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 Mazda CX-90
A Force To Be Reckoned With
If you’ve been following Mazda lately, you’ll know they’ve been fielding some serious new designs; you could even say, they’re latest efforts are 10-times better than before. After all, the CX-3 became the CX-30, then CX-5 became the CX-50, and now it’s the CX-9’s turn. So, let’s find out if this all-new CX-90, their largest SUV yet, is a real multiplier or if it’s all just a numbers game.
Don’t think of this 2024 Mazda CX-90 so much as an updated version of the CX-9, as it’s more of a complete rethink of their 3-row crossover, the first built on an all-new, large vehicle platform for the brand. And this platform carries a host of surprises. Not only does it make the CX-90 bigger by every dimension, but it’s a rear-drive architecture, and features all-new powertrains, including the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, and even an inline-6 engine.
Why an inline-6 to replace the CX-9’s turbo-4? Well, in general terms, I6s are better balanced, run smoother, and can deliver more torque at lower RPM. Just ask the BMW faithful, or any of the truckers you see going down the road hauling more than 20-tons of cargo with their inline-6s.
There are 2-versions of the longitudinally mounted 6, both assisted by turbocharging and a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Output for the base Turbo is 280-horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque; this Turbo S cranks it up to 340-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. The PHEV, on the other hand, is based on a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4, working with a 100-kW electric motor to deliver 323-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque. A 17.8-kWh battery delivers 26-miles of EV driving.
It’s not the prettiest SUV, but it does have very smooth body work; plus, the longer hood and 7½-inches of wheelbase stretch over the CX-9, give it more stately proportions. All CX-90s come with i-Activ all-wheel drive and the brand’s first 8-speed automatic transmission; the longer wheelbase allows tow ratings to step up from 3,500-lbs. to 5,000.
At the test track, our Turbo S launched effortlessly with good grip on the way to a 6.4-second 0-60. The smooth vibes continued throughout the ¼-mile, with refined power delivery, seamless shifts, and a noticeably more solid and stable feel at speed than the CX-9. Our best time was 14.7-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour.
Through the cones, it still behaves like a Mazda, with very good steering feel and a solid presence in corners at low to moderate speeds. Some understeer and body roll will show up when pushed hard, but Mazda’s Kinematic Posture Control uses subtle selective braking to help the vehicle rotate, and safety systems will step in well-before it gets out of sorts.
There’s a nice firm feel to the brake pedal, delivering good stopping results of 118-feet from 60 miles-per-hour. You can feel a lot of weight transfer, but nosedive was well contained.
Another unique element the CX-90 brings is seating arrangements for 6,7, or 8. It’s the 8-seater that’s standard with 3-across bench seating for 2nd and 3rd rows. 7-seaters get either captain’s chairs in the 2nd row, or more contoured seats for the 3rd; 6-seaters sport 2nd row captains and the contoured 3rd row. Cargo capacity varies with seating, but is at best 15.9 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 40.1 behind the 2nd, and 75.2 with all seats folded.
As far as what it’s like to actually live with, the CX-90’s cabin is a clear step up, including on some trims suede-like materials, intricate stitching, and real wood, all consistent with what we’ve seen from the brand lately. A 10-inch dashtop touchscreen is standard for infotainment, with upper trims getting a larger 12.3-incher. We applaud Mazda’s inclusion of plenty of old-school manual controls for radio and climate, which keeps menu diving limited to secondary functions. PHEVs get a few unique controls and readouts to monitor drive modes and battery level.
Overall, the CX-90 is highly functional, entertainingly sporty to drive, and will be more competitive in the ever growing 3-row family crossover segment; and its posh interior may even attract luxury buyers on a budget.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Turbo S are 23-City, 28-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a good 26.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Pricing begins with the base Turbo at Select trim for $40,970, PHEVs are available in Preferred trim and above starting at $48,820, and the Turbo S starts at $53,125.
Force multiplier is a military term for when strategic elements come together to produce results greater than would have been possible without them. Well, no high-level math skills are necessary here to see that the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is clearly more than just a much better CX-9; it’s now a force to be reckoned with in the 3-row family crossover segment.
- Engine: 3.3-liter I-6
- Horsepower: 340
- 0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 118 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 26.5 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 369 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.7-seconds at 98 mph
- EPA: 23 City / 28 Highway / 25 Combined
- Starting Price: $40,970