The CUV segment is fiercely competitive, with almost every automaker fighting to get a slice of the pie.
They say that millennials don’t care about cars, and that they all want to live downtown and take Uber everywhere they go. This might be true for some of the population, but Mazda is clearly betting on there being another group of young professionals needing to navigate narrow streets by the weekday, and zip around the countryside on the weekends. That betting chip is placed squarely on the nose of the 2019 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD. A good looking little CUV that makes awkward underground parking lots and picking up groceries a fun experience.
2019 marks the third year of production for the CX-3, so there are a lot of minor but well thought out updates to be noted. First and foremost, the Mazda G-Vectoring programming has been added, giving the steering a sporty feel, along with a retuned suspension. More sound deadening has been added to help with road noise, but the buzzy engine noise is still present, especially when the engine is cold. Inside, where real estate is at a premium due to the small size of the vehicle, the parking brake lever has been removed, making room for better cupholder placement, a larger armrest, and of course an electronic parking brake with a new auto-hold feature.
The exterior doesn’t see any major changes, there is an updated tail light design that gives the car a nicely refreshed look, as well as a slightly revised grille with chrome accents. Outside, the CX-3 looks great; it has a bit of an “I’m off on an adventure” look to it. Under the hood is a SKYACTIV-G 2.0L direct-injected four-cylinder engine, putting out 148 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 146 lb-ft. at 2,800RPM. It’s all connected to a six-speed automatic transmission and all wheel drive.
This is the only engine available for the CX-3, however front-drive GX models can be had with a six-speed manual transmission. Mazda states 8.6L/100km (city) and 7.4L/100km (highway) on an impressive 45L tank of regular fuel for the AWD model (3L smaller than those of the FWD flavour). This is good since there usually aren’t many gas stations in a downtown core. Combined fuel efficiency ratings were not available at the time of publication, but our observations were right in the projected range.
An appeal of the CUV segment is the small form-factor, and Mazda has managed to pack everything you would expect in a modern vehicle into a small package. This includes AWD, Macpherson strut front suspension, stabilizer bars for better handling, vision systems, electronic e-brake, 18” wheels with low profile tires, TPMS, and HUD. While a small family might need something a bit bigger, a rear-facing car seat can fit in the rear seat. When tested with an UppaBaby Mesa rear-facing seat, a front-seat passenger under 5’8 was able to sit comfortably without their knees touching the dash.
Don’t expect to be packing a full-size stroller in the trunk along with groceries or luggage, but umbrella or compact strollers will fit just fine. Cargo volume is a respectable 408L behind the rear seat, with that large volume coming from the tall roof height. The trunk floor size is 785mm deep and 1,000mm between wheels. With the rear seats folded you have a whopping 1484L of cargo volume. Front-drive models have an even larger (452L/1528L) cargo capacity thanks to a lower floor.
Standard features for all 2019 CX-3 models regardless of trim are a seven-inch colour touchscreen display with MAZDA CONNECT, Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, rear-view camera, Smart City Brake Support, heated mirrors, keyless entry and the new Electronic Parking Brake (with auto-hold function). Vision systems are becoming fairly mainstream in vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and by making these standard features Mazda brings great value and technology to the CUV segment.
On test was the top of the line GT ($30,795 MSRP) which adds 18″ alloy wheels (machined spokes with polished finish and dark painted pockets) and 215/50R18 all-season tires, power moonroof, LED auto levelling & adaptive headlights (which were actually great), LED fogs, LED tail lights, chrome accents all around. Inside you’ll find a Bose seven-speaker system, colour HUD, SD-card based navigation, advanced keyless entry, leather trimmed seat accents, auto dimming rearview mirror, power adjustable memory driver seat, suede dash and door inserts, chome vent bezels and the vision system that is optional on the GS, which includes smart stop and go traffic function.
Mazda’s HUD system is a neat trick, skipping the high cost windshield replacements while still giving you everything you need in the driver’s line of sight. Navigation instructions, speed limits, street signage, cruise control information and of course vehicle speed are all projected onto a small see-through plastic screen that flips up out of the dashboard above the instrument cluster. One unique feature to be noted is the street sign/stop sign recognition system. Mazda uses the vision system to indicate on the HUD when stop signs are ahead or pick up speed limits/other road signs. Recognition and interpretation of the signage was overall very good, however for aesthetics, Mazda decided to have the icons slowly fade in/out on the HUD instead of appear instantly. This delay meant that by the time the stop sign shows up on screen, you’re either already stopped, or you have no chance of stopping in time. It is a fun feature, but provides no useful information to the driver.
The standard Mazda infotainment system is present, however it takes some getting used to for the uninitiated. The screens are navigated by a knob and buttons located between the shifter and the armrest, as well as a dedicated volume knob for the stereo. the wheel and buttons make it seem a bit cumbersome to navigate, but since it’s a touch screen you can do most things by hand anyways, as long as the car isn’t in motion. The SD-card based navigation is the only route guidance option at present, Mazda has announced that it plans to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in a future software update for a fee.
The CUV segment is fiercely competitive, with almost every automaker fighting to get a slice of the pie. Buyers have a plethora of brands, sizes, and price ranges to choose from, including the Honda HR-V, the Toyota CH-R (reviewed here), Chevrolet Trax, and Ford EcoSport to name a few. Mazda clearly is aiming for buyers who care about driving feel with the updates for 2019. The 2019 Mazda CX3 has a sporty, youthful look and feel to it, inside and out. Sporty handling, AWD and a full tech suite at the $30k price point is a combination that shouldn’t be overlooked. For those that prioritize horsepower over AWD and will frequently have the rear seats occupied, the Mazda3 Sport GT (reviewed here) is a more appropriate choice, with a bigger engine and back seat for a lower price.