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2021 Mazda CX-3 Overview

The Mazda CX-3, a subcompact crossover, was introduced for the 2016 model year and refreshed for 2019. It carries over pretty much unchanged for 2021—with the exception of one new standard safety feature. Its competition includes the Hyundai Kona, Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, and, from within its own family, the recently introduced Mazda CX-30.

Like all subcompact crossovers, the Mazda CX-3 looks like a lifted small hatchback, but the CX-3 is one of the more successful formulas in this area, particularly in available Soul Red Crystal paint, which really highlights the CX-3’s sweeping side profile. It’s a charmer, and the standard LED headlights add an upscale look.

Every CX-3 gets a modest but capable 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and the choice of front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). The engine is rated for 148 horsepower. FWD models are rated for 29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. With AWD, that drops by 2 mpg per measure. These are some of the best ratings in the class. Handling is where the CX-3 really shines. It’s the most agile model in the class, with crisp steering and great cornering ability.

The CX-3’s trim lineup has been pared down to just the Sport model. The cabin is elegant and of near-luxury design and quality, though there are fewer upgrades available than in previous years. Automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, remote keyless entry, and push-button start come standard. An auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, and ambient lighting are optional.

The Mazda Connect infotainment system features a 7-inch touchscreen and a rotary knob controller, as well as Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo system, and voice recognition. Again, there aren’t any notable upgrades.

The 2021 CX-3 earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Standard safety features include a reversing camera, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlights with automatic high-beams, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a head-up display (HUD). Night pedestrian detection now comes standard as part of the automatic emergency braking system, along with daytime pedestrian detection. Rear parking sensors are optional.

The Mazda CX-3 isn’t the most value-oriented model in a segment where pricing is especially important, but it’s one of the most stylish and offers better driving dynamics than most competitors.


Cherise is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor with nearly 15 years of experience covering the automotive industry. Cherise loves writing about car culture and sharing common-sense car-buying advice. She owns a 2019 Subaru WRX Series.Gray, 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT, 2007 Genuine Buddy Italia 150, 2015 Honda Grom, and 1979 Boston Whaler Montauk.

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