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Entry price: $20,640

Price as tested: $24,025

Likes: Safety features galore, price, handling.

Dislikes: Only one trim, tight rear quarters, a little engine noise.

This week, we review the 2020 Mazda CX-3, the popular subcompact SUV that has already been named a Top Safety Pick + (plus) by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Notable is that five other 2020 Mazda vehicles share in this same important IHHS distinction as award winners with the + (Plus) nomenclature are the most difficult to attain. Overall, Mazda’s six top safety model awards beat out second place manufacturer Subaru, which had four top safety plus picks. (See IIHS.org for complete safety information)

Considering many of these affordable Mazda 3’s are purchased for and by students heading off to school or work, it’s important to let consumers know their money is being well spent on the safety side for those who spend more time on the road. However, don’t be misled by just the younger driver safety advantages as Mazda CX-3 is also a baby boomer favorite, and millennial, too. Considering Mazda is one of the smaller manufacturers, these 2020 IIHS top safety awards are noteworthy.

The 2020 CX-3 starts at just $20,640 for the front drive Sport or $22,040 for the i-ACTIV all-wheel drive (AWD) model. The mid-level Touring and upper level Grand Touring models have been discontinued this year although new for 2020 on the Sport are standard Android and Apple compatibility and i-Activsense driver assistance features, both previous options.    

The i-Activsense package, which was an $1,100 option in 2019, features adaptive cruise, lane departure warning, automatic high-beams, adaptive headlights, a head-up windshield display, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. It’s now standard on the improved 2020 CX-3 Sport.

Mazda lists the CX-3 as a sub-compact size SUV that delivers some of the attributes of its larger compact Mazda CX-30 and midsize CX-5 in a smaller, city friendly driving package.

The fully automatic AWD system constantly monitors road conditions and is built to add or subtract power to any of the four wheels when the CX-3 4x4 computer determines a wheel is losing traction. Considering the AWD system costs only $1,400 more on the Sport, the upgrade should be a major consideration regardless of your geographical location as you never know when Mother Nature will throw inclement weather your way from sand to small flood (Please don’t drive you CX-3 into a flooded highway. We’re talking and inch of water here at most).   

The exterior of the CX-3 bears likeness to the siblings, even the larger CX-9. The front grille design is similar although in true sub-compact form, and since the CX-3 rides on a 5.2-inch shorter wheelbase than midsize CX-5, it makes parallel parking easy. Although road irregularities are a bit more pronounced, this little Mazda handles very well on the country roads and offers secure handling and cornering abilities. You’ll feel the bumps on uneven roads, but when highway driving arrives it’s very comfy.

Mazda CX-3 also incorporates much of what the company learns in its winning top endurance Prototype class of road racing all the way down to the hundreds of Mazda Miata SCCA club cars that race every weekend. As an example, when you select CX-3’s “sport driving mode” button on the six speed automatic transmission, you’ll enjoy a more responsive CX-3 with computer controlled downshifting when braking from 60 mph to higher RPM range shifts for more torque and acceleration. Features like this usually don’t come in a sub-compact SUV, but then again, neither do CX-3’s quality 16-inch tires on lightweight alloy wheels.  

Every Mazda CX-3 relies on a 2.0-liter fuel injected four cylinder that boasts a 13-1 compression for extra pep. Developing just 148 horses and 146 lb. ft. of torque, you’ll still be impressed as the CX-3 accelerates to 60 mph in a bit over 8 seconds. This all comes thanks to CX-3’s less than 3,000-pound curb weight and use of lighter yet stronger sport tuned suspension and engine components. 

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.


Auto Bits

New Ford Bronco will debut on O.J.’s birthday 

Ford Motor Co. plans to reveal the all-new Ford Bronco on July 9, which falls on the birthday of Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson.

Simpson, a former football star, is known internationally for being in a white Ford Bronco that aired on live TV leading a massive police chase on June 17, 1994, after being charged with murder in the slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. 

“I gotta believe this is a mistake. Didn’t anybody look at the calendar?” said John McElroy, veteran industry observer and Autoline.tv host. “Ford Motor Co. does not want to correlate the launch of such an iconic and important vehicle with a police chase with a notorious” person.

“Everybody in the world knew that O.J. was fleeing in a white Ford Bronco.”

The chase, a 60-mile slow-speed pursuit, was carried live on national TV. It was watched by 95 million people, according to KNSD-TV, the NBC affiliate in San Diego.

Simpson was a passenger in the 1993 Bronco while his friend and former teammate Al Cowlings drove.

The Bronco, which was built from 1966 to 1996, is poised to challenge Jeep in the fast-growing SUV segment.

Detroit Free Press


Did You Know

Honda, despite being know as an engine company, has never built a V8 for passenger vehicles.