Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test: 2016 Mazda CX-3 FWD - Supplement

Yesterday, a Lotus Seven came to visit. This made me very excited, right up until its radiator hose split and began squirting water all over the road. Drat.

The difficulty of marrying elemental thrills and practicality is mountainous; so, instead of going for a zip up the local hills in a stressed-skin stripped-down club racer, I went haring off in a front-wheel-drive crossover. It should have been extremely boring. But it wasn't.

When it comes to driving, the CX-3 is an absolute peach.

This week, I've taken the Mazda CX-3 all sorts of dull and uninteresting places. Music classes for the toddler. The grocery store. The library. Painted in appliance white, it looks handsome enough, but didn't garner many double takes or admiring glances.

I still think it's one of the better-looking cars on the market right now, though if you're a bit of a peacock, opt for the bright blue or Soul red. Speccing the GT's 18-inch rims is an option as well, though I feel an aftermarket set of 17-inch rims on a mid-trim front-driver is this little machine's West Coast sweet spot.

On these expeditions, I have grown to both love and be irritated by the CX-3's interior. Love and irritation, you understand, are two of the pillars of being a father, the other being Go Ask Your Mother.

Anyway, for style that constantly pleases, the CX-3 is a charmer. All the little details to be found delight, from the colour accents on the air-vents and knee pads, to the double-stitching on the dash. It feels nice in here, very slightly premium.

However, from a practical viewpoint, the rear seats are simply too small for car seat and toddler – as the constant drumming of little legs on my kidneys will attest. And the cupholders are an afterthought, and an armrest is an accessory. You can get away with that sort of driver-centric behaviour in a Miata, but maybe not so much a crossover.

Still, when it comes to driving, the CX-3 is an absolute peach. I spent some time flogging along a front driver on roads that were so serpentine I accidentally summoned Lord Voldemort, and it was simply delightful.

Ditto this morning. Scampering up the hillside at what I considered a prudent speed, a white BMW 3 Series blasted past me like he was on the autobahn. A hairpin approached, and when I came through the other side, the gap was erased. Herr Bimmer snorted off huffily at extra-legal speeds while I continued dawdling along.


When the road gets really windy, absolute power doesn't matter, and the CX-3 makes the most of its zippy 146 hp. More? Yes, more would be better, but only because this thing really has the chops in the curves. The electric power steering feel isn't amazing (nor is it in our friend's BMW, come to that), but the chassis is so communicative that your confidence is sky high. Little adjustments mid corner aren't heart-in-mouth stuff, and unlike many more pedestrian cars, the CX-3 drives like it wants to be flogged. If anything it's even more happy about being flung into a corner than a Mazda3.

This one doesn't even have paddle shifters, and it's still giving me that same rev-the-nuts-off-it feeling you get from the old Protegé5 or the original NA Miata. It's just practical enough to work, gorgeous to look at, and an absolute blast when a hero-car lets you down. The CX-3 and the Honda HR-V are the same size, and with similarly hyphenated names, but their personalities are as different as Bert and Ernie. I leave Bert to his pigeons, thanks; the corners are calling.