2018 Mazda CX-3 Review

Written By Anqoinette Crosby
Mazda CX-3 Alaska Adventure

Mazda’s good-looking 2018 CX-3 mini SUV provided mega enjoyment during my week-long test run behind the wheel. My top-tier Grand Touring AWD sampler doled out even more goodies to boost the driving and riding experience as I encountered various driving scenarios. It also taught me I need to warn my passengers against wearing a certain item of clothing--more on that later in the review.


The interior layout, design and materials of Mazda’s smallest SUV are punching well above their weight class for its segment. The front cabin design feels ultra modern. Soft touch materials and surfaces impart a higher quality feel than one would expect in this price range. A few hard plastic surfaces are evident, but they are nicely textured and treat the eye to a premium appearance.

Driving home from work one evening, I grew bored inching along in traffic and decided to take a detour off the beaten path. This proved to be a smart decision, as moving quickly along the back roads was effortless, revealing the CX-3 to be set up more for sport than cruising the Interstate. At one point, I took a wrong turn and needed to put the CX-3 in reverse. Aided by the rear view camera, the images from which I could view clearly on the seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system, this too, was a breeze. Another feature of that infotainment system, the Bose seven-speaker audio system made listening to my favorite music pure pleasure.


The 2018 Mazda CX-3 is powered by a 146-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission featuring a manual shift mode. Power is adequate at best, but the engine performs well across its power band. Demonstrating a definite preference for higher revs, 3,500 rpm is where it comes into its own. However, the engine note wasn't the most melodic I've ever heard. In fact, it’s more of a thrashing sound than a growl when pushed—but it wasn’t a deal killer for me.

I had the most fun in the Sport setting which I dubbed the party mode as it helped to liven things up quite a bit. I can also attest the brakes provided more than adequate stopping power. Fuel economy for the all-wheel drive powertrain I tested is quoted at 27 mpg in city and 32 on the highway. I saw a consistent 30 mpg overall.


I also judge how well a car handles by testing its turning circle. The CX-3 didn’t disappoint when I had to quickly shimmy the five-seater into a small space in a chaotic Whole Foods parking lot. This confirmed the CX-3 is the ideal size for urban dwellers.

Ride quality was firm, but not annoyingly stiff. The rear seats were surprisingly well built, extremely comfortable and scalloped to provide a good seat pan area for rear passengers. Headroom was good for people up to six-feet tall. Legroom is good too. People with long legs will be fine for trips under an hour—at which point it’d be nice to let them out to stretch before continuing your journey.

Low points included cabin noise at highway speeds. The side view mirrors were set back a little too far back from the A-pillar for me. And, while I found the info displayed on the head-up screen helpful, it was always deployed—even when I didn't want it to be.

My CX-3 Grand Touring hosted a notable list of safety features, which included high-speed automated emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and automatic high-beam headlamps.


Oh, and remember that fashion concern I mentioned earlier?


You’ll want to stay away from the white leatherette interior option. It’s beautiful, but the dye from blue jeans rubs off on the seats. So unless you’re really into detailing your car, you might want to go with another interior color because this SUV is well worth owning.

Pricing for the 2018 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD starts at $26,415.