It’s hard to believe that just three years ago, the subcompact sport utility vehicle segment didn’t even exist yet. Then a little over two years ago, Ford unleashed the EcoSport. Starting at an astoundingly low-priced P775,000, the EcoSport created a whole new genre—the sub-1-million crossover category.

I call it the true crossover segment, as they’re more closely related to their subcompact sedan or hatchback siblings (the Fiesta in the case of the EcoSport) and they’re all front-wheel drive only. So much for being off-roaders.

But that price-leading EcoSport spawned a whole host of similar FWD-only subcompacts in the Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, and Ssangyong Tivoli. All but the HR-V start below one million (although only the diminutive Ford starts below P800,000).

And now Mazda joins the fray with the CX-3. Size-wise, it fits perfectly in this class. Price-wise and trim-wise, however, it seems to focus more on the Honda HR-V and, in the case of the top-of-the-line Activ 4WD variant which, obviously has all-wheel drive, even seems to be aiming for the big leagues which include the Toyota RAV 4, Honda CR-V, and Hyundai Tucson.   

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That’s because it retails for an almost-breathtaking P1,480,000. I know what you’re thinking: it’s knocking on the doors of entry-level Toyota Fortuners, Mitsubishi Montero Sports, and Ford Everests—big 7-seater diesel-powered true SUV’s.

Well the CX-3 flagship’s price might be uncomfortably close to those behemoths’, but Mazda believes a CX-3 buyer will not be distracted by those leviathans. It’s more for people who want a cute and sexy small sport ute that’s as easy—or even easier—to drive as a Toyota Vios (which is six inches longer than a CX-3) but has the typical crossover virtues of high visibility, generous ground clearance, and confidence-inspiring water-wading depth. Add to that high-end features like leather-and-suede interior, LED headlights, dual exhausts, big 18-inch alloy wheels with sport tires, a Bose sound system, (and probably one of the best-looking exteriors in its class), and you’ve got one very appealing crossover with exclusivity and even luxury thrown into the mix.            

It’s becoming a veritable asphalt jungle out there for small crossovers. And Mazda knows just how to be king of that jungle with the CX-3. Good-looking, fun to drive, compact yet versatile and reasonably spacious, extremely well-equipped—what’s not to like? Oh, the price. But if you can afford it…

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Test: Mazda CX-3 Activ AWD
Design9
Build Quality9
Driveability9
Performance9
Value for Money7.8
8.8Overall Score