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2020 Mazda CX-3 Review

The 2020 Mazda CX-3 offers engaging handling, decent acceleration, and good fuel economy, but it sits in the middle of our subcompact SUV rankings because of its cramped rear seat and below-average cargo space.

Pros & Cons

  • Lively handling
  • Long list of standard features
  • Upscale interior
  • Cramped rear seat
  • Below-average cargo space for class

New for 2020

  • Touring and Grand Touring trims discontinued
  • Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • i-Activsense driver assistance features now standard

Rankings & Research

The 2020 Mazda CX-3's #8 ranking is based on its score within the Subcompact SUVs category. Currently the Mazda CX-3 has a score of 7.3 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 36 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.3

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.1
Performance: 8.4
Interior: 5.2
Safety: 9.8
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Is the Mazda CX-3 a Good SUV?

Yes, the Mazda CX-3 is a good subcompact SUV. This Mazda is one of the most fun-to-drive small crossovers around, thanks to its responsive steering, spry acceleration, and firm brakes. The CX-3 also returns great fuel economy, its cabin is upscale, and its infotainment features are mostly user-friendly.

The CX-3's downsides, however, could well put off many SUV shoppers. The rear seat is a tight squeeze for adults, and the cargo hold is small, even for this class.

Should I Buy the Mazda CX-3?

The CX-3 is an attractive value proposition and worth buying if you prioritize a fun driving experience. It costs less than many rivals and comes standard with a long list of standard features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also comes with a multitude of active safety features.

If you need a roomier cabin or more cargo space than what you can get in the CX-3, check out the Honda HR-V. Also consider the Hyundai Kona, which ranks high in the class and nearly matches the CX-3's lively driving personality.

Compare the CX-3, HR-V, and Kona »

Should I Buy a New or Used Mazda CX-3?

Mazda makes some notable changes to the CX-3 for 2020, making the new CX-3 an attractive choice. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are new additions, and both come standard. Driver assistance features that were previously optional in the i-Activsense package are also now standard. These features include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive headlights, a head-up display, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

Also for 2020, Mazda drops the Touring and top-spec Grand Touring trims from the CX-3 lineup. Many of the features that came in these trims for 2019 – including navigation, leather upholstery, and a moonroof – are now available in the all-new 2020 CX-30.

The 2020 CX-3 belongs to a generation that debuted for the 2016 model year. There were no major updates for 2017, but the 2018 CX-3 received an updated suspension and standard low-speed automatic emergency braking, along with available features like a heated steering wheel and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. Mazda refreshed the CX-3 for 2019, giving it a bit more horsepower, a restyled exterior, and front and rear center armrests.

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 CX-3 and 2019 CX-3 reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used cars.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 CX-3 »

We Did the Research for You: 34 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 34 Mazda CX-3 reviews – along with reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2020 CX-3 is the right new car for you.

This 2020 CX-3 review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2016.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined automotive industry experience. To remain objective, we don't accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside team manages the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Mazda CX-3 Cost?

The 2020 Mazda CX-3 starts at $20,640, which is a little below average for a subcompact SUV. With only one trim, don't expect a lot of variance in prices for a new CX-3.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great deals at your local Mazda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mazda deals page.

Mazda CX-3 Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V?

The Mazda CX-3 and the Honda HR-V sit close to each other in our subcompact SUV rankings, but they have some stark differences. The Mazda drives with much more enthusiasm than the Honda, which has lackluster engine power. On the other hand, the HR-V is one of the most spacious subcompact SUVs around. Its second row can comfortably hold adults, and it has about double the cargo space of the CX-3, with a maximum of almost 60 cubic feet.

You'll get more standard features in the CX-3, including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring. Both of these SUVs have similar starting prices. You should go with whichever vehicle best fits your needs.

Which Is Better: Mazda CX-3 or Hyundai Kona?

The Hyundai Kona has a lot of strengths, which is why it finishes near the top of our subcompact SUV rankings. It has one of the nicest interiors in the segment, as well as a user-friendly infotainment setup, besting the CX-3 in both of those areas. You'll get about 7 extra cubic feet of cargo space behind the Kona's rear seat, though the Hyundai and the Mazda have about the same maximum cargo volume.

The Mazda is the benchmark for handling in the class, but the Hyundai isn't far behind thanks to its pleasing blend of agility and comfort. Unlike the CX-3, the Kona gives you a choice of four-cylinder engines, including an impressive turbocharged variant. When it comes down to it, the CX-3 and Kona are more alike than they are different. However, if you like the CX-3, you'll probably like the Kona more.

Compare the CX-3, HR-V, and Kona »

CX-3 Interior

How Many People Does the CX-3 Seat?

The Mazda CX-3 seats five. The front two seats are comfortable, and there's enough head- and legroom for taller drivers and passengers. This crossover's side doors make it easy to get into and out of the car.

The back seat offer adequate headroom for average-sized adults, but that's about its only positive. You'll probably have to duck your head to get in, and legroom is very limited. You can pretty much forget about sitting three adults back there.

CX-3 and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the CX-3’s rear outboard seats, as well as a tether-only connection for the rear middle seat, which has the ability to borrow the lower anchors from both sides. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this LATCH system the second-highest rating of Acceptable for ease of use. The lower anchors are set deep in the seats, but once you find them, it's easy to attach the car-seat straps.

CX-3 Interior Quality

The CX-3's cabin is full of impressive materials, and everything comes together in a pleasing, modern design. You might notice harder plastics on some surfaces, but that's par for the course in this budget-focused crossover class.

CX-3 Cargo Space

There's less cargo space in the CX-3 than in most subcompact SUVs. You get just 12.4 cubic feet behind the second row, a volume comparable to the trunk size of some smaller sedans. In short, if the car is full of people, you won’t have a lot of room for their stuff.

Lower the standard 60/40-split-folding rear seats to open up 44.5 cubic feet of space. That figure stacks up better against the maximum volumes of the rest of the class, but it's still not a lot.

CX-3 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The CX-3 comes standard with the Mazda Connect infotainment system. You can control the system using the 7-inch touch screen or by using a rotary knob on the center console. This dual-control setup is similar to what you’ll find in some luxury vehicles. The native interface is easy enough to use, but performing some functions require more than a few steps.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration make their debut in the CX-3 for 2020, and both come standard.

Read more about interior »

CX-3 Performance

CX-3 Engine: Just Good Enough

The CX-3 comes with a four-cylinder engine that puts out 148 horsepower. That may not seem like a lot, but its plenty for most driving situations. The CX-3 gets going quickly from a stop, and it has enough muscle for passing and merging at higher speeds. However, if you're already going fast and hit the gas hard, the engine can be a bit noisy.

A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. This gearbox delivers timely shifts that help to make the most of the engine's modest horsepower. A sport mode and a manual-shift mode provide further levels of engagement for more spirited drivers.

CX-3 Gas Mileage: Great for the Class

The standard front-wheel-drive 2020 CX-3 gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. These are some of the best numbers among subcompact SUVs. Models with all-wheel drive come in at 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

CX-3 Ride and Handling: Zip and Dart Around

The CX-3 has what's likely the best handling in its class. This crossover SUV has razor-sharp and responsive steering, and its well-controlled body motions around turns make you feel like you're driving a car that’s lower to the ground. Strong brakes help you take turns with confidence.

A trade-off to this corner-carving prowess is a suspension that's a little on the stiff side. The ride stays mostly comfortable, but you might notice some of the larger bumps in the road when you roll over them.

Read more about performance »

CX-3 Reliability

Is the Mazda CX-3 Reliable?

J.D. Power gives the 2020 Mazda CX-3 a below-average predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five.

Mazda CX-3 Warranty

Mazda covers the CX-3 with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

How Much Does It Cost to Insure a Mazda CX-3?

The cost of insuring a Mazda CX-3 will depend on a variety of factors, including your deductible, the level of coverage that you want, and the type of insurance that you choose. Your age, gender, location, credit score, and driving record can also have an impact on your insurance rates. Check out our car insurance guide to find the best policy for you.

CX-3 Safety

CX-3 Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2020 Mazda CX-3 an overall safety rating of five stars out of five. The CX3 earned five stars in the frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover evaluation. The NHTSA issued an auxiliary safety concern for the CX-3. In side crash testing, the vehicle's door panel struck the rear passenger-side occupant hard enough to possibly cause a serious spinal injury.

The 2020 CX-3 earned the highest rating of Good in all six crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and was named a Top Safety Pick. The CX-3’s standard headlights received the second-lowest rating of Acceptable for how well they illuminate the road ahead. In front crash prevention testing, the CX-3’s standard system earned the top rating of Superior.

CX-3 Safety Features

The 2020 CX-3 comes standard with a full complement of driver assistance technologies. This includes stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive headlights. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, a head-up display, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a rearview camera are also standard.

Read more about safety »

CX-3 Dimensions and Weight

The Mazda CX-3 is 14 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 2,809 to 2,952 pounds.

Where Is the 2020 Mazda CX-3 Built?

Mazda builds the 2020 CX-3 in Japan.

Which Mazda CX-3 Model Is Right for Me?

For 2020, Mazda only offers the CX-3 in the Sport trim level. It comes with a four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available.

This CX-3 is better equipped than the base models of prior years and includes standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. These features were previously not available in the CX-3. Also, the 2020 CX-3 now comes with a long list of advanced safety features.

Mazda CX-3 Sport

The 2020 Mazda CX-3 Sport retails for $20,640. Standard features include automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, manually adjustable front seats, alloy wheels, and an infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, a six-speaker stereo, voice recognition, and a USB port.

The CX-3 also comes standard with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive headlights. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, a head-up display, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a rearview camera are also standard.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mazda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mazda deals page.

See 2020 Mazda CX-3 specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2020 Mazda CX-3 is one of the best-handling subcompact SUVs you can buy. It gets great fuel economy and comes with a long list of features. However, you should shop around if passenger and cargo space are your priorities, as this Mazda comes up short in these areas.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "While it has a higher seating position than the Mazda 3 hatchback, it has a smaller back seat and less cargo space. Thankfully, this runt of an SUV retains the company's upper-class styling and high-fidelity driving experience." -- Car and Driver
  • "[The] Mazda CX-3 is a standout for its evocative exterior design and sporty driving dynamics. … Combined with strong fuel economy numbers and a comprehensive list of available advanced safety features, the … Mazda CX-3 deserves your consideration in an ever-growing class." -- Edmunds (2019)
  • The CX-3 remains one of the most engaging choices among its peers, thanks to a rare athletic quality in the chassis and an equally exceptional classiness to the cabin. Naturally, there are strong competitors. The Honda HR-V, for example, has more interior space and useful seating/cargo versatility. The Hyundai Kona has fresh design plus a tempting price/equipment proposition. … However, for the complete package of styling, dynamics, safety, purchase price and resale values, the … CX-3 makes a solid case." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)
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