• The impressive new Mazda CX-3

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    The Mazda CX-3 is only in its second model year, yet it’s maybe the best-designed, best-riding model in the sub-compact crossover segment.

    The CX-3 has gained dominance in a corner of the automotive market that didn’t even exist a few years ago; although, in truth, these tiny-utes — or as I like to call them, “toots” — are really just raised hatchbacks.

    The CX-3, despite its overall design prowess, has only about 12 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seats. So, unless you plan to drop the rear seats and treat it like a two-passenger vehicle, the car’s actual “utility” is debatable.

    Still, it is undeniably a sweet-driving machine, with light, pinpoint steering, a sport-tuned suspension and a highly refined powertrain built around a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder Skyactiv engine. Mazda’s little four-cylinder motors hum like sewing machines and accelerate briskly.

    Mazda now has one of the most complete stables of crossovers of any car-maker. On the other end of the size spectrum, the new Mazda CX-9 is our favorite seven-passenger SUV. Meanwhile, the capable CX-5 hits a happy medium in price and spaciousness. Many buyers will find it to be the Goldilocks choice — “just right.”

    Just the facts: The Mazda CX-3 is a four-passenger (five, in a pinch) sub-compact sport utility vehicle. All CX-3s come equipped with a 146-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. The standard transmission is a six-speed automatic.

    Worthwhile option: Add all-wheel drive to the CX-3 for $1,250 and you’ll get most of your money back when it comes time to trade. Also, you’ll gain some peace of mind on those inevitable Chattanooga days when school gets canceled for snow at noon and you have to slip and slide your way across town to fetch your kids.

    How much? Our top trim, Grand Touring model has an MSRP of $27,260. That’s a bit rich for the segment, but the CX-3 is a high-content vehicle with good resale value. The most basic CX-3 starts at just under $20,000.

    Cool stuff: The interior refinement of the CX-3 is astonishing — easily the equal of several small luxury crossovers. Parchment leather seats with black suede inserts and burgundy door accents are a knockout combo.

    We wish for: A heads-up display kit that doesn’t involve a flimsy piece of clear plastic.

    While you are looking: Also check out the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Nissan Juke and Buick Encore.

    TNS

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