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2021 Mazda CX-3 Pros vs Cons

Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

Are You Considering a 2021 Mazda CX-3? Here Are Some Reasons For and Against

When Mazda introduced the sporty new CX-30, the future of the CX-3 seemed iffy at best. However, this subcompact crossover is sticking around, at least for the time being. This is a vehicle that has very convincing perks. Unfortunately, its drawbacks are pretty compelling as well. Ultimately, the question is whether or not the 2021 Mazda CX-3 is worth consideration. For drivers in the market for a sporty small SUV, the answer is likely yes.

What's New for 2021?

Not many notable changes are found when looking at the 2021 CX-3. The automatic LED headlights are slightly improved for this year, and a few driver aids get updated. Otherwise, the crossover remains unchanged. This could be due to the fact that Mazda's focus has shifted to the new CX-30, which is likely the future of the brand.

Ten Reasons You May Like the 2021 Mazda CX-3 – The Pros

1. Impressive Fuel Economy

It is hard to find a subcompact SUV that does better when it comes to fuel efficiency than the 2021 Mazda CX-3. With its standard front-wheel drive, this vehicle is estimated to get 29mpg in the city and 34mpg on the highway. If you choose all-wheel drive instead, you get a still impressive 27mpg city and 32mpg highway. These are great numbers when you compare them to the CX-3's competitors.

2. Responsive Handling and Fun Drive

An engaging drive is something that all Mazda vehicles seem to have in common, and the 2021 CX-3 is no exception. The athletic handling will have you grinning behind the wheel as this sporty little crossover makes its way around corners. Responsive steering and strong brakes get the credit for the enjoyable driving found in the CX-3.

3. Unique and Sleek Exterior Design

The popularity of this segment of the market has exploded in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down. As a result, it can be hard to stand out in a positive way, but that is exactly what the 2021 Maxda CX-3 manages to do beautifully. The long nose helps the CX-3 make a grand entrance, along with the striking black grille. As you drive away, people will notice the dual stainless steel exhaust outlets. The CX-3 comes standard with LED exterior lighting so you can easily see and be seen. This vehicle is available in several colors that pop, including Mazda's popular Soul Red Crystal.

4. Elegant and Upscale Interior

Inside of the 2021 CX-3, you will find nice accent materials and sophisticated design features. The high-quality build of the cabin is obvious when you sit down inside. There are also plenty of soft-touch surfaces and a refreshing lack of plastics.

5. New Night Pedestrian Detection

Automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection are undoubtedly handy features that help to keep everyone safer. For many vehicles, however, they are limited in usefulness to only daylight hours. The 2021 CX-3 adds night pedestrian detection, helping to protect you and anyone around your vehicle after dark. Considering the fact that most people have to at least occasionally drive at night, this is a significant addition.

6. Standard High-Tech Features

You will find that all of the necessary technology features for today's busy world come standard on the CX-3. After years of dragging their feet, Mazda recently gave the CX-3 smartphone integration through both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Other standard tech features include voice recognition, a USB port, Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen, and a six-speaker audio system.

7. One Well-Equipped Trim

While some vehicles overwhelm you with multiple trim levels that can be customized with a long list of packages, the 2021 CX-3 keeps it simple. The single Sport trim comes with nearly every feature available, although there are a few customizations that you can make. On top of having high-tech features for entertainment and safety, the CX-3 Sport comes standard with alloy wheels, LED headlights, and automatic climate control.

8. Available i-ACTIV AWD

Front-wheel drive is standard, but you can also get an all-wheel-drive model of the CX-3 for approximately $1,400 more. Mazda's recently revamped i-ACTIV AWD system gives the vehicle excellent traction and respectable off-road ability, all without drastically reducing fuel efficiency. This is a fully-automatic system that uses a wide range range of sensors to keep track of changing road conditions and the driver's intentions. As needed, the system sends torque to the rear wheels to reduce the risk of any slippage.

9. Standard iActivsense Suite of Safety Features

The 2021 Mazda CX-3 comes with a full suite of advanced driver aids. In 2020, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named this vehicle a Top Safety Pick. It is a fairly safe assumption that this will be true of the 2021 model as well. Included on the CX-3 are important driver assistance features such as adaptive LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. You even get a head-up display, something that many competitors reserve for their expensive top trims.

10. Conventional Transmission

Continuously variable transmissions, or CVTs, have become a popular choice for vehicles attempting to improve their fuel economy. For many driving enthusiasts, however, the CVT dramatically takes away from their experience behind the wheel. The 2021 CX-3 sticks with a good old six-speed automatic, which provides responsive shifts and adds to the overall appeal of driving this vehicle. Plus, the CX-3 manages to be impressively efficient, even without a CVT.

Reasons You May Not Like the 2021 Mazda CX-3 – The Cons

1. Cramped Rear Seats

The rear seat of the CX-3 is appropriate for small children but no one else. Most adults will have to duck quite a bit to get inside the back of this crossover. Once there, they will find very little legroom. Headroom is so tight that it may induce claustrophobia in those who do not typically have that issue. This may not impact the CX-3's appeal as a commuter, but it is definitely something for families to factor in.

2. Lack of Cargo Space

Naturally, the subcompact crossover vehicle class does not have as much cargo space as larger SUVs. The CX-3 is particularly cramped, however, offering only 17.8 cubic feet behind the backseat. When the second-row is folded down, the cargo capacity tops out at just 42.7 cubic feet. It is easy to find options with more room, even in the subcompact class.

3. Engine Struggles on the Highway

Yes, the handling of the CX-3 is excellent. You will notice, however, that no one is bragging about its power. With its one and only available engine, this vehicle makes only 148-horsepower. While it can get you up to highway speeds and then cruise there, it is going to struggle to do so. It is also going to let you hear how much it is struggling.

4. Excessive Road Noise in Cabin

Not helping the noisy engine of the CX-3 is the fact that the cabin of this crossover lets noise leak in easily. Drivers will want to be prepared to crank up the radio, particularly on a windy day or when hitting the highway. Considering the otherwise high-quality feel of the cabin, this is particularly surprising and disappointing.

5. Very Few Comfort Features

Heated seats are becoming increasingly common, even on lower trim levels. It is a bit of a letdown that they are not even available for the 2021 CX-3. This vehicle also does not offer power-adjustment for the front seats but rather gives you six-way manual adjustment for the driver's seat only.

How It Stacks Up to the Competition:

2021 Mazda CX-3 vs 2021 Honda HR-V

There are a lot of reasons to love the new HR-V. It gets right many of the things that the CX-3 gets wrong, such as the amount of backseat and cargo space. Like the CX-3, however, the HR-V has a mediocre engine. It also does not come with as many standard features as the CX-3, particularly when you look at the tech and driver aids.

2021 Mazda CX-3 vs 2021 Chevrolet Trax

The Trax is another decent option for those after a subcompact crossover. Its engine generates a bit more horsepower, giving it more satisfying acceleration. The cargo area of the Trax is also downright huge when compared to the CX-3. That said, it does not have the athletic handling you get when you choose the CX-3. Ultimately, it depends on whether you are prioritizing your driving experience or practicality when deciding between these two options.


Despite its numerous issues, it is hard to write-off the 2021 Mazda CX-3. If this is an option that is going to stick around, a new engine option is going to be necessary. A redesign that allows for more passenger and cargo space is also something that needs to happen sooner rather than later. If Mazda can do these things without too badly impacting the efficiency and fun of the CX-3, they will have a nearly-perfect crossover. As for the 2021 model, it will work well for those who are needing a fun commuter or something for their smaller family.

Used 2021 Mazda CX-3:
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Why buy a 2020 Mazda CX-3? w/ pros vs cons