little heads-up display (sorry, Active Driving Display) atop the dashboard offering current speed, cruise control setting and front radar information about the proximity of the vehicle ahead, there was a lot of data available without it being too bewildering.
The environmental controls reflected the same spare design:
With so many car manufacturers offering more and more complexity on even the environmental controls, I appreciated the ability to easily see settings, though close observers will note that there’s no zone control so the passenger and driver get the same temp.
Zooming back a bit, the overall dash and center console was very attractive:
The color scheme of the interior is “Parchment”, and it’s a very attractive beige and burgundy two-tone look. Again, an eagle-eyed reader might ask “where are all the entertainment controls? They are on the center console, behind the shifter, as with all modern Mazda vehicle designs.
The smaller dial controls volume and pushes on/off, while the larger dial lets you control the entire Mazda Connect infotainment system with its 7-inch color screen, AM/FM/CD, bluetooth, XM radio and 7-speaker Bose premium audio system. It sounded very nice and having all the controls so easily accessible is a boon once you get the hang of it.
But look closely at the above picture and you’ll see one of the other annoyances with the 2017 Mazda CX-3: The cupholders are underneath the armrest. This was tremendously awkward when I drank a cup of coffee while driving. Not sure what they were thinking about this one, whether it was just a checklist item “cup holders”, but frustrating. Also notably missing from the center console is any storage at all.
Back to the entertainment system itself. Quite honestly, this is the view I mostly saw, including my favorite XM Radio station:
Yes, I think listening to the BBC World Service News channel qualifies me as a news junkie, yes? But the Beeb does such a good job with their world news, it’s surprisingly compelling listening!
Stepping back outside of the vehicle, you can better see its streamline appearance and heavy, aggressive 18-inch wheels:
The back seat looks like it would be spacious from the exterior photo, but it turns out that with the driver’s seat pushed all the way back so my 6’3″ frame could fit meant that there was precious little space in the back, as you can kind of see:
It worked fine for three of us when the passenger ensured that their seat wasn’t all the way back, but a tall driver + three passengers might be a tight fit, so you’ll want to check this out at the showroom before you decide the CX-3 is the car for you!
I wouldn’t purchase a Mazda CX-3 because it’s just not roomy enough for me, but if you’re a bit smaller in stature (or spend lots of time at the yoga studio!) it’s definitely worth checking out as a sub-$30k compact crossover SUV with a reasonably peppy drive and a lot of comforts and tech. The array of safety features are a great addition to a first vehicle for a teen or 20-something too, including Mazda’s blind spot monitoring system, i-ACTIVESENSE lane departure warning, radar cruise control, smart brake support, rain-sensing wipers and backup camera.
Configuration: 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD, exterior: dynamic blue mica, interior: parchment. SKYACTIV-G 2.0L engine with 146 horsepower, all wheel drive, and 4-wheel disk brakes. Only addition was the GT i-ACTIVESENSE tech package that added $1170 for a total MSRP including dealer prep of $28,510.
Disclaimer: Mazda loaned me this vehicle for a week to test drive and experience in different conditions.