Reviews: 2016 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD Long-Term Verdict

2016 Mazda CX-9

  2016 Mazda CX-9 Till 40,000 miles do us part.

It lives on my driveway, doesn't leak engine oil (much), and is a bit beat up. And for months, it would have no choice but to stare at this Soul Red whippersnapper.

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It is my personal Mazdaspeed Proteg, and it was probably confused by the presence of its distant relation. I couldn't blame my old-timer. For months, in the back of my mind, the Mazda CX-3 felt like a fish out of water. It's segmented as a crossover utility vehicle but mostly misses the mark on the promise of utility. My passengers saddled in the second row would often make a negative comment about the available space or the ease of entry and exit. (Those shapely rear doors come at an ergonomic cost.) Or people would simply laugh at their situation. Humor helps, I suppose. The CX-3 does have useful i-Activ all-wheel drive, which never made a misstep during the inclement weather it experienced.

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Another laughing matter was the cargo area, charitably listed at 10.1 cubic feet with the rear seat in place. Measured up to the privacy cover that's standard on the Grand Touring trim and optional on the Touring, there is noticeably less volume than the Protege's 12.9-cubic-foot sedan trunk. Although the storage limitation wasn't a problem when it was just the missus and me, there were many occasions when I had to carry more passengers and more stuff than the CX-3 wanted. This was a nonissue with most of its peers, including the Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade.

All this doom and gloom goes out the window with Sport mode. Among its subcompact CUV peers, the CX-3 pleasingly feels like it needs the least amount of prodding to get rolling. Sport engages the enthusiast-friendly transmission logic that is unbelievably in sync with the Skyactiv 146-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The CX-3 is genuinely impressive and fun to hustle, and it doesn't take long to realize the CUV's calling. True to the brand's mission, all points of operator contact related to driving (steering, foot pedals, paddle and console lever shifters) are tuned perfectly and meld quickly with the driver. But there's a sharp ride and handling trade-off. Wearing 215/50R18 tires (see sidebar) on its front strut and rear torsion beam suspension—the CX-3 is based on the global Mazda2/Demio platform that also underpins the Toyota Yaris iA—the ride can feel stiff-legged and tiring over long drives. But the CX-3's heart is in its handling, and it is exceptionally well controlled in that area, always at the ready to bend to the driver's will.

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2016 Mazda CX 3 Grand Touring AWD front three quarter© Motor Trend Staff 2016 Mazda CX 3 Grand Touring AWD front three quarter

For kicks, our comrades at Emissions Analytics put the CX-3's Sport mode to the test on the Real MPG loop. The Sport programming holds the lower gears longer to rev the engine higher, and the six-speed automatic transmission never shifts into its fifth and sixth overdrive gears on the highway (fourth is a 1:1 ratio). Because of those vehicle parameters, the analysis put out fuel economy ratings of 22.0/28.8/24.6 mpg city/highway/combined. When driven normally, a Real MPG of 24.4/31.1/27.0 was attainable. Our final fuel economy penciled out to an average of 28.1 mpg after 35,386 miles, tracking about the same as the long-term HR-V that has front-wheel drive and the six-speed manual. A complaint common in the subcompact realm revolved around the driving range and the size of fuel tank (11.9 gallons). The CX-3 breached 300 miles on a tank just three times in 150-plus fill-ups, and it frequently requested topping off before the 250-mile mark. Testing director Kim Reynolds owns the single farthest drive on a tank at 311.4 miles, and he had to draft a semitruck on a remote stretch of California highway with the climate control off to make it to the next Chevron station, all with the fuel light shining proudly before his weary eyes.

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I imagine the Proteg might scoff at the CX-3's faults, but it's also important to keep in mind that there are many consumers out there not in our gilded position who would be thrilled to be in a new vehicle, period. To that end, the CX-3 should prove to be reliable for that crowd. It was serviced four times at a cost of $534.45, about in line with the long-term 2013 CX-5 that demanded $456.21 over 28,831 miles, but it's important to note the all-wheel-drive CX-3 drained and refilled its rear differential fluid, and the front-wheel-drive CX-5 naturally didn't. The long-term 2011 Nissan Juke expensed $471.35 for upkeep after 24,757 miles.

There were a few hiccups. The glove box doesn't sit flush and couldn't be adjusted to do so. A warmed-up engine sounds like it has a harder time firing up than when it's cold, though the inline-four always started when asked. An unfortunate accident involving a Cadillac Escalade ramming the driver-side rear quarter-panel knocked the CUV into the body shop for more than a month. But the most baffling was the air conditioning blowing warm before the odometer hit 30,000 miles. The AC system was double-checked for leaks, but it checked out fine and was recharged for $137.10.

The 14-year-old Proteg's AC is still cold, surprisingly. Even though a CX-3 won't be living at my home anytime in the near future, I'm certain its merits will earn it a place in many other driveways

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Narrow Pickings

2016 Mazda CX 3 Grand Touring AWD front three quarter in motion 05© Motor Trend Staff 2016 Mazda CX 3 Grand Touring AWD front three quarter in motion 05

The Mazda CX-3 and Mazdaspeed Proteg don't share much in common, but they do have the same 215mm-wide tire specification. The 2003 Proteg rides on 215/45R17 tires—just like a new Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ—whereas the CX-3 in Grand Touring guise feature an unusual 215/50R18 size. (Sport and Touring trims employ 215/60R16 rubber.)

Early into the CX-3's stay, only one nonwinter 215/50R18 tire was listed on the Tire Rack website: the original equipment Yokohama Avid S34. Compare that to the shopper-friendly 37 selections for 215/60R16 all-season passenger tires. I sought answers.

"The OEM 215/50R18 is a new size, coming into the market with the launch of the CX-3 platform," said Woody Rogers, Tire Rack product information specialist. "Is the CX-3 a car or an SUV/CUV? Kinda both, so the overall diameter of the OEM 18-inch fitment is fairly tall for the relatively narrow size. Other vehicles have used wider, or taller, or both sizes in the past.

"Since the CX-3 is new in the market, there is limited demand for tires, which means the non-OEM tire companies are reluctant to go through the expense of designing a tire and producing the mold then manufacturing/warehousing/distributing tires. Sort of like the chicken and the egg. You can't have demand until there are tires available, and you won't have tires made until there is demand. The tire companies look at vehicle registration data, etc., to project future demand for new sizes, and when they see critical mass approaching, they will start to produce a tire."

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It wasn't until the long-term CX-3 was about to be escorted from the premises that one more 215/50R18 option, the Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus, appeared at Tire Rack. If you searched deeper, a Taiwanese budget tire is obtainable, too. But how nervous would you be having a brand-new mainstream vehicle and slim pickings for same-size tire replacements?


  • Arrival
  • Update 1: Getting Used to the New-New
  • Update 2: Restart
  • Update 3: Reassuring Responsiveness
  • Update 4: Missing Trim Pieces
  • Update 5: Sheetmetal Tragedy
  • Update 6: Turning Up The Heat
  • Update 7: The Aging Effect
Our Car
SERVICE LIFE 15 mo / 35,386 mi
BASE PRICE $27,120
OPTIONS GT i-ACTIVSENSE package ($1,920: adaptive cruise control, Smart City Brake Support, Smart Brake Support, lane deaprture warning, high beam control, automatic headlights), Mazda Mobile Start ($550), Soul Red paint ($300), rear bumper guard ($100)
AVG ECON/CO2 28.1 mpg / 0.69 lb/mi
PROBLEM AREAS Glovebox fitment
MAINTENANCE COST $534.45 (4-oil change, inspection, tire rotation; 1-cabin air filter, rear differential service)
NORMAL-WEAR COST $137.10 (AC system check and recharge)
3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE* $15,450 / $18,050
RECALLS Liftgate support struts
*IntelliChoice trade-in/retail (at 42,000 miles)
2016 Mazda CX-3 AWD (Grand Touring)
ENGINE TYPE I-4, alum block/head
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 121.9 cu in/1,998cc
POWER (SAE NET) 146 hp @ 6,000 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 146 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm
REDLINE 6,500 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 20.5 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs
BRAKES, F; R 11.6-in vented disc; 11.1-in disc, ABS
WHEELS, F;R 7.0 x 18-in, cast aluminum
TIRES, F;R 215/50R18 92V M+S Yokohama Avid S34
WHEELBASE 101.2 in
TRACK, F/R 60.0/59.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 168.3 x 69.6 x 60.9 in
CURB WEIGHT 2,997 lb
HEADROOM, F/R 37.6/37.2 in
LEGROOM, F/R 41.7/35.0 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 53.5/50.4 in
CARGO VOLUME BEH F/R 42.3/10.1 cu ft
0-30 2.8 sec
0-40 4.4
0-50 6.1
0-60 8.4
0-70 11.1
0-80 14.5
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 4.5
QUARTER MILE 16.4 sec @ 83.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 118 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.6 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 2,000 rpm
AIRBAGS Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 yrs/60,000 miles
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 24.4/31.1/27.0 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 125/105 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.67 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular

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