Buying AdviceMazda

2018 Mazda CX-3 vs. 2018 Mazda Mazda3: Which should you buy?


In Mazda’s stable, you’ll find a number of competent SUVs and cars that offer buyers a lot of bang for their buck. If you are thinking about upgrading to a Mazda SUV from your Mazda sedan, this guide will walk you through the similarities and differences between each of the company’s smallest models, the CX-3 and Mazda3, in an effort to help you make the right choice.

For this comparison, I drove the Grand Touring grades of the 2018 Mazda CX-3 and 2018 Mazda Mazda3 (four door) back to back.


The Mazda Mazda3 comes with two engine options. A 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard in the base model. The Touring and Grand Touring grades come with a new for 2018 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood. The larger engine gives the best performance offering quick acceleration and it never leaves you wondering if you’ll be able to pass with ease. All grades of the Mazda3 come with your choice of standard or automatic transmission.

The Mazda CX-3 is powered by a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It comes in front- and all-wheel drive whereas the Mazda3 only comes in front-wheel drive. The CX-3’s engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The larger power plant of the Mazda3 is far superior to the CX-3’s power plant. The CX-3’s engine feels sluggish and is noisy whereas the Mazda3’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is strong enough to exude confidence.

Fuel Economy

With the automatic transmission, the 2018 Mazda3 base model achieves 36 mpg combined. A manual transmission boosts that number to 38 mpg combined.

The Mazda3’s larger engines achieve 37 mpg combined when paired with an automatic transmission. When mated to a manual transmission, the Mazda3 mid and base grades achieve 34 mpg combined.

All of these figures are above average for their vehicle classes.


The CX-3 and Mazda3 both seat five on standard cloth upholstery. Both vehicles have smaller back seats but they are good enough to fit most children and adults. With adults seated in the back, you’ll be uncomfortable trying to squeeze three across the rear seat. Both models offer decent headroom. I found the Mazda3’s front seats to be more comfortable than the CX-3’s front seats. The padding on the CX-3’s seats felt thin and wasn’t substantial enough to make trips over 45 minutes comfortable.

Leather upholstery is available. A power adjustable driver’s seat comes standard in the CX-3 but is an option in the Mazda3.

Interior Features

The CX-3 and the Mazda3 have nearly the same list of standard interior features. The technologies match others in their respective categories with touch-screen infotainment system and a rearview camera standard. The infotainment system is controlled by a knob in the center console and is easy to use.

Cargo Area

The Mazda3 sedan and CX-3 have the same amount of cargo space (12.4 cubic feet). The hatchback variant of the Mazda3 has a whopping 20.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Compared to other vehicles in its class, the CX-3’s cargo space is small.


Most advanced safety technologies are optional in the Mazda3 and CX-3. The Mazda3 can come equipped with a blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, adaptive headlights, and traffic sign recognition. The CX-3 has a blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, and traffic sign recognition


The Mazda CX-3 starts at $20,110, which is a little over $2,000 more than the starting MSRP of the Mazda Mazda3 ($18,095). The top Grand Touring trim CX-3 comes in at $25,165 which the Mazda3 Grand Touring starts at $24,195. Both price points are in line with what other vehicles in their respective classes cost.


Both models come with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Which one should you choose?

With its quieter, more powerful engine, large cargo space, and seats that you won’t mind sitting in during a road trip, the 2018 Mazda Mazda3 is the better buy. It also costs less.

If you want a SUV that’s a Mazda, it will be worth the extra money to upgrade to the CX-5, which is a far superior SUV to the CX-3. Want to stay in the subcompact SUV category but aren’t sure which vehicles to check out? Take the Nissan Rogue Sport and Honda HR-V for a test drive.

2018 Mazda Mazda3 gallery

2018 Mazda CX-3 gallery

Eileen Falkenberg-Hull
Eileen is the writer of the nationally syndicated column Automotive Minute in The Business Journals, which explores the automotive industry focusing on news, reviews, and interviews. She loves finding out about the business strategy, design, and drivability of vehicles. Eileen is a contributor to U.S. News & World Report Best Cars.