Mazda recently introduced its updated CX-3 subcompact crossover before journalists at the New York International Auto Show. The CX-3 looks just like the other Mazda CXs, only squashed into a much smaller package. I’m not saying it’s a bad look or that the 2019 CX-3 doesn’t work, it’s just that you can only smush something down so far. Other than that, the new Mazda CX-3 will work out quite well in urban environments.
And that – urban environments – is what this is all about. Although you could nominally take a Mazda CX-3 off-pavement, you wouldn’t confuse it for a Jeep. And besides, 90 percent of CX-3 owners would never do that in the first place. The new CX-3’s interior has undergone a significant revamp with the most notable new bit being the electronic parking brake. Yes, that gives you more room and allows for a significant increase in storage space, but gone will be the joys of handbrake turns in snowy parking lots. Full-leather seating surfaces are now available and redesigned seats provide drivers a more comfortable position.
The SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine is said to be smoother, more efficient, and more refined. Also reduced, according to Mazda, are noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics.
Reactive Vs. Proactive
And all this is well and true and fine and good, but it’s another example of how automakers are all SUVs, all the time these days. Car makers have clocked to the fact that people love SUVs, so be it. But car makers will try and do the strangest things to try and accommodate those perceived needs. Automakers are, by and large, reactive organisms. They see a trend and respond to it. It’s hard to think of the times car manufacturers have shifted audience desires in a given direction. The only two I can think of is the Ford Mustang and the Chrysler minivans (both of which were done at the behest of Lee Iacocca, curiously enough). The Mustang started the pony car wars, of which we are still enjoying the fruits of today, and the minivan created the, er, well, it created the minivan.
But so be it. Automakers see that most Americans want an SUV – or something that can be sold as an SUV or a crossover or an “Urban Activity Vehicle” or something else condescending – and come perdition or high water, they’re going to sell it to us. This isn’t a problem. SUVs aren’t like disco music, something that was forced on the people. No, we want our SUVs, and nine times out of ten, we want them for all the wrong reasons.
So Mazda will make us a CX-3. A vehicle with limited non-pavement functionality and too small to haul anything practical. And people will buy them, and most of those people will be happy, and who am I to say they are “wrong” in their purchasing choices. People, the same slice of the market, actually, were joyously happy with minivans. Until those same people realized that driving a minivan marked you as a “suburban parent, 2.6 children, dog (small – medium), loves: Local Sports Team.” And the most practical, get-the-job-done conveyance ever devised by 1980s era man had to go.
And I should say that I am not just picking on Mazda here. A number of automakers released new SUVs during the New York International Auto Show; Acura, Lexus, Lincoln, Hyundai, and Maserati among them. It’s all about what is fashionable. Fashion. That’s why people buy SUVs, ultimately. And if the 2019 Mazda CX-3 suits your style, then have at it. It’ll work.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.