Road Test: 2018 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda’s CX-3 has been a big hit since it arrived on the market. From impressive AWD performance and fun driving dynamics, to a beautiful interior design, Mazda’s team went through and perfected several aspects of the crossover for 2018.

The sensuous exterior is paired with high-tech looking LED adaptive headlights, LED fog lights, and LED taillights. CX-3 looks incredibly premium and unlike any vehicle in its class.

Inside, our Grand Touring tester came dressed in Parchment colored leather with red accents and Lux Suede upholstery. The various materials and colors were spread to the doors and dash, creating an elegant and luxurious feeling cabin.

With the Premium Package, Mazda navigation, driver assist technologies, and a heated steering wheel are included among other useful features like traffic sign recognition.  We found the full-color Active Driving Display head-up unit difficult to read at times as it’s in line with the base of the hood and windshield. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams all worked perfectly.

Infotainment-wise, the CX-3 is lacking in functionality and intuitiveness. The display is crisp and clear, and we like the positioning on the dash, but the knob is hard to reach for a 6-foot adult, especially with the center arm rest lowered. We know CarPlay is on the way, so that will help a lot!

The front seats are on the narrow side and the lower cushion could be longer. We wish the door elbow rest extended longer for a 6-foot adult.

Move to the rear and the seats are comfortable as long as the headrests are moved upward, but legroom is tight for an adult. Cargo room is plentiful for a crossover in this category.

We found the Radar Cruise Control to work very well on the highway, maintaining a safe distance and accelerating promptly when the vehicle ahead moved over. Mazda also gets props for making Smart City Brake Support standard across all trim levels too. It automatically applies the brakes in emergency situations below 19 mph.

While many improvements were made inside, some of CX-3’s greatest changes can only be felt from behind the wheel. Mazda engineers revised the suspension bushings, added new front lower control arms, recalibrated dampers and new engine mounts. Mazda says the also improved the door seals, used thicker rear glass and sound suppression mats were added underneath the floor and dashboard for a more refined experience. We can definitely feel and hear the difference.

Where the CX-3 could use a bit more of a boost is from the SKYACTIV-G 2.0L engine. It pumps out 146 HP and 146 lb-ft of torque, and comes mated to a 6-speed automatic. Although sufficient, it does leave a bit to be desired, likely because the car handles so well that we want to push it further.

CX-3 offers Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control to improve handling. It uses the engine in conjunction with steering and throttle inputs to minutely reduce engine torque, putting more weight on the front wheels and making the steering feel more linear and direct. Most people like us will only feel more secure handling.

Speaking of secure handling, Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD system is optional on all trims and utilizes inputs from 27 sensors to “predict” road conditions and send power proactively.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 10
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 10
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 8
Visibility 10
Gauges and Controls 10
Infotainment 6
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score  95


Make: Mazda
Model: CX-3
Trim Level: Grand Touring AWD
Engine: 2.0L
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Options: Premium Pkg

Base Price: $26,415
As-Tested Price: $29,615

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