2018 Mazda CX-3

2018 Mazda CX-3 Review

The CX-3 is one of our favorite subcompact crossovers for its quality interior and fun character.
4 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Will Kaufman
Edmunds Editor

For its third year, the Mazda CX-3 receives a handful of updates that improve on some of its best characteristics. In past years, we praised the CX-3 for being the most enjoyable vehicle in the subcompact crossover SUV segment to drive. For 2018, revisions to the suspension tuning promise an even sharper driving experience. There's also more sound insulation and added low-speed crash protection in the form of a standard automatic emergency braking system. And just like last year, the 2018 CX-3 also boasts an upscale interior, comfortable seats and high fuel economy.

The CX-3 does have a few shortcomings, though, such as a cramped back seat and below-average cargo capacity. If interior space is a priority for you, you might prefer the more versatile Honda HR-V. You could also check out the Jeep Renegade or Subaru Crosstrek for superior off-road capability. All in all, though, we think the CX-3 is a pretty appealing package.

Notably, we picked the 2018 Mazda CX-3 as one of Edmunds' Best Small SUVs for this year.



what's new

For 2018, low-speed automatic emergency braking is standard across the CX-3 lineup. Mazda says it has revised the CX-3's suspension to improve handling and ride quality and added more sound-reducing materials to make the CX-3 quieter. Small changes have been made to feature availability.

we recommend

The base Sport trim is a good bargain, but overall we recommend going with the Touring trim. The Touring adds useful safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, conveniences such as automatic climate control and proximity entry, and a few extra interior upgrades. These may seem like small things, but they all add up to improve the CX-3 experience, especially if it will be your daily driver for the next few years




trim levels & features

The 2018 Mazda CX-3 is available in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The base Sport trim is actually nicely equipped, especially considering its price, but moving up through the trim levels gets you some desirable conveniences and nice luxuries. All trims rely on a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (146 horsepower, 146 pound-feet of torque) paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional.

The CX-3 Sport comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, air-conditioning, push-button start, cruise control, Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a USB input, app integration (including Pandora, Stitcher and Aha) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player. Standard safety features on the base Sport trim include a rearview camera and Mazda's Smart City Brake Support System, which will automatically apply the brakes to avoid a collision as long as the CX-3 is traveling at less than 19 mph.

Moving up to the Touring trim adds 18-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, automatic headlights and automatic wipers. The interior is upgraded with cloth and faux leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, proximity entry, automatic climate control and an overhead console with a sunglass holder. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also standard on the CX-3 Touring.

The top-tier Grand Touring gets a sunroof, LED exterior lighting (headlights, taillights, foglights, daytime running lights), leather-trimmed seats with simulated suede inserts, a head-up display, steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, navigation, and a seven-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio.

The Grand Touring's sunroof and Bose stereo can be added to the Touring with the Preferred Equipment package. The Grand Touring can be upgraded with the Premium Package, which includes adaptive cruise control, higher-speed forward collision warning and automatic braking, lane departure warning, a six-way power-adjustable driver seat, driver-seat memory settings, a heated steering wheel and a traffic-sign recognition system.



trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring (2.0L inline-4 | 6-speed automatic | FWD).

Since this test was conducted, the current Mazda CX-3 has received some revisions, including updated suspension tuning, a quieter cabin and additional standard safety features. Our findings remain applicable to this year's Mazda CX-3, however.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall4.0 / 5.0

Driving

4.5 / 5.0

Acceleration3.5 / 5.0
Braking4.5 / 5.0
Steering4.5 / 5.0
Handling4.5 / 5.0
Drivability4.0 / 5.0

Comfort

3.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort4.5 / 5.0

Interior

3.0 / 5.0

Ease of use3.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out3.5 / 5.0
Roominess3.0 / 5.0
Visibility3.0 / 5.0
Quality5.0 / 5.0

Driving

edmunds rating
Performance is a CX-3 strong point. This is the most fun crossover to drive in this segment. Although it feels slow compared to most cars these days, it's actually "speedy" among subcompact crossovers. Handling is sharp and responsive, and it's easy to drive the CX-3 in the city.

Acceleration

edmunds rating
Power is modest in the CX-3, as it is in most of its rivals. It's quick for the class, though, with zero to 60 mph taking 8.5 seconds.

Braking

edmunds rating
The brakes offer excellent feel. They are firm enough to tell you there is good stopping power but soft enough for easy modulation at stoplights. Emergency braking power is about average, with very good stability.

Steering

edmunds rating
Steering feels perfectly natural. It's nicely weighted, and there's good feedback through the wheel. The CX-3 turns in quickly without ever feeling twitchy and feels just as light and small as it is.

Handling

edmunds rating
The CX-3 is lively and responsive to driver inputs. Midcorner bumps don't upset it. You'll forget about the stiff-ish ride on a curvy back road.

Drivability

edmunds rating
The quick-shifting automatic transmission is responsive. In low-speed driving, it can hunt around a bit, although Sport mode helps. The CX-3 is easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

Off-road

edmunds rating
Although we didn't test it, all-wheel drive is available on the CX-3, but it's meant much more as an aid in snow, mud and rain than for any kind of true off-roading.

Comfort

edmunds rating
It's difficult to produce a short-wheelbase, good-handling car that still delivers a decent ride. Mazda did all right with the CX-3, but rivals such as the Honda CR-V are smoother. The front seats are great, though, and other than a loud engine at full throttle, the CX-3 is pretty quiet.

Seat comfort

edmunds rating
The front seats are fantastic. They are firm yet comfy, with good lateral support for cornering. We love the soft simulated-suede inserts on the Grand Touring model. The door armrests are on the hard side. The rear outboard seats are pretty plush, with a seatback that isn't too upright.

Ride comfort

Small pavement ripples are handled well, though some vibrations will enter the cabin. In previous models, we noted that the suspension could feel stiff-legged, but Mazda has made revisions for 2018 and promises that the CX-3 is smoother-riding now.

Noise & vibration

We already thought the CX-3 did a good job handling noise, especially for its class, although the coarse engine note at high rpm (from the 2016 test vehicle) was noticeable. This year's improvements should make the interior even quieter.

Climate control

The CX-3 relies on a straightforward system that uses clearly labeled dials for manual adjustments. Automatic climate control is now standard on the midlevel Touring as well as the Grand Touring.

Interior

edmunds rating
We love the look and feel of the CX-3's interior, but not so much the usability of the infotainment screen or the cheesy head-up display. Front-seat space is decent, but rear-seat space is worse than in a Mazda 3.

Ease of use

edmunds rating
A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard on all trims, but some functions require extra steps. The beautiful central tach and large digital speedo are pluses, but the head-up display seems like an afterthought. The front seatback adjustment lever requires a firm hand.

Getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
The front doors are large and open wide, making it easy to climb in and out. The rear doors are reasonably sized and open wide, but entry is still tight and the raised rear bench means you have to duck your head as you hop in.

Roominess

edmunds rating
Front headroom is quite good, aided by low seat height (for a crossover). Rear headroom isn't bad considering the segment, and average-size adults should be fine. But the rear-seat area is tiny, and it can feel as if the front occupants are sitting on your lap.

Visibility

edmunds rating
The front roof pillars are slim, but thick side pillars can compromise the view, as when pulling out into a T-intersection. The rear pillars are blocky but have helpful triangle windows. A rearview camera is standard on all trims, and the CX-3 has large side mirrors.

Quality

edmunds rating
Best-in-class build quality with excellent trim graining throughout. The simulated suede trim on the Grand Touring is a nice touch. The CX-3 generally feels solid, although the doors sound hollow and the headliner feels cheap.

Utility

edmunds rating
Cargo space with the rear seats in place is just 12.4 cubic feet, or 44.5 cubic feet if you fold the seats forward. Other subcompact SUVs are a little roomier. Interior storage could be better as well: There's no center armrest bin, just a tiny square cubby.

Technology

Mazda's infotainment system is based around a rotary-dial interface, which is easy enough to learn but can require extra steps for some functions. Bluetooth is standard, as is some app integration, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't available.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.