2019 Mazda CX-3
Stylish subcompact crossover with driving personality
Pros Responsive handling, keen performance, sorted AWD system
Cons No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, one engine choice
Value for money Good
What would I change? Add the 2.5L SkyActiv engine as an option on the GT trim
The 2019 Mazda CX-3 has been tweaked to keep it in touch with the rest of the subcompact crossover crowd. Leading the list of improvements is the fact blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is now standard, even on the base model with its manual transmission and $20,795 price tag. The other changes may not be as significant, but each adds to the CX-3’s overall appeal.
Inside, the rework moves the top-trim CX-3 GT up in all aspects including a new electronic parking brake — freeing up a lot of space in the centre console — nicer soft-touch materials, leather seating and an infotainment system that includes a seven-speaker Bose sound system, a back-up camera and GPS navigation. The small heads-up display also now includes turn-by-turn directions when a destination is entered.
Likewise, the heated leather front seats, with 10-way power adjustment and memory for the driver, have been reworked to make them more accommodating. This, plus the power moonroof, heated steering wheel and automatic climate control mean there are no options. Absent in all of this is the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; this needs to be addressed.
Another big step forward for the CX-3 GT is the inclusion of other key safety equipment, including adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go function, forward collision alert with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, a lane departure warning system, traffic sign recognition, rain-sensing wipers and adaptive headlights with automatic high beams. That’s more kit than some far more expensive rigs and it serves to separate Mazda from many of its competitors. While some of the competition may include some or all of the aforementioned kit as standard, typically the availability of blind-spot monitoring is prohibitive — if it’s even available in the first place..
Move rearward and the CX-3 is really designed for two adults, as the tunnel and domed squab make the middle position an emergency-only proposition. As with most other small CUVs, rear seat legroom is tight — especially with a taller rider up front — but it is nonetheless usable. Likewise, the GT has decent cargo space; with the seats up, there’s 408 litres and with the lot folded flat, that grows to 1,484 lires. The floor is also commendably flat, although the lift-over height is pushing it.
Under the hood, the CX-3 gets a tweaked version of Mazda’s SkyActiv 2.0-litre four-cylinder that pushes 148 horseower, up two from last year, and 146 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. The early entry of the torque brings an enthusiastic launch, a rewarding mid-range punch, and a run from rest to 100 km/h in 9.2 seconds. The rework also means better fuel economy — in this case, the tester averaged 7.9L/100 kilometres.
The engine works with a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters and Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel-drive system. There is a Sport mode, which does perk up the response nicely, but it has a tendency to hold each gear too long, particularly when puttering about town. Consequently, it means toggling between Sport and Normal according to the driving situation.
The all-wheel-drive system, standard on the GT, is primarily front-based with a small amount of torque going rearward, which eases the transition when more power is needed at the back end. The system is smart and monitors a number of sensors 200 times a second to ensure the right decision is made at the right time.
For example, it looks at wiper usage to determine if the road is wet and outside temperature to look for an icy road. It then adjusts the amount of torque flowing rearward in a seamless and unobtrusive manner. Its ability adds enormously to the manner in which the CX-3 drives; on the automatic-equipped GX and GS models, the $2,000 premium for AWD is money well spent.
What would a Mazda be if it didn’t handle? Fortunately, the CX-3 GT feels light and alive on its up-sized P215/50R18 tires. The re-tuned suspension is taut, but it does not make things feel harsh when the road gets rough. As such, there’s minimal body roll, understeer is benign and the response to steering input is crisp. The CX-3 is so nimble, it is difficult to not think of the MX-5.
Helping matters is G-Vectoring Control. In the simplest of terms it momentarily reduces engine output when entering a corner, which pre-loads the front tires. This action brings a sharper turn-in response, and it works very effectively. The plus is that what might be a very annoying trait — ride with an on/off-the-gas driver and you’ll know the sensation — remains invisible to the riders. It is a clever yet simple way of improving steering response and rider comfort at the same time.
The individual changes to the 2019 CX-3 might, at first blush, seem small — with the exception of making blind-spot monitoring standard equipment. However, the sum of the improvements does make for a much more likeable, and certainly safer ride. In the end, it keeps the CX-3 at the forefront of the subcompact crossover segment.
2019 Mazda CX-3
Type of vehicle
2.0L SkyActiv four-cylinder
148 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 146 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2,800 rpm
Four-wheel disc with ABS
Price: Base / As Tested
Natural Resources Canada Fuel Economy
(L/100km) 8.6 city; 7.4 highway
Automatic climate control, power locks, windows and heated mirrors, power moonroof, leather upholstery, power 10-way driver seat with memory, heat front seats, heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, seven-inch infotainment screen with seven-speaker Bose sound system, navigation and back-up camera, head-up display, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision prevention with pedestrian detection and auto braking, lane departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive headlights with auto high beams, smart key with push-button start and more
Soul Red Crystal metallic paint ($450)