Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Don Cheng
Most people’s car vocabularies start and end with sedan and SUV. When we start spurting out unusual terms like sport activity vehicle or when we tell them the 4-series Gran Coupe is the 4-door version of a 2-door coupe, you can feel the tension growing in the room like a pimple ready to be popped. So I wasn’t surprised when a few friends of mine took a long hard stare at my 2016 Mazda CX-3 tester and couldn’t seem figure out what it really was. It didn’t help that their limited car vocabulary left them with only two choices either.
I told them the CX-3 fell into the category of a subcompact crossover, which is nothing but gibberish so I delicately elaborated. “Think of it like a mini SUV, similar to a shrunken wagon wearing high heels with good ground clearance, decent cargo space, usable rear seats, and usually the option of all-wheel drive.
To be fair, the subcompact crossover segment is a fairly new niche. Yet, it’s been growing and erupting faster than the Greeks can get to their ATM machines. Just look at the competition, we can hardly even keep up: Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, and the Nissan Juke. Aside from SUVs, this is one the fastest growing segments in the automotive industry. Minivans just aren’t cool anymore.
Does the recipe of a subcompact crossover sound like any fun? No, not really. Sacrificing the capacities of a full-size SUV and the sporty handling of a low-slung sedan sounds like a deal with the devil. But the CX-3 makes quite a compelling argument, and I think Mazda has joined the party with the right product at just the right time. I’ll tell you this straight off the bat. I love the new CX-3. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m starting to grow an affection towards these mini utes. They have such usability, practicality, and are so affordable. The base model starts at just $20,695.
The new CX-3 shares the same platform with the upcoming Mazda2 while the big brother CX-5 borrows the Mazda3 platform - it's sort of an odd number swap but it works. This means that the CX-3 is shorter than the Mazda3 hatch, but is also taller. Dare I say it, but I think the CX-3 is better looking than the bunch it’s compared against. The Mazda design language is stylish and modern. The front lights and grill have been sharpened and chiseled, unlike the bulbous ones found in the previous generation lineup. And don't you just love that Ceramic Metallic paint?
Outside takes some inspiration from the Range Rover Evoque with a rear hang spoiler and pompous trunk panel. Those rear arches are high and wide, reminding me of the beloved Infiniti FX SUVs. The CX-3 also receives striking 18-inch wheels, the largest in its class, that look like your kitchen sink’s food shredder. Regardless, they look better than those plebian rims on the HR-V.
The highlight of the CX-3 is the interior. They’ve certainly hit the sweet spot between spaciousness, simplicity, and luxury. Inside feels more German than Japanese. The meticulous use of soft materials, pseudo carbon-fibre panels, contrasting red and black leather, and suede make the CX-3 look incredibly upscale.
The first item you notice is that large center tachometer that glows red for a bit of cabin sportiness. The minimalistic dashboard even integrates an A/C vent into the layered chrome strip. Following the trend is the pop-up infotainment display that is controlled by a German-styled rotary dial flanked by a volume dial right under it. Every button and dial is tidy and within easy reach, though the lack of an armrest leaves me wishing for some extra limb support.
There’s a surprising amount of cabin room in the CX-3. Passengers stretching six-feet tall will find warmth and comfort not only in the front seats, but in the rear seats as well. The CX-3 may look petite from the outside but Mazda has done a wonderful job making the most of the usable interior space. Cargo room in the trunk is also a decent size for groceries and multiple suitcases.
I admire the adjustability of the seats and how you can tailor your seating position to be very high or very low, benefiting drivers of any height or preference. For myself, I like to sit nice and low to get a better feel of the ground, and I’m still offered a commanding view of the road. There’s a good amount of safety tech that comes with the CX-3: Blind Spot Monitoring will flash a light on your side mirrors when a car is approaching in your blind spot, Lane Departure Warning will make a loud vibrating thrum when you’re veering out of your lane, and the Rear Cross Traffic Alert will inform you of any cars crossing behind you while reversing out of a parking spot.
There are three trims to choose from; GX, GS, and GT, each offering their own options. Notable standard features on the base GX trim include keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity and a rear view camera, but our particular CX-3 tester was loaded up with the top-end GT trim and offers the aforementioned 18-inch wheels, a Bose stereo system, contrasting leather and suede, LED front and rear lights, Navigation, paddle shifters, and what Mazda likes to call ADD, or Active Driving Display. It’s their version of a head-up display but appropriately named for those with dwindling attention spans. The height and brightness of the display is also adjustable through the center menus and will show your speed and lane-keeping safety features.
Under the hood you will find the same SKYACTIV engine used in the CX-5 but with less power due to the CX-3’s smaller footprint. Mazda couldn’t fit the same exhaust manifold so it had to use a smaller one, hence the lower output. The CX-3’s naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine spews out 146 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. Not bad for a small ute that weighs 38 kilograms less than a similarly spec’ed Mazda3 GT hatch.
The CX-3’s handling is what stole the show. The mini crossover delivers such responsive and taut feedback behind the wheel. It’s so delicate, yet razor sharp. Point it where you want, and it will go regardless if it’s wet or muddy. The throttle response is linear and punches higher numbers than the spec sheets suggests – there’s more than enough torque for highway passing and red light dashes. There’s no other crossover that better deserves that zoom-zoom designation. The CX-3 even gets a sport mode that holds the gears longer and comes with paddle shifters to get you in the Fast & Furious mood.
All CX-3 models get mated to a traditional 6-speed automatic. It shifts at an average speed by today’s standards, but it’s better than fitting them with those rubber band droning CVTs. The GT trim also comes standard with all-wheel drive ($2,000 extra in the lower GX and GS trims).
The Mazda CX-3 is a fine example of a fun, practical, and affordable crossover. It checks all of the boxes and proves that crossovers can be just as fun to drive on the road as a two-door coupe; albeit with extra seats, better ground clearance and more cargo room. What more could you want?
The four-cylinder will satisfy most customers but there’s a part of me that wishes Mazda would dish out more performance-oriented crossovers. Think of the Juke NISMO, or the GLA45 AMG. On my Mazda wish list: a lowered ride height, a larger rear spoiler, a turbocharged engine and a proper six-speed manual transmission. In the mean time, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 still offers one of the best deals in the hot crossover market with an astoundingly spacious cabin and handling worthy of me stopping this review short so I can find some back-road corners to carve. Excuse me for a moment.
型号 Model: 2016 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD
顏色 Paint Type: Ceramic Metallic ($200)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $28,995
試車售價 Price as Tested: $30,695
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,570
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,274 / 2,049 / 1,547
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,339
引擎 Engine: 2.0L SKYACTIV-G DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 146 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 146 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: Independent, MacPherson strut type, with coil springs and stabilizer bar
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Torsion beam
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: 295mm ventilated front discs
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: 281mm rear discs
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway)- L/100 km: 8.8 / 7.3
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 215/50R18