2021 Mazda CX-3

By February 5, 2021

The 2021 Mazda CX-3 is a compact crossover SUV that’s been trimmed down to just a single model offering this year.

With stylish looks and light weight, the CX-3 performs like a well-balanced hatchback; and with available and very affordable all-wheel drive, it adds all-weather capability to its nimble handling.

It provides good acceleration and great gas mileage from its 2.0-liter inline-4 engine. Its clean cabin feels premium with its technology. Last but not least, it gets the top crash scores and comes standard with an uncommon amount of safety equipment.

The CX-3 is EPA-rated at 29 mpg city, 34 highway, 31 combined with standard front-wheel drive, and 2 mpg less with all-wheel drive.

In crash tests it earns five stars from the NHTSA, and the IIHS rates it a Top Safety Pick+.

Its standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, LED headlights, taillights and fog lights, adaptive headlights and automatic high beams.

Model Lineup

Made in Japan, the 2021 Mazda CX-3 costs $21,740 including destination, the all-wheel drive adding $1,400. It comes only in Sport trim, including rugged cloth upholstery, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, keyless start and entry, and the excellent safety features mentioned above.


The CX-3 looks like a lifted Mazda 3 hatchback. The long nose and short overhangs are classic Mazda style, and the body lines rise from the blunt front end over rounded wheel arches into a greenhouse that dips then climbs to the rear.


The cabin is less inspired than the body, but it’s clean and functional in basic black. The brightwork of the three circular vents matches the three climate dials in a way that’s subtly striking.

The cloth on the seats is rugged and durable-looking, unlike some cloth upholstery. The support is decent but manual adjustment limits fine tuning.

Because the CX-3 is fairly small (the main reason for its replacement by the CX-30), cabin space is its biggest drawback. But there’s still an acceptable 17.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 60/40 split rear seats rear seat, which expands to 42.7 cubic feet when that seat is folded. Leg room is good for the car’s size, with 35.0 inches, but head room is lacking.

Driving Impressions

The 2.0-liter inline-4 engine makes 148 hp with good torque. Acceleration is okay, while the torque enables passing without the transmission kicking down too much. It’s a smooth 6-speed automatic. The only problem is that the engine is loud.

With MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in back, the CX-3 is balanced and responsive. True to Mazda character, precise steering keeps the driver connected to the road and a firm ride encourages turns at higher speeds.

It doesn’t need all-wheel drive for better handling, but it sure helps on slick roads, and is a good investment for the option price.

Final Word

The 2021 Mazda CX-3 knits great hatchback looks to swell handling, all-weather traction, and plenty of standard safety equipment. It’s a bargain—but if you’re looking for something newer, Mazda’s CX-30 is a half-step bigger and just as entertaining.


—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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