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Mazda CX-3: Inspired inside and out

2016 Mazda CX-3

With the new CX-3 subcompact crossover's sleek styling and sporty handling, Mazda looks to have a hit on its hands. The vehicle's arrival is near perfect - this new market segment is one of the fastest growing. Here are some impressions from a recent media event and other reviews.

"Power from the four-banger was adequate for the task if not necessarily for drag racing, which no one is going to do with this anyway. If we had to estimate, we'd say 0 to 60 mph will eventually come up in less than 10 seconds. Maybe even less than nine seconds. With 146 hp hauling 2,805 pounds of curb weight, the response is not bad off the line, if a little slow at passing speeds. But for almost everything that will be asked of this CUV, the powertrain is up to the task. The automatic has a sport mode and paddle shifters, which we used to pass the incredibly slow tourist traffic on the only mountainy stretch of road we saw. Through judicious timing we did get maybe five or 10 corners at speed and found the CX-3 showed very little roll and no plowing, even though we were pushing it pretty hard for a nonpremium subcompact CUV." -- AutoWeek

"Struts are used up front and a torsion-beam axle resides out back. As with most current Mazdas, the CX-3's body, chassis, transmission and engine employ the brand's Skyactiv engineering philosophy, which is intended to harmonize all elements of the vehicle to operate with maximum efficiency. In short, it works. On the highways and curvy mountain roads of our drive near Phoenix, this cohesion translates to an intimate and rewarding driving experience, not unlike that of our long-term 2015 Mazda3 hatchback. In fact, despite the slightly raised seating position and the "predictive" all-wheel-drive system similar to the latest CX-5's (an estimated $1,250 option on all trims), the CX-3 feels like a normal hatchback car, which may actually be off-putting for buyers seeking a high-riding feel. The ride is pleasantly compliant for commutes, the amount of feedback from the electric power steering would make some BMWs blush, and the overall comportment is balanced and responsive." -- Car and Driver

" ... It's not just about the look and feel -- crossovers have to deliver on capability, comfort and performance, too. The 2016 Mazda CX-3 doesn't shirk this burden.

In fact, it's one of the best-driving vehicles in this new segment. The electric power steering is well-weighted, with steering geometry tweaks like extra caster to improve straight-line stability without compromising maneuverability. And the CX-3 is highly maneuverable; its turning radius is very small for a front-drive (or all-wheel-drive) vehicle.

But that sporty driving capability doesn't mean it sacrifices city or highway comfort. In fact, the 2016 CX-3 is surprisingly quiet and comfortable even on poor road surfaces, soaking up most bumps without upsetting the occupants.

After spending several hundred miles in the CX-3, we can confidently say it's a very comfortable place to be, even for extended periods. The seats are supportive but supple, and road noise is very low, especially with the base Sport trim's standard 16-inch alloy wheels and taller tires. The 18-inch wheels and lower-profile tires on the Touring and Grand Touring models improve steering feel a tick but at the cost of a bit more road noise, especially over rough surfaces, and they also bring a bit more stiffness to the overall ride. Still, it's not intrusive in either case." -- The Car Connection

"The 2016 Mazda CX-3 handled everything we threw at it with aplomb. Its steering had a satisfying heft to it, the firm but composed suspension tuning made for supremely balanced handling, and the CX-3's overall fluidity and confidence made us want to keep driving it with gusto. It's yet another Mazda that skyrockets to the top of its class in terms of driving pleasure and enjoyment.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder, on the other hand, was a bit of a letdown, especially considering that its 146 hp and 146 pounds-feet of torque have such a small car to move -- the CX-3 is nearly a foot shorter than the CX-5 and has a 5-inch shorter wheelbase than the Mazda3 hatchback, and it's lighter than both of those models. Perhaps the elevation of 5,000-plus feet on our driving route was partially to blame, but we repeatedly put the CX-3's pedal to the floor in attempts to merge or pass and got much more noise than actual acceleration. At least the Skyactiv four-cylinder sounded somewhat sporty, and the quick-witted six-speed automatic transmission (no manual is offered) was responsive when pushed, especially in Sport mode." -- Automobile

A subcompact crossover might not be the obvious canvas for showcasing Mazda's leading-edge interior design, but it could be the most inspired. The CX-3 picks up where the Mazda3 cabin leaves off, with details you'd expect to find in a compact Audi. Upper trim levels appear to surpass even the more sedate CX-5 and Mazda6 family sedan interiors, with stitched and padded synthetic leather surfaces, colored and metallic panels and accents, and genuine leather and suede seat upholstery. -- Edmunds.com

You can reach at autonews@crain.com. -- Follow on Twitter

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