Although it’s difficult for me to believe, I will soon be the parent of a teen driver. My just-turned-15-year-old daughter could probably give you the exact amount of time, down to the hour, until she is eligible for a driver’s permit. I’m not necessarily considering buying her a new car, straight out of the gate (sorry, Kaitlyn), but if I was, the Mazda CX-3 would be one to consider.
The subcompact crossover segment has exploded over the past few years, and for good reason. The vehicles are practical yet versatile, affordable and fuel efficient, and have more style and personality than your typical family sedan. Introduced for the 2016 model year, Mazda CX-3 checks all the boxes on the list of desirable features.
And while I say that the CX-3 would make a great first car, really, it’s an excellent choice for a variety of audiences. Looks-wise, it could be the result of the mating of a Subaru and a Volvo, with its plastic wheel cladding and long nose. It’s wonderfully stylish and beautifully proportioned, with a raked roofline, large wheels, squinty-eyed LED headlamps alongside an aggressive, but not overwhelming front grille.
Mazda CX-3 will appeal to those who like the look and functionality of an SUV over a traditional family sedan or hatchback, but who prefer the sportier driving dynamics of a car. It handles really well, with controlled body motion and precise steering that feels balanced and evenly weighted. The only engine is a 146-horsepower four-cylinder that’s reasonably punchy, with plenty of the famous Mazda “zoom zoom.” But it’s not dangerously powerful for a new driver. And, importantly from a “mom” standpoint, the Mazda CX-3 gets a Top Safety Pick + rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The CX-3’s stylishness continues inside, with design and quality typical of a vehicle costing thousands more. Technically, it seats five, but four are more comfortably accommodated, especially if the two in the rear seats are adults. The three trim levels (Sport, Touring, Grand Touring) are impressively appointed with keyless entry, push-button start, auto locks, and a full complement of safety features. Niceties like heated seats and mirrors, upgraded upholstery, Bose audio, and LED lights are added as you go up in trim (and price).
There’s little to fault in the new CX-3. In a wildly popular vehicle segment, its stylish good looks, functionality, and drive quality will not disappoint. With a base price of $19,960, and our top-of-the-line Grand Touring model with all-wheel drive and advanced safety features reaching about $29,590, there’s a CX-3 for a range of budgets. It’s a satisfying ride at any price.