2021 Mazda CX-3

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
January 23, 2021

Buying tip

The $1,400 charge for all-wheel drive on the CX-3 is reasonable.

features & specs

Sport AWD
Sport FWD
27 city / 32 hwy
29 city / 34 hwy

The 2021 Mazda CX-3 is a small but well-equipped crossover available in only base Sport trim.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Mazda CX-3? What does it compare to?

The Mazda CX-3 small crossover SUV is more like a subcompact hatchback. Smaller than the Mazda CX-30, it competes with the Chevy Trax, Hyundai Venue, Toyota C-HR and other entry-level crossovers.  

Is the 2021 Mazda CX-3 a good SUV?

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The arrival of the larger CX-30 for 2020 nudged the CX-3 to the shadows. Even though other automakers offer small and smaller crossovers, the CX-3 is one of the smallest. Yet, its standard safety features, fun handling, and urban styling offset its limited interior for a TCC Rating of 6.2 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Mazda CX-3?

Mazda’s decision to streamline the CX-3 to the lone Sport trim suggests this is its last year. The tall hatchback looks more like an urban runabout along the lines of Mini and Fiat than anything that could be considered off-road capable, even with available all-wheel drive. Its 148-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 matches its small size to provide decent acceleration and its light weight contributes to sporty handling. Those same proportions cost it cargo room and rear leg room, though it could fit four average-sized adults. Briefly. 

A cabin cloaked in black suggests a spartan yet premium feel, but Mazda offers the CX-3 one way only. Fortunately, it covers the basics for convenience and safety with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and more. It fared well in crash tests. 

How much does the 2021 Mazda CX-3 cost?

It costs $21,740, including $1,100 destination. 

Where is the 2021 Mazda CX-3 made?

In Japan.


2021 Mazda CX-3


The 2021 Mazda CX-3 looks at home in the city.

Is the 2021 Mazda CX-3 a good-looking car?

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. It earns a point to a 6. 

The inside is less inspired due to the lone trim. Elsewhere, Mazda pushes into the premium segment with black interiors highlighted by shiny chrome-like trim pieces. That solid if unremarkable style comes through here, and the three circular vents match the three climate dials in a way that’s always striking. But the dash-mounted touchscreen is a reach and the controller dial in the console is a pain.

Review continues below


2021 Mazda CX-3


Spry and lightweight, the 2021 Mazda CX-3 can be fun to drive.

How fast is the Mazda CX-3?

Weighing less than  3,000 pounds, and with a relatively low ride height, the CX-3 performs like a lightweight hatchback, with nimble moves and decent acceleration coming from its small but loud 148-hp 2.0-liter inline-4. It’s a 6. 

A 6-speed automatic shuttles power to the front or all wheels, and it stays high in the rev range for good highway passing. 

Is the Mazda CX-3 4WD?

It comes with front-wheel drive or a $1,400 all-wheel drive option. With MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in back, the CX-3 remains balanced and responsive enough in front-wheel drive that we’d only recommend all-wheel drive for northern climes. As in other Mazdas, precise steering keeps the driver connected to the road and a firm ride encourages turns at higher speeds, but the faster you go, the louder it gets.

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2021 Mazda CX-3

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 Mazda CX-3 is cramped in all the wrong places for a crossover SUV.

The CX-3 is one of the smallest crossovers when it comes to interior space. Technically, its 17.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats earns it a point on our scale, but its inability to fit more than two people in comfort costs it a point. It’s a 5.

Fold down the 60/40 split rear seats and cargo volume expands to 42.7 cubic feet, but you’d have to be a master of Tetris to optimize the vertical space. Same goes for rear passengers. With 35.0 inches of rear leg room, four average-sized people could fit in the five seats, but with heads tucked and knees kissing elbows. 

With just the basic Sport trim, the CX-3 comes with cloth seats and manual adjustments that provide decent enough support but lack significant enough adjustments to mix it up on long road trips. 

Review continues below


2021 Mazda CX-3


Excellent standard safety features help the 2021 Mazda CX-3 avoid crashes.

How safe is the Mazda CX-3?

Mazda equips the CX-3 with all the latest safety and driver-assist features to help it avoid as well as withstand crashes on roadways teeming with larger vehicles. The NHTSA gave it five stars, though rear passengers might suffer more from side impact crashes. The IIHS rated it a Top Safety Pick+, its highest safety honor. 

Each of those attributes earns a point for a total of 8 here. 

Few automakers equip entry-level models with the following standard gear on the CX-3: Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, LED headlights, taillights and fog lights, as well as adaptive headlights and automatic high beams.

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2021 Mazda CX-3


The 2021 Mazda CX-3 comes with good basics, but few options.

Which Mazda CX-3 should I buy?

Offered only in base Sport trim, the 2021 Mazda CX-3 comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, keyless start and entry, basic cloth seats, and the excellent safety features mentioned above.  

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Mazda CX-3?

Same as a basic one, for the most part. Adding all-wheel drive for $1,400 brings the price up to$23,140, including $1,100 destination. Add some red metallic paint, all-weather floor mats, rear parking sensors, and upgraded bumpers and it might crack $25,000.

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2021 Mazda CX-3

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Mazda CX-3 excels at efficiency.

Is the 2021 Mazda CX-3 good on gas?

Yes. Weighing less than 3,000 pounds, the CX-3 gets an EPA-rated 29 mpg city, 34 highway, 31 combined. That’s good for a 6 on our scale. All-wheel drive lowers it 2 mpg across the board.

Review continues below

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MSRP based on Sport FWD
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Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 5
Safety 8
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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