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Compact SUVs are becoming more and more popular, offering some of the benefits of a larger vehicle with just a bit more maneuverability. The Mazda CX-3 ranks as fourth out of 12 for Subcompact Sport-Utility Vehicles on Consumer Reports, with an overall rating of 73. But just how reliable is it — and how exactly does Consumer Reports predict that, anyway?

How Consumer Reports predicts reliability

When choosing a new vehicle, its reliability is often the first thing people will want to check. In an effort to help buyers make more informed choices, Consumer Reports conducts an annual survey, asking its members to report whether their vehicles experienced any one of 17 common issues.

Some of the trouble spots on the survey include the vehicle’s in-car electronics, body integrity, and fuel system. The most recent survey received over 420,000 responses, covering vehicles with model years ranging from 2000 to 2020.

Once the data is in, Consumer Reports calculates scores based on how many members reported experiencing problems in the common trouble spots. These scores are standardized to help reduce statistical differences caused by comparing high-mileage cars to low-mileage cars.

The Mazda CX-3’s impressive scores

According to the Consumer Reports survey, the CX-3 has a perfect 5/5 predicted reliability rating. In fact, this SUV improved in almost every category in the 2018 model.

This is a marked improvement from its early years, where the CX-3 suffered in quite a few categories. The 2016 model struggled with its climate system, paint/trim, body integrity, power equipment, and in-car electronics. 

Beginning in 2017, though, Mazda began rolling out improvements — and this was reflected in the reliability ratings. The CX-3 showed marked improvements in all of the trouble spots impacted in the previous year, and this increase has only continued in the 2018 model. 

The CX-3’s score is so stellar that it even ranks above other similar highly-rated vehicles. The Subaru Crosstrek and Honda HR-V have reliability predictions of 82 percent and 69 percent, respectively. The CX-3 sits firmly above the two, with a prediction of 89 percent reliability.

What else you’ll get with the Mazda CX-3

Reviewers from both Consumer Reports and Car and Driver agree — the Mazda CX-3 is a vehicle with a certain je ne sais quoi. While it does have some shortcomings, it ultimately does well because it makes people strangely happy.

The CX-3 is sporty despite its size, and its 146 hp engine can go from 0 mph to 60 mph in just 8.1 seconds. It handles well, with responsive steering and an ability to easily maneuver tight corners. And if you prioritize fuel efficiency, this tiny SUV is a great choice. It gets approximately 30 miles per gallon in the all-wheel-drive version.

However, the CX-3 falls short in a few areas. The main issue test drivers found was a lack of size — there is very little rear passenger space, making it a challenge to drive groups around or take family trips.

Consumer Reports observes a slightly claustrophobic driving experience, with small windows and a lack of elbow room contributing to the sensation of being uncomfortably cramped. Additionally, the drive is fairly loud, and it can get uncomfortable — the CX-3 doesn’t handle bumps well, and it can get a little loud at higher speeds.

Ultimately, though, none of these things matter if the Mazda CX-3 has captured your heart. It offers a stellar reliability score, great fuel economy, and responsive handling. While it does struggle in some areas, the overall driving experience is simply fun. The fact is, sometimes that matters more than a few minor issues with size and noise.