When we last met the Mazda CX-3, we praised its ability to bring Mazda style fun and flair to a segment that is steadily getting more and more crowded with entries from various automakers. With the segment also booming in sales and overall demand, choosing the right CUV for your driveway can be the most important decision many growing families face. With that said, does the Mazda CX-3 still have what it takes to win a spot in your driveway? To find out we went behind the wheel of a second CX-3, and crunched the numbers to see how it fares against three of its key rivals.
2017 Mazda CX-3 vs 2016 Fiat 500X/Jeep Renegade
Starting off the first of our two comparisons is the Mazda’s battle against the 2016 Fiat 500X and its platform mate the Jeep Renegade. Both the 500X and the Renegade are crucial to the sales goals of their respective brands, with the 500X in particular a key pillar in righting Fiat’s ailing sales ship. When viewed side by side, the Mazda CX-3 has the edge in overall aesthetics with the Renegade’s mini Jeep design elements being impaired by some of the awkward dimensions that were carried over from its 500L roots. The 500X on the other hand embraces the 500 hatchback’s basic design language, but doesn’t pull off the look as well, with some of the angles appearing bloated and awkwardly placed.
The Mazda also has an edge over the twins in interior refinement with our Dynamic Blue Grand Touring grade tester featuring tastefully applied leather accents as well as soft interior plastics. The Renegade’s interior holds up surprisingly well, but the plastics fall just short of the Mazda’s. However, the Renegade makes up for it by offering buyers a more function oriented layout, and its back seat outshines the CX-3’s in overall leg room. As for the 500X, it also outclasses the CX-3 in rear seat room, but some buyers might not like the limited amenities on hand, as well as Fiat’s take on interior design. The CX-3 also offers several driver assistance technologies including heads up display, lane keep assist, as well as forward collision alert.
When it comes to performance the FCA duo have an edge in overall horsepower with the CX-3’s engine only mustering 146 horsepower versus the 184 horsepower generated by the 2.4 liter Tigershark engine equipped to higher grade Renegade and 500X models. However, this is only one part of the story, and the CX-3 manages to standout in other categories. For instance, while the Renegade in Trailhawk guise has the edge off the beaten path, the CX-3’s handling prowess on formal tarmac makes it stand out when pushed hard as does its high levels of steering feedback and minimal body roll.
2017 Mazda CX-3 vs 2017 Buick Encore
While the very thought of a comparison between a Buick and a Mazda may seem a bit of a stretch at first, a closer look at what each CUV has to offer reveals that the two are actually very close to each other in equipment and price. Unlike our prior comparison with the FCA twins, we chose to not include its platform sibling the Chevrolet Trax due to its lower price point as well as its more budget oriented interior.
As expected, the Encore loses against the CX-3 when equipped with the base 1.4 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine which is good for a rather modest 138 horsepower. However things get interesting when it is equipped with the optional SIDI equipped variant of the 1.4 liter which makes 158 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. These figures are higher than the Mazda’s, and help the Buick gain an early lead in stoplight sprints. It also matches the Mazda in overall gear count for its transmission, but the gearing in the Buick is aimed more towards fuel economy than outright performance, and it doesn’t offer a formal sport mode for drivers looking for more fun in their daily commute, a plus for the Mazda.
The interiors of both CUVs are reflective of their size, but the Buick notches a win here thanks to its higher grade materials as well as some of the updates that made their way to the cabin for 2017. This includes its revised gauge cluster with an all new color TFT screen as well as the revamped Intellilink infotainment system. The CX-3’s interior is nicely equipped in its own right and offers heads-up display (something that is not found in the Buick at any trim level) but our distaste for the tacky looking faux carbon fiber accents is still strong, and the screen for its infotainment system is non-touch with inputs and selections done via a separate controller knob. The Mazda however makes up for this by having more supportive seats which are a step up over the Encore’s more comfort oriented thrones. Pricing wise, our $28,810 tester is stickered higher than the Encore’s Preferred II trim, but undercuts both the Essence and Premium trims which could lure budget conscious CUV buyers to the CX-3 Grand Touring and its impressive spreadsheet of equipment.
Ultimately buyer tastes will serve as the final deciding factor in a purchase but as this comparison shows, the 2017 CX-3 still has what it takes to stand out in this ultra competitive segment, and should be a compelling alternative to more mainstream entries in a sales race that is expected to only get hotter and more competitive over the next few years.