Entry price: $20,640
Price as tested: $24,025
This week, we review the 2020 Mazda CX-3, the popular subcompact SUV that has already been named a Top Safety Pick + (plus) by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Notable is that five other 2020 Mazda vehicles share in this same important IHHS distinction as award winners with the + (Plus) nomenclature are the most difficult to attain. Overall, Mazda’s six top safety model awards beat out second place manufacturer Subaru, which had four top safety plus picks. (See IIHS.org for complete safety information)
Considering many of these affordable Mazda 3’s are purchased for and by students heading off to school or work, it’s important to let consumers know their money is being well spent on the safety side for those who spend more time on the road. However, don’t be misled by just the younger driver safety advantages as Mazda CX-3 is also a baby boomer favorite, and millennial, too. Considering Mazda is one of the smaller manufacturers, these 2020 IIHS top safety awards are noteworthy.
The 2020 CX-3 starts at just $20,640 for the front drive Sport or $22,040 for the i-ACTIV all-wheel drive (AWD) model. The mid-level Touring and upper level Grand Touring models have been discontinued this year although new for 2020 on the Sport are standard Android and Apple compatibility and i-Activsense driver assistance features, both previous options.
The i-Activsense package, which was an $1,100 option in 2019, features adaptive cruise, lane departure warning, automatic high-beams, adaptive headlights, a head-up windshield display, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. It’s now standard on the improved 2020 CX-3 Sport.
Mazda lists the CX-3 as a sub-compact size SUV that delivers some of the attributes of its larger compact Mazda CX-30 and midsize CX-5 in a smaller, city friendly driving package.
The fully automatic AWD system constantly monitors road conditions and is built to add or subtract power to any of the four wheels when the CX-3 4x4 computer determines a wheel is losing traction. Considering the AWD system costs only $1,400 more on the Sport, the upgrade should be a major consideration regardless of your geographical location as you never know when Mother Nature will throw inclement weather your way from sand to small flood (Please don’t drive you CX-3 into a flooded highway. We’re talking and inch of water here at most).
The exterior of the CX-3 bears likeness to the siblings, even the larger CX-9. The front grille design is similar although in true sub-compact form, and since the CX-3 rides on a 5.2-inch shorter wheelbase than midsize CX-5, it makes parallel parking easy. Although road irregularities are a bit more pronounced, this little Mazda handles very well on the country roads and offers secure handling and cornering abilities. You’ll feel the bumps on uneven roads, but when highway driving arrives it’s very comfy.
Mazda CX-3 also incorporates much of what the company learns in its winning top endurance Prototype class of road racing all the way down to the hundreds of Mazda Miata SCCA club cars that race every weekend. As an example, when you select CX-3’s “sport driving mode” button on the six speed automatic transmission, you’ll enjoy a more responsive CX-3 with computer controlled downshifting when braking from 60 mph to higher RPM range shifts for more torque and acceleration. Features like this usually don’t come in a sub-compact SUV, but then again, neither do CX-3’s quality 16-inch tires on lightweight alloy wheels.
Every Mazda CX-3 relies on a 2.0-liter fuel injected four cylinder that boasts a 13-1 compression for extra pep. Developing just 148 horses and 146 lb. ft. of torque, you’ll still be impressed as the CX-3 accelerates to 60 mph in a bit over 8 seconds. This all comes thanks to CX-3’s less than 3,000-pound curb weight and use of lighter yet stronger sport tuned suspension and engine components. Notable is the G-Vector control, front strut independent and a rear torsion beam setup all of which assists in the fine handling characteristics. Fuel mileage for the front drive CX-3 is 29 city and 34 highway while our AWD Sport is good at 27 city and 32 highway.
Overall, the cabin is well done and seating is comfortable. The instrumentation is good and features a non cumbersome six-speaker stereo system with the MAZDA Connect infotainment system featuring voice command. CX-3 is quite roomy for a subcompact SUV, although rear seat leg room is tight while cargo room with the back seat up is just acceptable. Still, the back seat is roomy enough for smaller adults and kids.
CX-3 features four-wheel ABS brakes, rain sensing wipers, rear safety camera, Skyactiv body ring roll bar structure, all the traction and stability controls, hill launch assist, rear cross traffic alert, and all the airbags as standard fare. Overall, and in addition to the IIHS awards, every CX-3 boasts government Five Star Crash Safety ratings, again something more to remember when it comes to protection if shopping this market.
Our Sport featured a few options including Crystal Red Metallic paint ($595), door sill plates ($100), All Weather Floor Mats ($125) and wheel locks ($65). With $1,100 added for delivery, the final retail came in at $24,025.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 101.2 inches, 2,994 lb. curb weight, 34.8 turning circle, 6.1-inch ground clearance, 11.9-gallon fuel tank, and from 17.8 to 42.7 cu. ft of cargo space.
The 2020 Mazda CX-3 is a great little SUV, especially considering its low price, enhanced safety and great looks. Nab one while they’re still available as deleting two of three trims for 2020 could be an indicator that the line may be eliminated in the future.
Let’s hope I’m wrong as the CX-3 Sport is an excellent vehicle.
Likes: Safety features galore, price, handling.
Dislikes: Only one trim, tight rear quarters, a little engine noise.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
This article originally appeared on Pontiac Daily Leader: Test Drive column: 2020 Mazda CX-3 Sport