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2021 Honda HR-V vs Mazda CX-3

2021 Honda HR-V vs Mazda CX-3

2021 HR-V vs CX-3 - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

Whether technically classified as crossovers or compact SUVs, the 2021 Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 offer a lot of benefits. Potential buyers looking at these models will likely notice that they're affordable, and that's always a good thing. Also, these models feel fresh and modern, thanks to their available technology and safety features. They have somewhat similar dimensions, so it could be difficult to discern which one would be the better purchase. This overview should provide plenty of details so that people can decide whether the Honda HR-V or CX-3 would be more ideal for them.

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The Powertrain

Under the hood of a Honda HR-V, there's a 1.8-liter engine with four cylinders. The engine in the CX-3 is a four-cylinder model, too. However, it has a displacement of two liters, so it's just a bit larger. The HR-V is able to have 141 horsepower, while the CX-3 has 148 horsepower. In terms of torque, the Honda has 127 pound-feet and the Mazda has 146 pound-feet.

It's clear that the extra size of the CX-3's engine does make a small difference. The extra capability will make the Mazda feel slightly more responsive when accelerating. In contrast, the Honda might feel like it's struggling to speed up at certain times, especially when climbing hills or loaded down with cargo. For the casual driver, though, it should be be more than satisfactory.

Many people who are interested in crossovers and smaller SUVs will probably be interested in efficiency. The HR-V has an Eco Assist System that can maximize efficiency. HR-Vs with front-wheel drive can earn an estimated 28/34 (city/highway) miles per gallon, and those with all-wheel drive can earn up to 27/31 miles per gallon. Note that all-wheel drive is an option on all four trims of the HR-V.

There's only one trim available of the CX-3. Like the Honda, it can come with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. FWD models can achieve up to 29/34 (city/highway) miles per gallon, with AWD models having an estimated fuel economy of 27/32.

Mazda has gone with a six-speed automatic transmission for its CX-3. The transmission has Sport mode in case people want to make the driving experience a little more exciting, and there's a manual shift mode for those times when the driver wants to control exactly when the gears shift. Honda decided to give the HR-V a continuously variable transmission, and it also has a Sport mode. Most of the HR-V trims come with paddle shifters to offer the opportunity to have manual control over shifting.

There are some minor differences between the powertrains and mechanical components of these two models. By a slight margin, the Mazda feels like the more athletic vehicle, and it barely wins the matchup in terms of fuel efficiency.


These two vehicles are very easy to handle. The Honda, in particular, has a quiet cabin because it has Active Noise Cancellation. They drive almost like sedans do, as they are light and can be quickly maneuvered in and out of small parking spaces. The CX-3 has a ground clearance of 6.1 inches, while the ground clearance of FWD HR-Vs is 7.3 inches and that of AWD HR-Vs is 6.7 inches.

There's one component that both models have that helps them get going when stopped on a slope. Honda calls its feature Hill Start Assist, and Mazda's is named Hill Launch Assist. These features can be activated by pressing a bit harder on the brakes for a few seconds. When engaged, they hold pressure on the brakes to prevent the vehicles from rolling backwards. They can be very useful when people have been stopped on a hill because of traffic, a stop sign, or a red light.

Both of these models have versatile cabins, which is why they can attract a lot of attention from customers who want to have some flexibility in how they can arrange their vehicles. The rear bench seats in the HR-V and CX-3 are both split into a 60/40 configuration. This allows people to fold just one side of their benches down, or if they need more space, they can lower their entire rows down.

Leg room in the Honda HR-V is pretty generous. Up front, there's up to 41.2 inches of leg room, and there's 39.3 inches of leg room in the back. In the Mazda CX-3, there's not as much space. It has 41.7 inches of leg room in the front but only 35 inches of leg room in the second row. This might be a concern if buyers know that they'll often have adult passengers riding with them.

Cargo volume is a key feature of crossovers. In the Mazda, there's a rear cargo area that has a volume of about 18 cubic feet. The maximum cargo capacity when the second-row seats have been lowered is 42.7 cubic feet. The HR-V has more capacity. Its maximum cargo volume is around 58 cubic feet, and the area behind the back seats measures approximately 24 cubic feet.

This discrepancy in interior space is interesting considering that the Honda is only about two inches longer than the Mazda. The Honda is a few inches taller as well, but it appears that Honda has figured out a way to really optimize the amount of cargo and passenger room.

There is an important feature that's only found in the Honda. It's something that the company calls a Magic Seat. This seat can be folded down like any typical rear bench in a crossover or SUV, and part of it can also be lifted up. Specifically, the seat cushion can be lifted up and held in place against the seatback. This provides another storage option that can be useful when transporting taller items.

Before moving on to another subject, remember that an infotainment system can play a role in how pleasant it is to drive a particular vehicle. The two models can both be equipped with seven-inch touchscreens, Bluetooth, Pandora internet radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. This is a great list of features, and many people will appreciate being able to stay entertained and stay in touch with others while traveling.

It's important to mention again that there's only one trim of the CX-3. There are no options for upgrading the infotainment system in this vehicle. It has six speakers and voice recognition in addition to the previously mentioned elements. It also has a digital instrument cluster and sporty gauges.

In the Honda, the four trims all have different technology packages. The base model, which is the LX, doesn't even have smartphone compatibility. It does have Bluetooth, so drivers can make hands-free phone calls and stream music. The LX has four speakers and uses a five-inch color LCD screen. The next trim is the Sport. It's where the HR-V gets the standard seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and Pandora compatibility. The EX and EX-L each have six speakers, SiriusX Satellite Radio, and HD Radio.

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There are many standard elements that these vehicles have to keep people safe. In the event of an accident, passengers can be protected by their three-point seatbelts and multiple airbags. Both models have rear view cameras that drivers will rely on frequently, traction control and stability control programs, and the ability to apply maximum pressure to the brakes if a driver has suddenly pressed down hard on the brake pedal. This last feature is called brake assist.

Further, the HR-V and CX-3 can have even more components. These components can take an active role in enhancing safety rather than just being utilized during emergency situations.

For instance, the Mazda CX-3 has blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. These systems can watch out for vehicles that may be difficult, or even impossible, for the driver to see, and they can alert drivers to dangerous situations. The CX-3 can slow itself down if it seems like its approaching another vehicle or a pedestrian too quickly; right before this happens, a warning would be issued with the hopes that the driver could take action to remedy the situation. The CX-3 also has adaptive cruise control, which means that it can adjust its speed if necessary to maintain proper distancing, and it has lane departure warning.

The first two trims of the HR-V don't have any of these driver-assist technologies. These systems are only standard on the top two trims. Honda's driver-assist package has the same features that were just described, with one exception. Rather than just being able to warn drivers when they're drifting out of their lanes, the two higher trims of the Honda HR-V can gently correct their steering to re-center themselves.

Which Has the Best Value?

When thinking about value, it's necessary to examine prices. The Mazda CX-3 starts at $20,790. With the Honda, things are more complex since there are four trims. The LX costs $21,220, the Sport is priced at $23,170, the EX starts at $24,420, and the EX-L is the most premium trim with a price of $26,020. Getting all-wheel drive on any of these trims from either company costs approximately $1,500.

Obviously, the Mazda CX-3 is the cheaper of the two. It has much nicer technology and safety packages than the base model of the Honda HR-V, and it could be argued that the CX-3 is more high-tech than the Sport trim as well. The other highlights of the CX-3 are that it has automatic climate control, remote entry, LED headlights with an auto-leveling feature, and a spoiler that contributes to its athletic look.

The first two trims of the Honda have some of these same elements, but they only have halogen headlights and manual climate control. The Sport, though, does have fog lights and black underbody spoilers to enhance its appearance, and it has sport pedals and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter.

The top half of the Honda lineup stands out much more than the lower half, mainly because these trims have driver-assist technologies and many extra components like power moonroofs and heated side mirrors. Starting with the EX, there are automatic climate control systems, push button start, and heated front seats.

Instead of just having remote entry, these trims have smart entry, which means that the vehicle can sense when the key fob is in close proximity. The driver doesn't have to physically touch a button on the key fob to unlock the doors; he/she can just walk up to the vehicle and touch the sensor on the door handle to unlock it.

On the EX-L, there is leather upholstery to make this trim seem much more sophisticated than the others. Plus, the rearview mirror can automatically dim when it detects bright lights. These things are nice to have, but people will have to decide whether they're worth the extra cost associated with the EX-L trim.

Which is Better?

The two models definitely have some of the same qualities, but they're fairly distinct at the same time. The Honda HR-V is the model that feels more like a traditional SUV. It's slightly larger than the Mazda, it sits higher off the ground, and it has more interior space for passengers and/or cargo. The issue of interior volume is likely going to be an important factor for many potential buyers.

The CX-3 is lower to the ground, more compact, and could certainly fit the description of a crossover. It has an aerodynamic look, though this doesn't mean that it's significantly faster than the Honda is. Rather, it could be described as marginally more responsive than the Honda HR-V is. What's great about the CX-3 is that it comes standard with driver-assist systems and an attractive infotainment system.

Price and available trim levels are going to be key factors as well. Those who like having choices will be happier with the Honda HR-V since there are four trims to choose from. The top two have many upscale amenities that make them feel luxurious. The lower trims don't have as many advantages, but they still have very comfortable cabins and generous cargo capacity, and they can prove to be reliable.

If someone wants a smaller SUV that's not too compact, the Honda HR-V would be the right choice out of these two models. There's some opportunity to customize the model since there are several trim options. On the other hand, if a buyer appreciates the style of the Mazda and doesn't mind having less interior space, then the CX-3 would be ideal. It's the more affordable model, and while it doesn't have everything one might dream of, it has certain technology that makes it attractive.

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