Mazda CX-3 — Designed for active lifestyles

By David Finkelstein

Developers take a lot into consideration when thinking through a workable formula when considering the building blocks for an exciting new automobile. Considerations include giving it a modern flair, adding a touch of cutesy, raising the bar when it comes to style, giving it spirited acceleration with notable fuel mileage, placing the level of safety high on the engineering list and positioning it with an attractive price point.

Well, frankly speaking, that helps to frame my thoughts with the all new 2016 Mazda CX-3 in the crosshairs. After having debuted at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, the subcompact 5-passenger crossover utility  was planned to meet the needs of a new generation of car buyers, who tend to support creative and adventurous lifestyles.

This includes motorists residing in an urban environment or ones seeking a weekend getaway. Under the heading of styling, CX-3 has an elongated hood, short front and rear overhangs, attractive large wheels and a slimmed-downed interior cabin.

It lends itself to a design that gives the CX-3 the look of being in motion, even when it’s not! It further conveys a sense of confidence and maturity with bold looks and eye appealing proportions. Up front, you'll quickly notice the unique seven-fin three-dimensional grill assembly. It forms a powerful presence. The signature front headlamps are nicely integrated into the CUV's body housing. The side view carries forward this theme of a bold product showing power and strength. In the simplest terms, the CX-3's rear has a fresh and confident look.

The vehicle's interior is quite inviting and tailored to deliver a rich experience for not only the driver but the passengers as well. The interior offers up materials with the look and feel that boarders on elegance with its dark red seat stitching as well as the soft touch textures.

With the subcompact crossover segment growing so rapidly, attention to detail is key if you want to stand out in this automotive category. Standard creature comforts such as keyless push-button start, Mazda Connect infotainment (linked with Bluetooth phone pairing and audio streaming), USB ports (for phone charging and entertainment connectivity) as well as a seven-inch color touchscreen interface helps in being connected in a quick-paced environment.

On the optional list are a BOSE seven-speaker audio system, electronic heads-up active driving display, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, heated exterior mirrors plus premium cloth or leather interior seating surfaces.

The welcomed “heads-up cockpit” concept assists the driver to process large amounts of information while maintaining your eyes focused on the road ahead. According to recently retired president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations, Jim O'Sullivan, “The 2016 CX-3 is the next evolution of our mission to meld style, driving enjoyment and efficiency into a vehicle that demonstrates drivers don't need to compromise to get what they want. CX-3 was designed to deliver all of the fun and technology of our larger models but at a price in the market where it will be a draw for buyers of all backgrounds. It is truly a vehicle that will help set the pace for its newly emerging segment.”

Positioning the CX-3 in its lineup places it somewhat shorter and lower than Mazda’s best-selling CX-5 crossover utility vehicle. CX-3 delivers welcomed and un-compromised versatility with the predictive i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system, linked with a 146-horsepower, 2.0-liter four cylinder SKYACTIV-G engine. A six speed automatic transmission is also standard across the product mix. The EPA fuel consumption numbers reflect 29-city and 35-mpg highway with the front-wheel -drive model. With all-wheel-drive, the CX-3 shows 27-city and 32-mpg highway.

A full suite of i-ACTIVSENSE safety features are optionally available from the factory. This includes lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, smart city brake support, a rear camera system and Mazda's radar guided electronic cruise control. These safety breakthroughs aren't always available on similar vehicles in this price range. Additionally, these safety enhancements will further help in keeping your insurance rates more in-line plus as yet another dividend, CX-3's resale value would likely be elevated with i-ACTIVSENSE on-board.

Regardless of the three trim levels offered (Sport, Touring and Grand Touring), CX-3 is designed with high-tensile strength steel throughout the vehicles body. Braking is excellent and the steering feel is nicely tuned. The passenger cabin is quiet overall with the extensive use of sound isolating materials. Blind spots are all but eliminated due to the large window glass/greenhouse effect.

The base pricing starts at $19,960. This pricing excludes the $900 shipping and destination charges. At road test, the Grand Touring AWD version I tested showed a sticker price of $29,260 after options. The CX-3 competes with the likes of the Fiat 500X, Nissan Juke, Jeep Renegade and the Chevrolet Trax.