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2020 Mazda CX-3 Review

The 2020 Mazda CX-3 may be a victim of its own success. Introduced just a few years back, the CX-3 became part of a larger trend toward fuel-efficient subcompact crossovers. Unfortunately for the little Mazda, many of its competitors offered more powerful engines, a roomier interior and more features. So, with the introduction of the all-new Mazda CX-30, the CX-3 is reduced to a simple entry-level model probably not much longer for this world. However, for those who don’t care or need any of the above-mentioned attributes, the 2020 CX-3 is still a compelling value story.

In its favor, the CX-3 sits low to the ground, helping it to better negotiate sharp corners and remain poised during emergency maneuvers. Although pulled by its front wheels, the CX-3 can be equipped with all-wheel drive, making it an even more desirable asset in places where snow is a frequent occurrence. While no powerhouse, the lightweight CX-3 nevertheless offers spirited performance, and its handling and fuel economy rate among the best in its class. Inside, the Mazda CX-3 delivers one of the most tasteful, well-appointed interiors of any small SUV, although the fixed infotainment screen atop the dash has drawn some criticism for its design and function. Rear-seat legroom may be in short supply compared with the Honda HR-V, but there’s more than in a Toyota C-HR.

What’s New for 2020?

For 2020, the CX-3 model line is reduced to a single trim: the Sport. Some of the previous year’s Touring and Grand Touring features are moved to the Sport trim without a drastic increase in price. See the 2020 Mazda CX-3 models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Racy exterior styling
  • Handsome interior with excellent build quality
  • Available AWD
  • Sports-carlike handling
  • Good fuel economy
  • Advanced collision-avoidance systems

What We Don’t

  • Tiny rear seat
  • Limited cargo space
  • Weak engine
  • Narrow side glass makes a guessing game out of parallel parking
  • Annoying center controller for audio and navigation

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The CX-3 is powered by a 2.0-liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder engine that’s good for 146 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic with a manual shift mode. Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive model is 29 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. AWD models see fuel economy figures drop to 27 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The CX-3 is offered in just one, well-equipped Sport trim.

The CX-3 Sport ($21,740 FWD, $23,140 AWD) includes Advanced Smart City Brake Support autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, auto high beam control, rain-sensing wipers, 16-in alloy wheels, power operation for the mirrors, windows and door locks, auto-off LED headlights with auto leveling, adaptive front headlights, a rear wiper/washer, automatic climate control, a 6-speaker AM/FM audio with a 7-in touchscreen display and Mazda Connect infotainment, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary input jacks, keyless entry, push-button start, adaptive cruise control, electronic parking brake, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, an exterior temperature display and a rear backup camera.


Standard safety features for the CX-3 include hill-launch assist, front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, Advanced Smart City Brake Support, electronic traction and stability control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a tire-pressure monitor.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Mazda CX-3 top marks in every crash-test category and awarded it a Top Safety Pick rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also gives the CX-3 five stars overall but issued a “safety concern” warning in the side-impact test. Apparently, due to the intrusion of the left rear door during the side-impact test, the interior door panel struck the torso of the rear passenger dummy, causing rapid lower spine acceleration. In certain conditions exceeding 82g’s, there is a higher likelihood of thoracic injury.

Behind the Wheel

If the 2020 Mazda CX-3 has one clear advantage over its competition, it’s the way it drives. If you throw a Honda HR-V or a Chevrolet Trax into a curve, you’ll get a little bit of lean and a lot of tire squeal. If you do the same in a CX-3, you’ll discover an SUV that hugs the pavement and delivers a precise steering response worthy of the Mazda brand. The CX-3’s low ride height helps with handling but may hinder plans to do any light off-road adventuring. Though not big on power, the CX-3’s 2.0-liter engine can motivate it to reach 60 miles per hour in about 8 seconds, which is about 1 second faster than the HR-V and the Trax.

We found the CX-3’s cabin to be extremely appealing, with an excellent layout and high-end materials throughout. The front seats are snug, but they hold the driver firmly in place during spirited drives. Unfortunately, the CX-3’s rear seat is barely fit for two adults, with little in the way of generous head- or legroom. Similarly, cargo space with the rear seat up is pretty minuscule. Even with the rear seat folded, the CX-3 can’t swallow a mountain bike or larger items, a feat easily pulled off by its main rival, the Honda HR-V.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Honda HR-V — The HR-V delivers a softer ride. It also has more ground clearance and a larger, more functional cabin, although the HR-V’s interior isn’t as handsome and its acceleration not as quick.

2020 Toyota C-HR — The C-HR offers similar power and fuel economy figures, but a bit more front-seat legroom and a much more expressive exterior. However, the C-HR doesn’t offer an AWD option.

2020 Hyundai Kona — The Kona offers more interior room, more features and a more powerful turbocharged engine. It also comes standard with a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Used Mazda CX-5 A used 2015-2018 Mazda CX-5 will give you the same sporty Mazda ride and look, but in a vehicle that’s better suited to light off-road use. The CX-5 also delivers more interior and cargo space and, on models with the 2.5-liter engine, considerably more power.

Autotrader’s Advice

With only one trim this year, the only decision you’ll have to make is whether to go with FWD or AWD. Find a Mazda CX-3 for sale

Our editors are here to make car buying easier. We’ve driven, reviewed and compared thousands of cars. We’ve bought and sold more than our fair share, too. And as part of the sprawling Cox Automotive group of companies, we have exclusive access to a range of valuable data and insights. Whether you’re looking for the best car, the best deal or the best buying advice, you can trust... Read More about Autotrader

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