All-new 2016 Mazda CX-3: The small crossover that’s a fun driving machine

The distinctive Mazda front end helps the looks of this mini crossover and gives a bit of an upscale vibe.  (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The look of the new CX-3 is all Mazda — mostly a cross between the CX-5 crossover and the five-door Mazda 3 compact.  (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The smaller size means that inside space is at a premium. A fifth person is a tight squeeze, but four is OK. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The cargo area has a high floor, so the cargo area isn’t very large compared with others in this class. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The controls for the radio and other functions are behind the shifter and mostly easy to use, but the volume control is hard to reach with the center armrest in the way.  (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The front seats are sporty-looking and a bit firm but never uncomfortable. The rest of the materials are mostly good-looking, but there is heavy use of hard plastics in the cabin.  (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The CX-3 looks like a shrunken crossover with a more compact look than even other competitors in this small crossover market.  (WTOP/Mike Parris)
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WASHINGTON — The compact crossover market, which seemingly sprung from nowhere just a few years ago, has grown so quickly that many manufactures are racing to introduce new vehicles as quickly as possible.

One of the latest entries is from Mazda with its new CX-3, which comes at a starting price of around $20,000 for front-wheel drive, or AWD that adds about $1,250 more to any trim level. The big difference with Mazda is, they set up their cars for a more fun driving experience. Did they succeed, again?

Lately, my driveway has been a holding area for compact crossovers. I had several at the same time, which really allowed me to see that the CX-3 is taking the goal of fun driving to heart. But there is no manual transmission available.

The Mazda is a good drive for just 146 hp; it’s not very fast, but it seems peppy and eager to rev. It also seems quicker than it really is, but a few more horsepower would be nice.

The ride is a bit more firm than some other small crossovers, but it doesn’t mind being tossed around, and you can have a bit of fun, too. There’s a little more road noise than some other crossovers; it’s nothing much, though, and lets in some more of the road experience. My touring AWD model is rated 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. I only managed 27 mpg over a week and 221 miles of mixed driving on regular fuel.

The look of the new CX-3 is all Mazda, and mostly a cross between the CX-5 crossover and the five-door Mazda 3 compact. The distinctive Mazda front end of late helps the looks of this mini crossover and gives a bit of an upscale vibe.

The rest of the CX-3 looks like a shrunken crossover, with a more compact look than even other competitors in this small crossover market. Small 16-inch wheels are a boon for soaking the bumps, but the larger 18-inch wheel on the upper trim level models look better.

A fifth person is a tight squeeze, but four is OK. The cargo area has a high floor, so it isn’t very large and falls short compared to others in this class.

The front seats are sporty-looking and a bit firm, but never uncomfortable. The rest of the materials are mostly good-looking but there is heavy use of hard plastics in the cabin. The controls for the radio and other functions are behind the shifter and mostly easy to use, but the volume control is hard to reach with the center armrest in the way.

The new Mazda CX-3 is a sportier offering in the new compact crossover class that car manufacturers seem to be rushing to get in on. If your top oriority is the driving experience and a sportier ride, the new CX-3 deserves a close look.

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