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Mazda's designers pushed the front fenders' peak rearward to the base of the A-pillar to convey a sense of extended body size, so the CX-3 looks bigger and more expensive than it is.

Mazda enters subcompact crossover segment with 2016 CX-3

Mazda dove into the burgeoning market for subcompact crossover SUVs with the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show introduction of the CX-3, a stylish new tall wagon built on the platform of the new Mazda2/Demio.

As with other recent Mazda introductions, the CX-3 features the company’s Skyactiv drivetrain and platform technology, an all-encompassing philosophy of coordinated optimization of efficiency that provides useful benefits from the aggregation of tiny improvements.

Mazda describes the CX-3’s chassis as a simplification of the Skyactiv architecture, one that employs increased use of high-tensile steel and optimized cross-section shapes to provide light weight and positive damping characteristics.

While there is no current CX-3 for comparison, the new Mazda2’s body-in-white is 7% lighter than that of the old car, while it boasts a 22% improvement in torsional rigidity, providing some perspective for the CX-3’s derivative chassis.

High-strength steel accounts for 63% of the CX-3’s unibody, with 29% 780-MPa (113-ksi) ultra-high-strength steel, and 4% 1180-MPa (171-ksi) steel for maximum resistance to intrusion in a crash.

As with the Mazda2, the CX-3 uses MacPherson struts in the front and a simple torsion beam for the rear suspension. No details are yet available, but the company promises that fine-tuning of the details yields improved control and response when compared to the previous-generation Mazda2 platform.

Though the CX-3 and Mazda2 share the same 101.2-in (2570-mm) wheelbase, at 168.3 in (4275 mm), the CX-3 is 8.5 in (216 mm) longer. It is also 1.8 in (45 mm) wider and stands 2.1 in (53 mm) taller.

The company says that it refined the CX-3 cabin noise by controlling suspension resonance, tuning the shape and hardness of engine mounts and adjusting their positions, and locating sound insulation and deadening materials in the optimal locations.

Special attention was given to the all-wheel-drive models, which see reinforcement to the crossmember connecting the rear subframe and strengthening the spare tire pan with optimized shaping of the beading. Computational fluid dynamics work is credited with reducing both aerodynamic wind noise and fuel-economy-sapping drag.

The CX-3 is available in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. The company claims a world-first with the inclusion of a front wheel slip warning detection system that it says monitors driving conditions and tries to predict drivers’ intentions to keep the CX-3 on course. The all-wheel-drive system uses the active torque control coupling seen on the CX-5, mated to a new power take-off unit on the front transaxle and a new, more compact and lightweight rear differential.

All U.S.-market cars are powered by a 2.0-L I4 from Mazda’s Skyactiv engine family. As installed in the 2015 Mazda3, that engine is rated at 155 hp (116 kW) and 150 lb·ft (203 N·m). All U.S.-spec CX-3s will be fitted with the company’s six-speed automatic transmission, which uses a small torque converter for launch from a standstill and a computer-controlled clutch at higher speeds.

Global market CX-3s will likely see the availability of the 1.5-L gasoline and diesel engines, as well as a six-speed manual transmission, that are offered in the Mazda2 in those countries.

Inside, the CX-3 features the infotainment interface introduced with the 2014 Mazda6, the flip-up dashboard-mounted head-up display seen on the Mazda3, along with all of the safety-related technologies available on those cars, most notably, the forward-collision-warning radar.

The company points to the high quality of cabin materials as an advance in the class, and inspection on the show floor confirmed that that upholstery material quality, the coordinated piping and the stitching convey a rich, expensive appearance that is unexpected in the subcompact segment.

Additionally, though the CX-3 is small, the rear seats proved useable by normal adult males, though ingress and egress through the small door openings is tight.

Mazda says the CX-3 goes on sale first in Japan, starting in spring 2015, arriving in global markets later in the year.

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