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U.S. News Best Price Program

2021 Mazda CX-3 Performance Review


Performance: 8.2

The 2021 Mazda CX-3 features a capable and fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine with quick acceleration. The CX-3 handles with great agility and provides a composed, engaging ride for the most part.

  • "Thanks to its subcompact dimensions, the CX-3 is handy in town. It can dart into those gaps in traffic, and it’s easy to park. Despite not being especially quick, the CX-3 still hits 60 mph sooner than a Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota C-HR, or a Nissan Kicks, so that’s one less thing to worry about when merging onto freeways." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Power is more than adequate for typical city driving, and the CX-3 has no issues merging with highway traffic. But once up to speed, passing on the highway, or even maintaining speed on longer uphill grades, requires near maximum throttle. Despite the lack of power, the CX-3 remains one of the better cars to drive in the class. The CX-3's steering makes it easy to guide through fast, flowing turns. But the tires howl even at very modest cornering speeds, putting a damper on how much fun you can have on a deserted winding road." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "Athletic handling and cathartic styling make this one of the most interesting players in the subcompact crossover segment." -- CNET (2019)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Engine: 148-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • Drivetrain: standard front-wheel drive; available all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard six-speed automatic

The CX-3’s engine provides enough power to scoot around town. It’s pretty quick off the line to boot. However, the engine tends to whine loudly when pushing this subcompact Mazda SUV up to highway speeds. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is available.

  • "Running with a mere 148 horsepower, the 2021 CX-3 is not exactly a speed machine. But a well-tuned chassis and precise steering make this Mazda a remarkably pleasant daily driver. This is enhanced by well-timed shifts of the standard 6-speed automatic transmission, which also has Sport and manual modes." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Beneath the CX-3's long snout sits a 146-hp [sic] four-cylinder engine. It's not the most potent four-cylinder engine in this segment. … The engine itself sounds coarse, particularly at high speeds, but its rev-happy nature adds a raciness its rivals lack." -- Car and Driver
  • "Although not big on power, the CX-3’s 2.0-liter engine can push it from standstill to 60 miles per hour in around eight seconds, about a second faster than the HR-V or the Trax." -- Autotrader

MPG Estimates

The CX-3 gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway in its standard front-wheel-drive configuration. Those are great estimates for a subcompact SUV. Adding all-wheel drive drops those estimates to 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

Handling and Braking

With its authoritative, strong brakes and razor-sharp responsive steering, this Mazda allows you to take corners with comfort and confidence. The ride is generally smooth, but its firmer suspension doesn’t mop up road bumps as graciously as some rivals. Front-wheel drive comes standard, and i-Activ all-wheel drive is available.

  • "The 2021 Mazda CX-3 has one clear advantage over its competition. The way it drives. … [The CX-3] grips the road while delivering a precise steering response worthy of the Mazda marque." -- Autotrader
  • "The CX-3 clings to the Mazda brand's sporting ethos and is without a doubt the most athletic offering in this class. Its fun-to-drive character is composed of many elements, including a lively chassis, well-controlled body roll, and masterful suspension tuning that walks the fine line between firm and too firm. It all adds up to a control-enhancing predictability that makes it easy to drive quickly." -- Car and Driver
  • "The CX-3 has nearly ideal steering. It's well-weighted and direct. Steering effort builds just off-center and gets incrementally weightier as the steering angle increases, but it's still manageable at slow speeds." -- Edmunds (2019)
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2021 Mazda CX-3

MSRP: $20,640 - $22,040

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