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
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.
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.
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