By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – Although it is early in this generation of the Mazda CX-3’s model cycle, the automaker made a few changes to keep the current rendition fresh in its offerings for the hot small crossover market.
They made a lot of under the sheet-metal improvements. They added what they’ve branded Smart City Brake Support as standard equipment on all trim lines. Other improvements included Standard G-Vectoring control, automatic on/off headlights on some models, others got rain sensing windshield wipers, automatic climate controls and the GT premium package now includes six-way power seats, power driver lumbar supports, driver seat memory, heated steering wheel and traffic sign recognition.
They also recalibrated the suspension, transmission and steering for improved performance, ride comfort and less noise, vibration and harshness. Additional sound insulation and thicker rear glass were used for a quieter ride and there was a new steering wheel design for an easier grip.
The CX-3 had a bold look and like most Mazdas it had a long snout and expressive grille. It stacked seven fins with available silver-painted front edges to create an expression of concentrated energy that flows horizontally. The grille was as Mazda put it stout and three-dimensional looking as if it was machined from solid metal.
The headlamp layout positions the turn signals outside the main headlamp unit to create a narrow, sharp design that looks as if they were eyes gazing forward. The tips of the grille extend into the headlamps with an integrated available LED illumination line. This connects seamlessly with the lighting signature that surrounds the low beams, accentuating CX-3’s taut lines.
The interior offered a high-quality and sophisticated feel like every Mazda. A new steering wheel design updated the CX-3 and enhanced the sporty feel of the drive and the quality of the interior. Its spokes are thinner and better-shaped for a more comfortable grip.
The surrounding character line and relatively high beltline, along with the deeply sculpted three-dimensional form of the door trim, create a comforting atmosphere for front-seat passengers.
All information displays and control systems were positioned toward the driver based on Mazda’s “Head-Up Cockpit” concept. Each part had been refined to provide the interior with a polished, high-quality feel.
There was a dark red accent color used on the door trim armrests, the floor console kneepads and the sharp form of the inner door handle bezels. Fine piping has been added where the different coordinated seat materials meet, such as the
Parchment leather and contrasting Lux Suede offering in my Grand Touring trim line.
The car had a 146 horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that sent a matching 146 pound-feet of torque to the pavement. I had an all-wheel-drive Grand Touring model.
This combination was silent and smooth. It is difficult to have one without the other. Power was adequate but a couple of times when getting on the Lodge Freeway I tried to accelerate quickly and the response could have been a little bit better.
The 2018 Mazda CX-3 handled well. The transmission was decisive, downshifts were imperceptible and I never put it in manual shift mode. Steering was great, the CX-3 went exactly where it was pointed.
It was a very comfortable interior. The car had a smart key with push button start and stop. The infotainment system included Bluetooth phone pairing and voice controls. Since the satellite radio was not operating, I connected my phone and streamed Pandora. It was simple.
The backseats were comfortable. There was plenty of head space and leg room. Two people could ride comfortably but three I think would be a bit cramped.
Winter arrived (again) during my test drive and temperatures dropped to less than 30 degrees with snow. I appreciated the CX-3’s heated seats and heated steering wheel. What’s more, the all-wheel-drive afforded me some security. Not once did the car slip as the roads iced over.
There was also a moonroof and this Grand Touring trim line of the CX-3 had LED lights all-round: taillights, headlights, daytime running lights and fog lights. For $29,615 as tested, I thought it was a pretty good deal.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com