Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test: 2016 Mazda CX-3 GT - June Update

One month in and we’ve put some serious kilometres on our cute little Mazda long-term tester. 3,503 in fact. Two big road trips, one with the whole family in tow and one solo only enhanced my adoration for this little rig. 

There are a few niggles popping up. For example, the navigation screen crashed on me while I was on the second of those road trips. Apparently turning off the car while I was mid-menu caused it to have a minor kerfuffle. I was in the middle of the “Find Points of Interest Nearby” screen when I saw something outside the car I wanted to look at and turned the car off. When I turned the car back on, the navigation screen went blank and stayed blank. Only after I ejected the SD card and put it back in did the nav system reset. It hasn’t happened again since. 

In fact it puts some more expensive cars to absolute shame. 

The infotainment system also mysteriously lost the Sirius XM subscription for a short while but has now come back after I reset the subscription code. I don’t know if this issue is a Sirius issue or a Mazda issue. 

I also can’t figure out how to turn the rear interior light on without also turning on the front set – which meant I couldn’t let Maddie use the light to read as we drove home in the dark. Speaking of, Maddie pointed out that there are no cupholders for her back there. There’s no fold-down armrest or anything, the middle seat is simply solid. This and the lack of an armrest console are two “cheap outs” that I think are excessive.

And that’s a real shame, because everywhere else the CX-3 feels anything but cheap. In fact it puts some more expensive cars to absolute shame. 

The suede inserts in the door are a particular pleasure of mine, and the leather seats are white, but somehow manage to repel stains beautifully. So far I’ve challenged them with hot chocolate, a mango smoothie and a raspberry ring pop – one spray of interior cleaner and a wipe with a microfibre cloth sorted the problem every time. Bill Clinton would have been home free. 

Far more importantly, the ride is refined and smooth. I took the CX-3 on a jaunt around the back roads of Eastern Ontario, winding roads with elevation changes, surface changes and unexpected dips, potholes and bumps. 

From the beginning: ArrivalJune Supplement, July, August, September, October, Wrap-Up

The harder I drove the more confidence I was rewarded with. The suspension performed flawlessly, absorbing every anomaly in the tarmac without shifting track, providing solid feedback through the steering wheel for the driver and delivering clear, precise demands to the tires from the driver. We were asked in the forum about pitch and squat, and while the CX-3 definitely takes a set before moving ahead towards the apex it does so in a way that inspires confidence. 

We were also asked in the forums about the rear suspension, which is officially listed by Mazda as torsion beam. As our forum pointed out, you can’t usually have a torsion beam and a driven rear axle. Mazda confirmed it is indeed a torsion beam, with some configuration changes to support the AWD layout. Images of the rear suspension for FWD and AWD models are in the slideshow at the top of the page. 

Regardless, Brendan McAleer drove the CX-3 GX FWD edition and reported similar road holding and enjoyable driving characteristics we’re finding in this long-term tester.

Out on the twisty roads I finally put the car in Sport mode. In the city I found it was too aggressive at holding the lower gears, at one point revving around 4,000 rpm just on a highway stretch. On these roads the automatic did a fantastic job of keeping me in the best possible rev range despite having a lowly six gears to play with. Silly Mazda, don’t you know you need nine these days? 

I played with the paddles a tad and found they performed rapid, compliant downshifts deep into the tach, at one point it even allowed me a shift to second just 1,000 revs shy of the cut out. Upshifts were quick too, but I’m embarrassed to admit at one point I got tired of the paddles and let the car sort it all out. I had no reason not too, the automatic does a brilliant job in sport mode and I never once experience a mid-corner downshift or awkward lugging moment – when I wanted power, I got it. 

This is particularly impressive given the 146 hp and 146 lb-ft torque figures. They are large numbers if you’re counting pints, but not when you’re counting power. I didn’t notice the lack on the back roads, but passing on the highway makes me wish for a little more grunt. I don’t mind spooling up the willing little power plant but some people will not enjoy having to wring its neck to get around the obstinate caravan ahead.

In future updates we’ll have more information on the CX-3’s off-road ability, including some more updates on the interior hold-up and some of your other questions. 

For now though, I’m off to find some corners.

Pricing: 2016 Mazda CX-3 GT with Technology Package
Base Price (GX): $20,695
Base Price (GT): $28,995
Options: $1,500 (Techology Package: Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and satellite radio)
A/C Tax: $100
Freight and PDI: $1,895
Price as Tested: $32,490