Small is the key word here, as in, there’s not a lot of room in these vehicles. Before committing to the Mazda3 or the Mazda CX-3, you need to get in them and drive and determine if the size and comfort level meet your standards for how you live your life.
From my perspective, these types of vehicles work best as vehicles for single people, or those who generally only use the front seats. They’re definitely not aimed at families, but if the family needs a commuter car that’s good on gas mileage and won’t be transporting large groups of people, it’s also an option.
Both The Mazda3 and the Mazda CX-3 have sharp external designs, and when properly optioned can offer high quality materials on the interior -- more so than I would have expected from Mazda.
On the CX-3, the front seat has plenty of legroom but was never truly comfy for myself at 6 feet tall. Also, the back seat is mostly useless if front passengers are tall. Other space issues in the CX-3 were that it offered limited storage space up front for your keys, wallet, phone and drinks; and limited trunk space too.
The Mazda3 is slightly longer, so both the front and rear were more comfortable, but not by much. I took a drive in the Mazda3 with the max of 5 passengers, and it was pretty tight. I would only recommend for short trips. Every day, it’s best for front seat passengers only, and small kids in back. Trunk space is also better on the Mazda3 than in the CX-3.
HOW’S THE RIDE?
First let’s talk power plants.
The 2018 CX-3 comes with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, offering 146 horsepower.
The 2018 Mazda3 comes with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, offering 155 horsepower; or a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder offering 184 horsepower. So the 3 wins the battle here.
The base version of the Mazda3 comes with a manual transmission, whereas the CX-3 is only automatic in the U.S.A.
The Mazda3 is front-wheel drive only; whereas the CX-3 can be FWD or AWD, an advantage to the CX-3.
The best attribute of the CX-3 is the sporty ride you’ll find on all Mazdas. Let it loose on an open road or a nice windy and you’ll absolutely love the experience. All movements feel natural, nothing forced. And the use of Sport mode enhances things further.
The same thing can be said about the Mazda3, which offers arguably the best driving experience among the many compact sedans it competes with -- though some others do come close so it’s worth cross-shopping to be sure.
First off, even those these vehicles are small the safety ratings are still through the roof, with near-perfect government ratings.
The CX-3 and the 3 both offered a variety of modern safety features, including the helpful blind spot monitoring system. But some of them could be a bit annoying at times (for example, the loud and jarring noise when you cross a lane line could have been tampered down a bit in my humble opinion; it’s a bit of a jolt.).
The infotainment system is pretty simplistic but it works well and is easy to figure out. It’s operated from a dial in the center console, and while that might not be everyone’s favorite setup I rather like it. It allows me to keep my eyes on the road, so it serves many functions. The optional Heads-up Display was another helpful safety feature to keep your eyes trained toward where they need to be.
Voice controls were also impressive and worked well for navigation, and a strong Bose sound system is offered.
Mazda works hard to shed weight from their vehicles so fuel mileage is maximized.
On the CX-3, official numbers are 27 city/32 highway/29 combined. In my time in the CX-3 I managed about 29.1, which is right on track.
For the Mazda3, official numbers are 27 city/36 highway/30 combined. I averaged 28.7 mpg in my real-world driving experience.
The 2018 Mazda CX-3 I tested was at the higher end and came in at $29,615 (base price starts at $20,110); The 2018 Mazda3 I tested cost $27,070 (base price starts at $18,095). Especially at the lower end, those are very good prices.
In some ways Mazda’s CX-3 (now in its third year of existence) is a bit inferior to the 3, but if you like the SUV styling and higher ride height, you may go for it over the 3 anyway.
The Mazda3 is one of best pure driving machines in its class, and is more affordable than would be expected. The weakest point is tight space for back seat passengers,, and I would have preferred less trunk and more rear seat room.
But either way you choose, if you go with a 2018 Mazda3 or a Mazda CX-3 I can guarantee that you’ll enjoy the ride, wherever you may be going.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.