Pros-Stylish. Fun to drive. Nimble. Improved interior. Fuel-efficient. Available front-wheel drive.
Cons-Cramped rear seat. Modest cargo area with upright rear seats. No remote hatch release.
Bottom Line-Sporty and economical small crossover.
The 2019 Mazda CX-3
Grand Touring AWD is a small crossover that fits right in with America's love affair with crossovers and small SUVs. Moreover, it's fun to drive and economical to run.
This mainly is a car for younger drivers or older ones who don't need much room in the rear and don't want driving to be a chore.
The Mazda CX-3 lineup starts with the front-drive $20,390 Sport model, followed by the $22,475 Touring. I tested the top-line $27,145 CX-3 Grand Touring model with extra-cost all-wheel drive (AWD), a feature offered for all CX-3 models. The Grand Touring costs $25,745 with front-drive. You can get it with a $710 premium option package that contains items including a power driver's seat and heated steering wheel.
The CX-3 is one of the better crossovers when it comes to driving enjoyment, which is a Mazda attribute for all its models.
The Grand Touring's quick steering is precise but becomes somewhat heavy at higher speeds. The car handles curves gracefully. The AWD system helps keep things stable during various driving conditions, and a retuned suspension also helps here, as does the Grand Touring's 50-series tires on 18-inch alloy wheels.The brake pedal has a linear action, which helps make heavy stop/go freeway driving a little more tolerable.
However, I found my test car had a cramped rear seat and only modest cargo room unless the rear seatbacks were flipped forward. Also, the rear hatch has no remote release-I had to grope along the bottom of the hatch to find its release. That's odd because remote releases are common. At least the hatch raises smoothly on hydraulic struts and has an indented inside area to help close it.
Power comes from a 2-liter, 148-horsepower four-cylinder, or two more ponies than the 2018 model posted. Acceleration is decent because the high-rev engine has been refined and works with a responsive six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature featuring paddle shifters. There's a console switch that allows a "sport" mode. It increases engine revs for quicker acceleration, but is really for spirited driving on winding back roads and such. This mode causes excessive engine revs on highways.
Estimated fuel economy is 29 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on highways with front-drive and 27 and 32 with AWD.
Other new CX-3 features include minor styling changes, which aren't really necessary because the CX-3 already had a slick long-hood/short-rear deck styling theme. Besides a new grille design, there are piano black exterior accents, a new LED combination taillight design and a small rear roofline spoiler. My test car's chromed dual exhaust outlets added to its sporty flair.
The car's optional, striking new optional "Soul Red Crystal Metallic" paint really made it stand out. I can't think a better color for the car.
The interior has been been made quieter and is more upmarket, with nicer materials, chrome interior accents and a redesigned console with a fairly large storage area and armrest. My top-line test car had full leather seating with new pleated piping, automatic climate control, backup camera and a power glass sunroof.
The fully redesigned front seats were nicely supportive and other standard features included air conditioning, a Bose 7-speaker audio system and a 7-inch full color touchscreen display that took some getting used to. Happily, there are large redundant manual dashboard controls for the climate control system. The start/stop engine button beats fooling around with an ignition key, but is buried behind the steering wheel. That's the problem with smaller cars-there's only so much room to conveniently put all controls in plain sight on the dashboard.
The sporty nature of the CX-3 Grand Touring AWD was illustrated by the large tachometer directly in front of the driver. The digital speedometer reading standard for the Grand Touring was in a smaller area near the "tach." Speedometer readings also were shown via a windshield heads-up display, which came in my test car in both "m.p.h." and "kilometers." It's easy to switch from one to the other, but I amused myself by using the kilometer readings most of the time because they reminded me of driving during European car previews.
A CX-3 can be had with all sorts of safety features, including pre-collision safety technology that reduces the severity of a collision and radar cruise control with a stop/go function, lane departure warning and a pedestrian protection system.
Those wanting to check the engine oil level under the long hood will find the hood to be extremely heavy and held open only with a prop rod.
The solidly built CX-3 Grand Touring AWD shows that one can get a premium small crossover without cracking the $30,000 mark. Just be sure to check out the Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint.