If you like the 2022 Mazda CX-3, be glad you live in Canada.
Dropped south of the border after 2021, the result of the slightly larger CX-30 being introduced, this subcompact lives on unchanged aside from the availability of some features. The lineup starts with the GX with a manual transmission and front-wheel drive at $23,750, including a non-negotiable delivery fee of $1,950. I was at the other end of the line in the top-level GT, which comes strictly with an automatic and all-wheel drive for $33,750.
Despite its numerical designation, the CX-3 is actually based on the Mazda2, which was briefly sold in Canada prior to the CX-3’s 2016 introduction. The little crossover is a handsome vehicle, with a bit of a rugged edge that isn’t needlessly amplified with gobs of matte-plastic cladding. The GX and GS trims have 16-inch wheels, while the GT wears 18-inch rims. The GT also gets adaptive LED headlights, along with LED tail- and fog lights.
The interior styling is plain but functional, with a tablet-style infotainment screen, large dials for the climate functions, and a three-gauge instrument cluster that mimics the shape of the steering wheel. The soft-touch stitched dash is standard in the GT and available as part of an options package in the GS AWD.
The American safety organizations won’t be rating the 2022 CX-3 since it’s no longer sold there, but the vehicle hasn’t changed from 2021 when the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded its highest Top Safety Pick+ designation to this tiny Mazda. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave its highest five stars, but nevertheless added a safety concern that an interior door panel struck the rear-seat passenger dummy in the side barrier test.
I’d have given the CX-3 a higher score based on those tests, but while all trims include standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and emergency front braking, you must move up to the GT trim for that braking to recognize pedestrians as well as other vehicles. The GT also exclusively adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane departure warning, high-beam headlight assist, traffic sign recognition, and a head-up display (viewed on a pop-up screen atop the dash). Of course, all trims include the rearview camera that’s mandatory on all new vehicles.
The entry GX is fairly basic, with a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, push-button start, two USB ports, cruise control, manual air conditioning, and rain-sensing wipers, plus the aforementioned driver safety assists. The mid-level GS adds heated seats and steering wheel and automatic climate control. It can also be optioned with some of the GT’s features.
The GT builds on those two with leather-trimmed upholstery, faux-suede interior panels, adaptive LED headlights, wiper de-icer, 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, navigation, wireless CarPlay, premium stereo, proximity key, and auto-dimming rearview mirror, as well as the higher level of driver assists. It’s a decent feature lineup for the segment, but any time a vehicle rings in over $30,000, I really want to see dual-zone settings for the climate control.
User Friendliness: 7.5/10
Most of the CX-3’s controls are simple and easy to use, as they should be. The climate functions are handled by large dials, the heated seats have buttons, and the steering wheel controls are large toggles.
However, the infotainment system can be a bit clunky to operate and slow to load. It’s a touchscreen, but most functions can’t be operated that way when you’re driving, forcing you to use a console-mounted joystick-and-button controller, which often has more steps than simply tapping the screen. Finally, the cupholders are an afterthought, consisting of movable dividers that brace cups in the centre console. The back one is actually under the tiny console bin lid, and if you need to use both holders, you have to flip the lid up.
The CX-3 is a small vehicle, and that’s an apt description of its interior. The front seats are fine for all but the tallest drivers, but the rear seat is very cramped. The cargo compartment includes a dual-level cargo floor, but it has a volume of 504 L in the two lower trims, and that drops to a tiny 467 L in my GT tester. That’s among the smallest in the segment, where the Hyundai Kona has 544 L and the Nissan Kicks offers a huge-by-comparison 716 L. The CX-3’s rear seats fold down to handle longer items, but they don’t go completely flat.
The CX-3 has seats for five, but it’s best to consider it a two-seater that can handle extra adults in a pinch. The front seats are well-bolstered but the cushions are short, which reduces their support; it’s a shorter-trip urban warrior, not a long-distance hauler. The power driver’s seat helps with finding the right position, and the heated seats have three settings. The ride is firm and you will feel the rougher bumps.
The engine is a 2.0L four-cylinder that makes 148 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. It’s noisy and rough but fairly quick off the line, although it can get wheezy under hard acceleration for highway passing power. Only the base GX can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission; everything else uses a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic.
Driving Feel: 9/10
Mazda is known for its sporty handling, and the CX-3 is no exception. The steering is quick, the handling is sharp, the brakes are excellent, and everything feels tight and athletic. Still, it isn’t so snappy that it’s too much for everyday driving. Instead, it’s well-composed in traffic, but you can have some fun with it when the road opens up.
It includes a system that very slightly reduces the engine’s power when you turn the steering wheel. It’s so subtle that you won’t feel it, but it’s enough to shift a bit of the car’s weight to the front wheels to improve grip and cornering, and make it smoother for the occupants.”
Fuel Economy: 8/10
The CX-3 with all-wheel drive is rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 8.6 L/100 km in the city, 7.4 on the highway, and 8.1 in combined driving. In my week with it, I came in slightly below, averaging 7.9 L/100 km. It takes regular-grade fuel.
The official figures are about average for the segment. Among all-wheel-drive rivals, the Buick Encore is rated at 9.1, while the Hyundai Kona is 7.9. The Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR come in at 7.2 and 7.5 L/100 km, respectively, but neither offers AWD.
The CX-3 lineup runs from $23,750 to $33,750, including delivery. The GX and GS trims come in front- or all-wheel drive, while the GT is all-wheel drive-only. Prices are all-in, with the only options being extra-charge paint ($200 to $450, depending on colour) and accessories such as roof racks or all-weather mats.
Among competitors, the Nissan Kicks starts lower at $22,218, while the Hyundai Kona is $23,924; the Toyota C-HR is $26,240; and the Buick Encore begins at $26,898. At their highest trims in all-wheel, the Buick comes in at $28,898 and the Kona at $30,024, and both have more cargo space than the Mazda. The CX-3 is intelligently priced but isn’t a standout in the segment.
The 2022 Mazda CX-3 has something on both sides of plus and minus. It’s not very roomy and it’s very short on cargo space, but in this diminutive-driving segment, it’s handsome, well-equipped, and it’s definitely the most fun of the bunch to drive. Look at its competitors, but give it a test-drive, too.
|Peak Horsepower||148 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||146 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||8.6 / 7.4 / 8.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||467 / 1,147 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2022 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD|
|Price as Tested||$33,850|