$14,888 - $19,492

2018 Mazda CX-3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 Mazda CX-3 was new.


Performance: 8.8

If you're looking for thrills behind the wheel of a subcompact crossover, search no further than the 2018 Mazda CX-3. With energetic acceleration, a slick-shifting transmission, and sporty handling, the CX-3 is likely the best model in the class when it comes to performance. The CX-3 also has exceptional fuel economy and a smooth ride.

  • "Performance is a CX-3 strong point. This is the most fun crossover to drive in this segment. Although it feels slow compared to most cars these days, it's actually 'speedy' among subcompact crossovers. Handling is sharp and responsive, and it's easy to drive the CX-3 in the city." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2016 Mazda CX-3 handled everything we threw at it with aplomb. Its steering had a satisfying heft to it, the firm but composed suspension tuning made for supremely balanced handling, and the CX-3's overall fluidity and confidence made us want to keep driving it with gusto. It's yet another Mazda that skyrockets to the top of its class in terms of driving pleasure and enjoyment." -- Automobile Magazine (2016)
  • "The Mazda CX-3 is compact, lightweight, and efficient, all of which makes it a pleasure to drive. … No matter the drivetrain, the CX-3 drives well." -- Motor Trend (2016)

Acceleration and Power

The only powertrain available in the 2018 CX-3 is a 146-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Compared to other subcompact SUVs, the CX-3 accelerates quickly off the line. The engine can be noisy if you really floor the gas pedal. The transmission efficiently uses the engine's power, and it makes timely shifts. Some models have steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters that let you choose when to change gears.

The front-wheel-drive CX-3 earns some of the highest fuel economy estimates in the class: 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. All-wheel-drive models lose 2 mpg in both city and highway driving.

  • "It's one of the peppiest powertrains in the subcompact SUV class – especially when pulling away from a stop." -- Consumer Guide
  • "We wish Mazda offered the slick 6-speed manual from the Mazda3, but the standard multi-gear automatic does a good job getting power to the wheels when needed. Opt for the GT trim and you'll gain steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • The Mazda's 146-hp engine isn't quite as energetic, offering decent thrust but getting somewhat buzzy above 4,000 rpm. Still, the CX-3's acceleration is better than average and is aided by a surprisingly responsive and crisp-shifting six-speed automatic." -- Edmunds (2017)

Handling and Braking

The CX-3 really shines when the road gets curvy. It has poised handling through turns, and the responsive steering gives you plenty of feedback from the road. When you're not having fun on twisty roads, the ride is comfortable enough for daily driving. The CX-3 comes standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is available.

  • "While no speed demon, the subcompact CX-3 reminds us that adept handling and communicative steering can be just as satisfying as an abundance of horsepower." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Steering feels perfectly natural. It's nicely weighted, and there's good feedback through the wheel. The CX-3 turns in quickly without ever feeling twitchy and feels just as light and small as it is." -- Edmunds
  • "The ride is pleasantly compliant for commutes, the amount of feedback from the electric power steering would make some BMWs blush, and the overall comportment is balanced and responsive." -- Car and Driver (2016)

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