The 2010s have ushered in the era of the subcompact crossover. Mazda took the dive into this segment in 2016 with the tiny, Mazda2-based CX-3. This small people hauler combines the soft-road capabilities of most crossovers with the nimbleness and fuel economy of a subcompact.

Does the CX-3 combine these traits well, or is it just a jacked-up small hatchback?

Pricing and Equipment

One of the biggest draws of this segment is pricing. These tiny crossovers typically offer most of the capabilities that crossover shoppers want at a price that makes their bank accounts smile. The CX-3 fits at least the budgetary part of the equation with a starting price of $20,860 (delivery fees included).

In this base Sport trim, the CX-3 comes standard with:

  • 16-inch aluminum wheels
  • Power mirrors
  • Keyless ignition
  • Six-speaker audio system
  • 7-inch touchscreen
  • Rearview camera

For buyers looking for added features, there is also the better-equipped Touring and Grand Touring trims, which start at $22,860 and $25,890, respectively. On the Touring trim, buyers can also add the Premium Package ($1,248), which includes an upgraded sound system with satellite radio, a sunroof, and a cargo cover.

Performance Pros

Mazda CX 3

While it is not overly powerful with just 146 horsepower, we found the CX-3 to be an eager participant in spirited driving. The engine is more than happy to rev to its redline and the optional all-wheel-drive system make fine adjustments while driving to make up for lost traction.

  • Low 2,809-pound curb weight makes it nimble
  • Engine is eager to please the driver with more revs
  • Cruising is unexpectedly quiet at 70 mph
  • Surprisingly precise all-wheel-drive system

Performance Cons

While it is lightweight and nimble, the CX-3 isn't fast. It's powerful enough for commuting, but lacks the true zoom-zoom attitude of some Mazdas.

  • Engine doesn’t sound overly sporty
  • Lacks the true zoom-zoom personality
  • Paddle shifters are only available on the Grand Touring trim

Interior Pros

Mazda CX 3

The cabin is set up much like the Mazda3, giving this small hatchback a sporty look and feel. What’s more, the front seats are plenty roomy and cargo room is decent for a tiny crossover.

  • Comfortable and spacious front seats make it a great commuter crossover
  • Mazda3-like styling exudes a sportier personality
  • Up to 44.5 cubic feet of cargo room is plenty for most
  • Plenty of features as you move through the trims and options

Interior Cons

The front seats are great, but the back is a totally different story. Legroom is tight, and sporty roofline doesn't leave much space for heads.

  • Only 35 inches of rear legroom
  • 12.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the seats up is a little tight
  • Roofline makes the back seats intolerable for taller teens and adults

The Most Pleasant Surprise

As a commuter car, the CX-3 is quite pleasant. It's efficient, highly maneuverable in traffic, and comfy in front. All of this, combined with the number of features available, make it a great daily driver.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Outside of the front seats, the CX-3 is far from roomy. The dinky rear quarters make it a tough buy for a growing family, and cargo space is limited with the seats up.

The Bottom Line

When considering a subcompact crossover, there are plenty of compromises to make. And the CX-3 is a prime example of these compromises. Sure, it’s zippy, fuel efficient, and the front seats are roomy, but you are giving up big-time space behind the front seats. The CX-3 is a great fit for couples without kids, but once those kiddos come, you’ll need to upsize pronto.