Mazda CX-3 vs. Mazda CX-5

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Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009, and has seen himself published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also works as editor in chief for a large performance car online publication. His specialty lays in the high-performance realm, but has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Prior to being an automotive writer, he was an automotive technician and manager for six years, but spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - May 23, 2018

With the crossover segment becoming more niche-heavy with each passing year, sibling rivalries are becoming more common. The Mazda CX models – the CX-3 and CX-5 – for example, are two siblings that buyers may pit against one another when searching for a small crossover. The CX-3 delivers a more compact size that makes it a bit easier to handle in tight quarters, but the CX-5 has more room for the in-laws and their luggage – if you want that. Which do we think is the better pick? Continue reading to find out.

See a side-by-side comparison of the CX-3 & CX-5 »

What the CX-3 Gets Right

As the step down from the CX-5, the CX-3 is $4,040 cheaper than its big bro for the 2018 model year. This leaves a lot of room for options. In fact, buyers can upgrade to the CX-3 Touring with all-wheel drive and still spend less than on the base CX-5.

Like the CX-5, the CX-3 boasts the latest evolution of Mazda’s sharp styling, and its smaller footprint makes it nimbler on busy streets and in tight parking garages.

While the safety equipment is about the same between the two CX models, the CX-3 is actually the safer of the two, as its NHTSA five-star rating bests the CX-5 by one star. The IIHS, however, rates both crossovers Top Safety Picks.

As the smaller of the crossovers, the CX-3 is unsurprisingly more fuel efficient. Its base model is rated at 29 miles per gallon city, 34 highway, and 31 combined by the EPA. Those numbers beat the CX-5 by four mpg city, three highway, and three combined.

What the CX-5 Gets Right

The CX-5 makes up for its higher price with a significantly more capable interior. Both CX models are equally stylish, but the CX-5’s rear seats offer 39.6 inches of leg room and 39 inches of head room, which beat the CX-3 by 4.6 and 1.8 inches, respectively. What’s more, the CX-5’s cargo capacities of 30.9 cubic feet with the seats up and 59.6 cubes with the rear seats folded crush the CX-3 by 18.5 cubes and 15.1 cubic feet, respectively.

While both models do feature Mazda’s famed KODO design language, the CX-5’s larger body wears it a touch better. On the CX-3, the styling looks a bit forced in some areas.

With its heftier frame and body, and its 187-horsepower engine, the CX-5 can tow up to 2,000 pounds. The CX-3, on the other hand, isn't rated to tow at all.

Big City Driving Calls for a Small Crossover

There's no denying the CX-3 is a sweet compact crossover, but it just isn't on the same level as the CX-5. That said, buyers in larger cities will appreciate its tossable size and zippier nature.

Verdict: Mazda CX-5

It was surprisingly close, but the roomier cabin, sharper looks, and additional cargo area combined to put the Mazda CX-5 just a shade above the Mazda CX-3.

Take a closer look at the Mazda CX-3 »

Take a closer look at the Mazda CX-5 »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009, and has seen himself published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also works as editor in chief for a large performance car online publication. His specialty lays in the high-performance realm, but has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Prior to being an automotive writer, he was an automotive technician and manager for six years, but spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

Follow On: Google+ | Website