Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jacob Black and Jonathan Yarkony
“Wow!” There were three of us there. All bitter, seasoned auto journalists. One of us had already seen the 2016 Mazda CX-3 on his First Drive event just a few weeks ago. Still, all of us were effusive in our praise.
“That is sexy.”
While we played thesaurus with each other the Soul Red Mazda gleamed in the sunlight before us. If looks were everything – and to many shoppers they are – this Mazda CX-3 will massacre sales charts. The styling I couldn’t really get behind in the 3 is executed brilliantly here. First impressions count for a lot and the CX-3 is delivering big time on that front.
Opening the door I was gob-smacked. The white on black leather seats with suede inserts are upscale and, well… Bugger, I seem to have run out of synonyms for “hot”.
When I first saw my wife walking down the aisle I’m told I let out a string of love-struck swear words, I might have done a similar thing here. That aesthetic appeal isn’t unique to us three, either. Everywhere I went I’ve seen people staring at the car, and I had two people ask me about it within 12 hours of picking it up. It’s an eye-catching attention-grabber and that can only be positive for Mazda.
And thus begins our six-month long-term test of Mazda’s all-new CX-3: a car brand new to market. Mazda (among others) has recognized the white space in the booming cute-ute market and leapt in boots and all with an immediate contender. If I was Mitusbishi’s RVR, Chevrolet’s Trax or even Subaru’s XV Crosstrek I’d be quaking in my boots; the cavalry are coming.
It’s possible the impact of new entrants to this market is already being felt. YTD the smallest SUVs and Crossover sales numbers are down 9.5 percent so far according to GoodCarBadCar.net, with Chevrolet’s Trax down 22 percent year-on-year and Mitsubishi RVR down 17. Bucking the trend, Subaru XV Crosstrek is up 11.7 percent. Still, previous growth patterns show this segment booming, so it seems people are holding on, waiting for the newcomers to arrive. Those include this Mazda and the Honda HR-V, both being launched within weeks of each other – and yes, we absolutely will have a head-to-head shootout of those two during our long-term test.
But back to the car at hand. This is the top-of-the-line GT worth $28,995 with $1,500 more for the Technology Package that adds Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and satellite radio. The base model starts at $20,695 with air conditioning and automatic gearbox, $2,000 more gets you four driven wheels in either GS or GX models. In this top-trim spec AWD is standard. I thought the LED headlights and HUD were part of the Technology Package but discovered to my surprise they’re actually standard on the GT trim. The HUD is effective, detailed and just plain cool. Some people think these are gimmicks, but I find them genuinely useful when driving, especially with navigation built in.