You know, for me, this is a bit of a game changer.

Lots of automakers have tried to make some kind of an SUV/crossover deal, that gives you truly good performance and handling.

Until the last few years, only the Subaru Outback came close for me, but Mazda’s CX family of crossovers, including the small CX-3, may take the crown.

Start with the looks. Not as swoopy and boy-racer looking as it’s bigger brothers the CX 5 and 9, the CX-3 is aerodynamic but also a little more squared off, which frankly means, roomier.

In fact, though it shares the CX moniker, it’s essentially a 4-door hatchback, which is just fine with me.

And though our Grand Touring model came with the all-wheel-drive that is optional on others in the line, it is really more car than truck.

Inside, the latest generation of Mazdas reaffirm my faith in designers. They manage to combine practicality with style. It is, in short, a darned nice place to park your carcass.

Under the hood, only one engine choice. A 2.0-liter, inline four cylinder power plant sends 146-horsepower to all four wheels, and the trip from stop to 60 miles per hour takes about 8 seconds. That won’t put you on the front row at Indy, but it’s not too bad for a small, shapely rolling box.

Handling is really, really good. The CX-3 takes corners with authority and while it doesn’t stick like glue exactly, it’s pretty good library paste. Compared to many of its wallowing compadres in the SUV field, it’s the sports car of the bunch.

And all this performance doesn’t require as much Middle-Eastern go-juice as many of its competitors as well. 29 miles per gallon city, 32 on the highway are the figures, and for a trucklet that can carry 4 comfortably, along with most of the debris of modern civilization in the back, it’s pretty darned good.

This combination of efficiency and performance is called Skyactiv by Mazda, and if you asked me to explain what that means with a gun to my head, I’d have to tell you to shoot.  It’s a fancy marketing term for, it works. And loaded up, it works for about $29-grand.

In short, I liked it and the CX-3 is not a machine I expected to fell much about one way or another. That’s called winning you over, and Mazda is making a habit of that these days.


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