Crossover & Midsize

If You’re Thinking About a Mazda CX-3 Just Buy a Mazda 3 Instead

Mazda makes some of the sportiest but economical vehicles on the market. Seeking to dominate the super-popular SUV segment, Mazda’s CX-3 offers the zippy attitude you’d expect from the Japanese brand. But if you’re interested in buying a Mazda SUV, you might just want to choose the Mazda3 hatchback instead.

If you want a Mazda SUV, choose the Mazda3 hatchback

The all new Mazda3 is seen onstage during the Mazda event prior to the L.A. Auto Show
The Mazda3 | Victor Decolongon/Getty Images for Mazda Motor Co.

The Mazda CX-3 is the automaker’s flagship subcompact SUV, which may make you assume it’s larger than any Mazda car model. But that’s where you would be wrong. If the spaciousness and cargo capacity of an SUV is what you’re after, you may be better off choosing the Mazda3 hatchback instead. That’s because surprisingly enough, the Mazda3 will get you more space for your money.

Though it’s still making experts scratch their heads, the 2019 Mazda3 hatchback is longer, wider, and much roomier than its taller, SUV sibling, the Mazda CX-3. According to Car Gurus, the 2019 Mazda CX-3 is 168.3 inches long, 69.6 inches wide, and has a wheelbase of 101.2 inches. The 2019 Mazda3 hatchback, however, is 175.6 inches long, 70.7 inches wide, and has a wheelbase of 107.3 inches.

The “larger” Mazda3 provides 42.3 inches of legroom in the front and 35.1 inches in the rear, while the CX-3 provides slightly less, with 41.7 inches in the front and 35 inches in the rear. But what makes the Mazda3 more of an SUV than the CX-3 is its cargo volume, which is substantially larger than the 9.6 cubic feet in the CX-3. The 2019 Mazda3 hatchback offers a more impressive 20.1 cubic feet of cargo space.

The Mazda CX-3: the “least SUV-like” SUV

According to Kelley Blue Book’s review of the 2019 Mazda CX-3, it’s the “sportiest and least SUV-like contender” in the subcompact SUV segment. Its sculpted design and zippy performance make it “engaging to drive,” and much more like a car than most other SUVs.

The powertrain in the CX-3 is less powerful than other SUVs in the segment, designed for efficiency over performance. KBB experts believe the CX-3 is fun to drive but at the sacrifice of other important SUV-like features. Where it succeeds in enjoyment, the CX-3 lacks the comfort and smooth ride that other SUVs have.

But the dimensions of the Mazda CX-3 is really where KBB feels it loses the title “SUV,” with a cramped rear and tight legroom. Cargo space is no better, with KBB claiming the CX-3 features less cargo space than any other subcompact SUV in its segment.

The Mazda3 vs. the CX-3: what you’ll get with each

In an attempt to improve its subcompact-game, Mazda debuted the 2020 CX-30 to provide more options within the segment. With that addition to the lineup, Mazda will eliminate trim levels on the new 2020 CX-3 and decrease the current model’s starting price.

According to Mazda, the 2019 CX-3 has a starting price of around $20,000 for its base model, with standard front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available on all trims for around $1,000 more. The base CX-3 Sport comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 148 hp, paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. It earns an EPA-estimated 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. It also comes standard with the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a 7-inch touchscreen.

The 2019 Mazda3 hatchback also comes standard with front-wheel drive, but its base model comes with a starting price of more than $23,000. All-wheel drive is available for around $2,000 more, and a manual transmission is also available on higher trims.

According to Mazda, the 2019 Mazda3 gets a more impressive standard engine; a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 186 hp. This is paired to the same six-speed automatic transmission but earns an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. The 2019 Madza3 comes with more standard interior tech, like an 8.8-inch center touchscreen and a 7-inch information display.