2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Mazda CX-3 (Mazda North American Operations)

The Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 are all-new for 2016, and they currently occupy the top two spots in our affordable subcompact SUV rankings. Both vehicles have a lot to offer, but there are some key differences you should keep in mind as you decide which one is better for you.

Considering only horsepower and fuel economy, the HR-V and CX-3 are pretty much even, but the HR-V holds a big advantage in cargo capacity with over 14 cubic feet more space than the CX-3. Mazda’s subcompact SUV also has base price that’s more than $800 more than the HR-V, but the CX-3 also comes standard with an infotainment system, a 7-inch touch screen and push-button start, all of which will cost you extra if you buy the HR-V.

In terms of available technology, the CX-3 can be equipped with lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support system, which offers forward collision warning and low-speed automatic braking. The HR-V doesn’t offer a similar system, but it is available with Honda’s LaneWatch passenger-side blind spot camera.

Behind the wheel, test drivers report that both the HR-V and CX-3 have adequate power around town, but harder acceleration can feel strained, and in the case of the HR-V, noisy. Critics say the CX-3’s precise steering and agile handling make it one of the most fun-to-drive vehicles in the class. The HR-V, meanwhile, isn’t all that engaging to drive, reviewers note, but it rides comfortably and is composed through turns.

2016 Honda HR-V
2016 Honda HR-V (American Honda Motor Co., Inc.)

Inside, the HR-V and CX-3 have differing strengths and weaknesses. Reviewers love the HR-V’s exceptionally large and versatile cargo area and spacious rear seats, while they’re disappointed with the CX-3’s small storage space and cramped second row. However, critics praise the CX-3’s infotainment system and climate controls for their ease of use, while they criticize the HR-V’s distracting and complicated touch-sensitive audio and climate commands. In terms of cabin materials, the CX-3 has an upscale feel, reviewers say, and the HR-V’s interior build quality is appropriate for the price.

Due to very positive reviews from the automotive press, the Mazda CX-3’s overall score of 8.5 is currently the best in the subcompact SUV class, while the Honda HR-V is just behind with an overall mark of 8.4. Both vehicles deserve your consideration, but if driving fun is on the top of your wish list, the CX-3 is the subcompact SUV for you. On the other hand, if cargo space is a priority or you regularly seat adults in the second row, you’ll be better served by the HR-V.

Interested in buying or leasing a Honda HR-V or Mazda CX-3? Check out the latest Honda and Mazda deals and incentives. When you’re ready to buy, use the U.S. News Best Price Program for guaranteed savings on your new SUV. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.