by Larry Lark, Herald Special Sections Writer
If you’re looking for a crossover that drives and handles like a car, I submit for your consideration, the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD.
It’s subcompact in size and sits low to the ground, but otherwise provides its owners with all of the versatility and functionality provided by a SUV without sacrificing the ride and comfort associated with a car.
For people living in this this part of the woods, it handles urban sprawl and our mountainous, hilly, ever-changing weather conditions with equal aplomb.
CX-3 boasts a very strong resumé after just a couple years on the market, from its Northwest Automotive Press Association 2016 overall class win at Mudfest – handling the beaten path with ease while toppling tough competition – to its finalist status as a 2016 World Car Design of the Year candidate alongside the eventual winner, Mazda’s own MX-5 Miata Roadster.
Powered by a punchy 146-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, SKYACTIVG engine that produces 146 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque, and Mazda’s full suite of i-ACTIVSENSE safety features, the CX-3 Grand Touring includes lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, Smart Brake Support, rear camera, Smart City Brake Support and Mazda Radar Cruise Control.
CX-3 is tailored to deliver a rich, inviting experience not just for its driver, but also for its passengers, with rear seats set slightly inboard to ease conversation between front and rear passengers. It is a vehicle with interior details that look and feel as elegant as they are forward-thinking, from the dark red seat stitching to the soft touch materials.
In the quickly growing subcompact crossover market niche, CX-3 stands alone with its attention to detail, purpose-led ergonomics and amenities. Standard inside all CX-3s is a push-button start and MAZDA CONNECT infotainment offering Bluetooth phone pairing, audio streaming, USB ports for entertainment connectivity and Commander control knob, as well as a standard seven-inch color touchscreen interface with a built-in backup monitor.
The entry level CX-3 Sport trim level remains unchanged. The mid-level CX-3 Touring adopts 18-inch wheels. And my tester, the Grand Touring now includes an i-ACTIVSENSE package of safety features that costs $750 less than last year.
The CX-3 seats five adults with a bit of a squeeze. It transports four in comfort. The cargo space is adequate, but one of the 60/40 split fold-down rear seats needs to be dropped to accommodate golf clubs. Best of all, the CX-3 achieves a combined city/highway rating of 29 miles per gallon by the EPA.
A Dynamic Blue Mica coat of paint highlights the sports-like exterior, which also benefits from 18-inch alloy wheels, rear roof spoiler and grille that stacks seven fins with silver-painted front edges to create the illusion of concentrated energy that flows horizontally.
Interior amenities include parchment leather seats, auto climate control, power sunroof, Bose sevenspeaker audio system with satellite radio, heated front seats, push-button start, navigation system, Bluetooth, USB port and more.
In addition to the previously mentioned iACTIVESENSE safety suite, the CX-3 includes blind-spot monitoring, adaptive front headlights, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control and hill-launch assist.
2017 MAZDA CX-3
BASE PRICE: $26,240
AS TESTED: $28,810
Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. Prices may vary at local dealerships.