2019 Mazda CX-3: Review — Cars.com

Mazda’s updated its smallest SUV the
CX-3 to be a little bit classier for 2019 but it remains a choice for buyers who
value driving fun and style over maximum utility. People who want the dessert
first. The changes on the outside are subtle
but it does get a new stronger grille, some chrome accents, new wheels and a new
LED tail light design. The biggest changes in the CX-3 for 2019 are inside.
It gets leather upholstery for the first time, standard in the Grand Touring model,
which also has microfiber trim on the dashboard and some nice red accents. The
seats also are reshaped to be more comfortable. They don’t feel as narrow or
heavily bolstered as the old model. Still hold you in but a lot more comfortable
for a long day’s drive. But the real star of the show is the new console. They went
to an electric brake rather than a handbrake so you get more space and they
used it to create an actual console bin with storage and a cup holder that this
time you can use without flipping the armrest up. Still if you need two
cupholders you got to go back to flipping up the armrest, but baby steps.
The CX-3 was something of a leader in small SUVs in multimedia tech with
these features when it came out in 2016. A relatively big 7-inch screen, it’s a
touchscreen when you’re stopped, a knob controller when you’re on the go, plus
steering wheel controls. The interface however is now looking a little dated
compared to the HD graphics in some rivals. It also still takes a lot of
steps to do some simple functions. For example just to get a radio station that
I wanted to tune there’s no tune button so I’m going into a menu, I’m going into
another menu, I’m doing a dial, I’m going back, now I have my station. And Apple
CarPlay and Android Auto are still AWOL on this car. The available head-up
display packs in more information, it’s brighter and clearer to see, but it’s
still on a pop-up plastic panel that limits its height rather than being
displayed on the windshield. Where the CX-3 is at the top of the tech game
among small SUVs is in safety and driver assistance tech. A low speed
automatic braking system, blind-spot warning and rear
cross-traffic alerts are standard on all models. A package with full automatic
braking, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure warning and
adaptive headlights with automatic high beams is now an option on all trim
levels, including the base the CX-3. It’s standard on this Grand Touring model.
It’s clear that the CX-3 aims to be a sporty hatchback, not a family hauler,
when you get in the backseat. There’s enough room for adults for short trips,
not for road trips, and I never could get this big clamshell headrest into a
comfortable position for me. It does however have new cupholders in the
armrest although they’re kind of a complicated flip up arrangement, they do
work. Family shoppers should note that the rear seat also did not impress Cars.com’s child safety seat experts. The scores for the various seats we test
were so low that honestly this really shouldn’t be a choice for families with
young children. Mazda’s bigger CX-5 would be a better choice. The cargo area
really isn’t family size either. You won’t be hauling furniture around
even with the split folding backseat folded down for a nice flat floor but
the space behind the rear seat is a decent configuration, a decent shape to
get a couple of bags in. Enough stuff for a weekend or even a week on the road.
More than just looking sporty the CX-3 drives like the sporty hatchback car
that it really is. It sits lower than many rivals at about 6 inches off the
ground. That helps handling but it really hurts
go in the snow compared to some other sub compacts that are two or
two-and-a-half inches taller. But in better conditions the CX-3 will run
donuts around those rivals thanks to its light weight and a really well tuned
chassis. The steering has less precision than Mazda’s best cars but it’s nicely
weighted. Ride is firm but Mazda tweaked the chassis and tires for 2019 to
improve comfort and more sound insulation makes it a quieter ride as
well. The 2-liter engine also has been updated. It gets a couple more horsepower
for 148 but more importantly it’s been tuned for more torque at lower rpm.
Coupled to the crisp shifting 6-speed automatic, no CVT here, the CX-3 feels
plenty zippy. What’s more, sport mode makes it more aggressive and you can shift for
yourself. The Grand Touring model adds paddle shifters. A
bonus is excellent fuel economy as well. With a 31 mpg EPA combined rating for
the front drive models, 29 with all-wheel drive. And in the real world I actually
beat the highway rating in heavy traffic between Washington and New York. The CX-3
doesn’t try to be all things to all people. It’s more a sushi knife than a
Swiss Army knife. There are better small SUVs for hauling things, for fitting child
seats, for plowing through the snow. But if you want a fun to drive, good-looking
hatchback with good gas mileage, this should be on your list.