First came compact crossovers, but those weren’t small enough for some, so automakers took it a step further and created subcompact crossovers. These tiny people haulers take everything that makes a crossover great – additional ride height and some off-road capabilities, without compromising that car-like feel – and placed them in an easier-to-handle package.

Having debuted in 2016, the Mazda CX-3 is a relative newcomer to the world of subcompact crossovers. It rides atop the bones of the new Mazda2, which is no longer sold here in the US, and like most Mazda models, it combines usefulness and a compact footprint with the zoom-zoom personality the automaker is known for.

We spent some time behind the wheel of a CX-3 to see just how many boxes this small utility vehicle can check. Continue reading to find out what we think about it.

Best Value

The 2018 Mazda CX-3 is a great value across the board, which has become Mazda’s goal as of late. But for buyers who are focused solely on bang for the buck, the base Sport trim is an excellent choice.

With the Sport trim, which rings in at $21,050 ($940 destination fee included), you not only get the 146-horsepower 2.0-liter engine that is well balanced for this small crossover, but it also offers plenty of unexpected features, like 16-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, cruise control, a 7-inch touchscreen, a six-speaker sound system, and more. On top of that, it also comes with standard automatic emergency braking at speeds under 19 mph.

Though we recommend the Sport trim for value shoppers, our tester was the range-topping Grand Touring trim, which gave us all the bells and whistles at a premium price for this segment. On top its standard features, it included the Premium Package ($1,839), which added driver’s seat memory, six-way power front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, an active driving display, and windshield wiper de-icers.

  • Model: Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD
  • Engine: 2.0-Liter Four-Cylinder
  • Output: 187 hp / 185 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 23 City / 30 Hwy
  • Options: Premium Package ($1,435, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, six-way power driver's seat with memory function, a heated steering wheel, and traffic sign recognition)
  • Base Price: $21,050 (including $940 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price: $33,785

Performance Pros

  • Bred to deliver tight performance in the corners
  • Engine is well balanced for highway speeds
  • Traditional six-speed automatic is refreshing
  • Solid fuel-economy ratings -- even with all-wheel drive

Performance Cons

  • Engine struggles at lower speeds
  • Ride can get a little bumpy

Interior Pros

  • So many available features for its class
  • Surprisingly generous with its standard equipment
  • Outward vision is great, especailly with such a long hood

Interior Cons

  • Infotainment system can be a little confusing at times
  • Adults and teens won't appreciate the limited rear headroom and leg room
  • Just 12.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats up
  • Styling doesn't match the sharp exterior looks

Our Favorite Thing

The zippy nature of the 2018 CX-3 is a thing of beauty. Mazda is known for crafting some of the most fun cars to drive, but this tiny crossover was a pleasant surprise. It’s no straight-line monster, but zipping through the twisty stuff is a pleasure.

Our Least Favorite Thing

Its 35 inches of rear leg room is inadequate, but it gets even worse with the optional driver’s seat memory. When I turned the car off, the driver’s seat slid rearward, making it easier to get in and out. While this is great for the driver, it made rear seat ingress even tougher. Getting my son into his car seat with the seat back like this was very frustrating.

Right For

The perfect 2018 CX-3 buyer is one who plans to haul around just a single passenger, if any passengers at all. Sure, it can handle rear-seat passengers, but its limited leg room and headroom make this an unfavorable experience.

Wrong For

Large families will find the limited rear seat room and the lack of cargo room impossible to overcome.

The Bottom Line

The CX-3 is a great crossover for a young buyer looking to haul around a friend or two over the weekend but fly solo throughout the week. With its incredible fuel economy -- even with all-wheel drive -- the CX-3 will also help save this owner some cash without buying a hybrid model.

Buyers looking to use the rear seats on a more regular basis may want to move up to a larger class of crossovers, like the Toyota RAV4 or the Ford Escape, as most of the CX-3’s competitors have the same shortcomings.