Tiny crossover with a little attitude: The 2021 Mazda CX-3 is one of the premier city cars on the market today, thanks to its tiny footprint, stylish body, upscale features, and more. It's far from perfect, like any city car, but it's been a solid option since it arrived in 2016.
But the CX-3 hasn't seen much change since its 2016 arrival. Find out below if its lack of change over the past six model years has impacted its status as a top-notch crossover SUV suited for the city.
The perfect city car… for two: Not only is it compact at just 168.3 inches long and 69.6 inches wide, but the CX-3 also looks great in that small package. Plus, it features ample city-dwelling power with 148 horsepower from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. This engine also helps it deliver up to 31 mpg combined.
There are other city-dwelling crossovers, but they all have their glaring flaws. The Honda HR-V has a droning four-cylinder powertrain. The Hyundai Venue has just 121 hp and an over-the-top boxy look. The Toyota C-HR is also a little too boldly designed for some. Finally, the Chevy Trax is underpowered at 138 hp and about as vanilla a design you can get.
But it's not all roses for the CX-3. Its rear seats offer just 35 inches of legroom, making them mostly for kids and young teenagers. If you need a spacey rear seat, the Honda HR-V (39.3 inches) is the crossover for you. Of course, the rear seats could be worse, as the C-HR has just 31.7 inches, and the Hyundai Venue has just 34.3 inches.
Decent standard features, but only a single trim: The 2021 Mazda CX-3 has a good range of standard tech features, including a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and keyless ignition. The Hyundai Venue and C-HR step up with their 8-inch touchscreens, but the Honda HR-V lays an egg with its standard 5-inch display screen and no smartphone integration.
Though it has a nice standard touchscreen, the Mazda CX-3 – and all Mazdas, for that matter – has a terrible infotainment system with hard-to-follow interfaces. The touchscreen in place of other Mazda models' rotary knobs helps alleviate some of the issues, but it's still difficult and glitchy.
Also frustrating is the lack of trim options to add a little more upscale feel to this subcompact crossover. The 2021 CX-3 is available only in its base Sport trim with a handful of standalone options.
The CX-3 has a full collection of standard safety gear, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, LED headlights, taillights and fog lights, adaptive headlights, and automatic high beams.
The Hyundai Venue and Toyota C-HR come close in standard safety gear, but the HR-V lacks any standard advanced safety tech, and the Trax doesn't offer automatic emergency braking, even as an option.
Point-and-go handling, but you'll deal with road noise: Like all Mazda models, the automaker tuned the CX-3 for point-and-go handling. It's not MX-5 Miata zippy, but the CX-3 is among the best in its class for precise handling.
It also leads the class in road and engine noise. Road and engine noise is relatively common in these smaller segments, but the CX-3 was loud enough to draw our attention.
Final thoughts: For folks who do a lot of city driving but don't want a small sedan or hatchback, the 2021 Mazda CX-3 is the perfect city-driving alternative. It offers roomy front seats, plenty of standard features, and all the safety gear you need to get through your daily commute. Plus, on the weekends, it's ready to deliver a refreshing drive down a windy mountain road.
However, the 2021 CX-3 has some serious road noise issues, but most of its competitors do too. If you're looking for a roomier alternative, the Honda HR-V is a great option. If you want something with even more standard features, the Hyundai Venture is one of the class's best-equipped models.
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