2016 Mazda CX-3
As crossover utilities shrink ever smaller, they’re looking less like a blend of family car and a SUV, and more like pumped five-door hatchbacks with available all-wheel drive. Case in point, this Mazda CX-3. It’s a good looking subcompact ute. But, in its quest for popular style, is utility no longer its strongest point?
To their credit, Mazda calls the 2016 CX-3 their ultimate “urban escape vehicle”. A combination of small car attributes necessary for city-dwellers; like a Mazda3 hatchback; with enough crossover elements for weekend adventures and all-weather security.
Going up against the likes of Honda HR-V, Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, and Chevrolet Trax; four subcompact utes that weren’t even available here a year ago, gives you an idea of how rapidly this segment is expanding.
Built on a new SKYACTIV chassis to be shared with the next Mazda2, the CX-3 is tidy indeed. Every interior dimension is less than the Mazda3. And while outside it is certainly taller, ground clearance is the same at 6.1-inches.
Of course you can’t get all-wheel-drive in the Mazda3.
Now whether all-4 or just the front-2 wheels are in play, power comes from the MX-5’s SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter I4. Here putting out 146-horsepower and 146 lb-ft. of torque, with a 6-speed automatic transmission your only option.
One thing is clear, and that is that the CX-3 is easily the most stylish of the new breed of cute utes. It looks long, low, lean, and much more muscular than bigger brother CX-5.
In the front, the face is familiar Mazda territory, but they seem to be pushing the boundaries of the grille ever farther. And the slanted rear roof, with tight hind quarters, doesn’t help much with convincing us that this is a crossover and not a hatchback.
At our test track, there was a snappy throttle and eagerness at launch, but the CX-3 runs out of steam fairly quickly; taking us 8.6-seconds to hit 60. To be fair, that’s on par with the Jeep Renegade we tested. And, the CX-3 gives you all it’s got down the strip sounding good while doing it.
Shifts are prompt and positive, and there was even a touch of torque steer as we worked our way to a 16.7-second ¼-mile at 83 miles-per-hour.
Throughout handling exercises, there was certainly a fun, sporty Mazda-style character. But, while still far from a sports car, there’s a nice balance and steering response is quick, putting most other tiny trucksters to shame.
We were expecting a little more from the brakes however, than a 133-foot stopping average from 60 and an overall soft feel.
Fittingly, the interior is driver-oriented, with an almost premium feel to materials and surfaces that again put it above most rivals. The control layout looks simple enough, yet still managed to befuddle some of our staffers.
Ergonomics are also not great for full-size adults; plus we found console space minimal and cup holders difficult to access easily. Moreover, it can be at times a very noisy environment.
Continuing our list of gripes, cargo space is minimal, just 10.1 cubic-ft. behind the rear seats if there’s a Bose subwoofer in place; that’s ½ the space of a Mazda3 hatchback. Folding the seats expands the space, getting the numbers closer to the Mazda3’s at 44.5 cubic-ft.
The load floor is also very high. It might not have been as noticeable had we not had an HR-V in at the same time which has a much lower load floor and double the amount of rear cargo space.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel-drive CX-3 are 27-City, 32-Highway, and 29-Combined, which we almost reached at 28.8 miles-per-gallon of Regular. So the Energy Impact Score is much better than average, with oil consumption at 11.4-barrels yearly and CO2 emissions of 5.0-tons.
Pricing starts at $20,840; and since we’re doing so much comparing here, a Mazda3 starts about a grand lower, though top Grand Touring trims are priced very similar.
In the end, we know why Mazda commissioned the CX-3. Everything crossover is selling like mad while traditional car sales continue to sag. Still, when it comes to actual utility, a well done compact five-door hatchback, like a Mazda3, Ford Focus, or the new Honda Civic, beats the CX-3, and all other tiny utes, in everything except traction.
But, if you gotta hang with the crowd, then the 2016 Mazda CX-3 is one fun, city size utility, that’s rarin’ to go.
- Engine: 2.0 liter
- Horsepower: 146
- Torque: 146 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 8.6 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 16.7 seconds @ 83 mph
- EPA: 27 mpg city/ 32 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 11.4 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 5.0 tons/yr
2024 Buick Envista
Buick Adds A Scenic Vista To Crossover Country
In case you missed it, Buick is now an all SUV brand. That’s right, no more new LeSabres or Regals prowling American streets. But with the new utility-minded mission also comes a new focus on style, and they’re about to shake things up in the small crossover segment with this all-new Envista.
If you’re like us, the first thing you notice about this all-new 2024 Buick Envista is that it’s gorgeous. While everyone else in the SUV world seems to be trying to out rugged one another, Buick creates their sleekest and best-looking SUV ever, then drops it right into the hot premium small crossover segment.
It’s low slung, has a long wheelbase, and a tall rear; but whatever you do, don’t call it a hatchback, even though there is no rear wiper. Minimal headlights are the most emphatic presentation yet of Buick’s “wing lighting”
Starting with base Preferred trim, you can than either go sporty with an ST, or premium with this Avenir, which gets a Black Ice chrome grille and Pearl Nickel 19-inch alloy wheels.
For now, this Envista is front-wheel-drive only, working with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
And producing the power, is a tiny 1.2-liter inline 3-cylinder turbo engine rated at just 137-horsepower and 162 lb-ft. of torque.
Despite the low numbers, it feels peppy off the line, and seems to be more than adequate when scooting around the urban environments that Buick claims the Envista was designed for.
The extra-long wheelbase allows for a good amount of space inside including for the rear seat occupants of the this 5-passenger utility, and lots of side glass helps to lend a spacious feel. We found front seats very comfortable.
The dashtop features an ultrawide display enclosure that is made up of separate screens, 11-inch for infotainment, and a very simple 8-inch driver display. The central touchscreen works well, and both screens are easy to read quickly.
Avenir luxury touches include unique stitching on the leather heated front seats, wireless phone charging, and a heated steering wheel, but a sporty-flair is present as well, with flat-bottom steering wheel and big traditional shifter.
Cargo capacity in back is 20.7 cubic-ft., expanding to 42.0 with the rear seatbacks folded. A power liftgate is standard with Avenir, but can be added relatively inexpensively to other trims.
Buick has applied their “Quiet Tuning” to the Chevrolet Trax chassis used here. It’s perhaps not quite as effective as in their larger utilities, but there was surprisingly little road and engine noise in the cabin.
Avenir also has an upgraded Watts link added to the simple torsion beam rear suspension; not necessarily to improve handling but for better road isolation enabling a smoother experience.
Though it seemed to hold up just fine in our handling course; but aggressive stability control did step in well-before we could really get a true sense of its limitations.
At a moderate pace with smooth inputs, there was very little understeer and a tolerable amount of body roll.
That peppiness we experienced on the street was present at the track too; but primarily just for getting you going. Once you got rolling and kept the throttle pinned, power delivery plateaued quickly and it was a lengthy 9.0-second trip to 60.
The thing that seemed to be in the biggest hurry here was the transmission trying to get into high gear as soon as possible; something you’ll appreciate more on your commute than at the dragstrip where it manifested itself with a 16.8-second ¼-mile at 81 miles-per-hour.
There was a bit of a disconnected feel in panic braking, as the Envista seemed a little slow to respond. Still, stable 120-foot stops from 60 miles-per-hour rates good.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 28-City, 32-Highway, and 30-Combined; but we averaged a great 32.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular in our driving loop.
That’s a better than average Energy Impact Score, using 9.9-barrels of oil yearly with CO2 emissions of 4.9-tons.
Pricing starts at $23,495, and reaches $29,695 for Avenir. Obviously sticking with base to mid-level will get you the best value, but the top Avenir makes the premium case just about as well as any rival, and makes for legitimate cross shopping with an awful lot of non-luxury brands. Though no all-wheel-drive will surely be a deal breaker in northern climes.
You may have noticed there’s no longer a circle around Buick’s tri-shield logo, and much like they’ve visually set the shields free, Buick has unleashed their designers to make a statement in the small crossover segment. All in all, we’d say the 2024 Buick Envista is a great effort, continuing the Buick tradition of making premium vehicles attainable. If this is what they can do with their entry-level model, we can’t wait to see what comes next. And it sure is good looking.
- Engine: 1.2-liter I-3 turbo
- Horsepower: 137
- 0-60 mph: 9.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 120 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 32.9 mpg (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Torque: 162 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 16.8-seconds at 81 mph
- EPA: 28 City / 32 Highway / 30 Combined