2017 Mazda CX-3 vs Subaru Crosstrek

Despite our love of all things big, powerful, and thirsty in the auto world right now, compact crossovers are doing remarkably well at the moment. With attractive styling, impressive fuel-efficiency, lively performance and a decent amount of practicality most of the time, it's not surprising really. So, let's compare two of the best in the segment, the 2017 Mazda CX-3 and the Subaru Crosstrek.

2017 Mazda CX-3 vs Subaru Crosstrek

Exterior Styling

The CX-3 isn't just one of the most attractive compact crossovers in the market; it's one of the best-looking vehicles of its size in any segment, and that includes considerably more expensive luxury models. It's tall enough to retain its crossover credentials, but it's sleek enough to also be extremely sporty and incredibly attractive.

The exterior of the Crosstrek probably looks familiar, and that's because it's borrowed from the last generation of the Impreza. It wasn't a big hit then and it's not really winning too many admirers here either. The Subaru is more of a lifted hatchback than a shrunken SUV, so this round goes to the Mazda.

Interior Comfort and Style

Considering the CX-3 measures just 11.2 inches between the front and rear wheels, there's a decent amount of space inside for a vehicle of such compact proportions. There's ample room in the front, but the rear seats are not the most generous for larger adults. The interior styling is at least as sporty as the exterior, although the monochrome dials are a little disappointing.

You'll find more room inside the Subaru, and four adults can travel quite comfortably. In most places the interior materials and appointments are now up to standard in the class, although they're certainly not above the average. The extra space is welcome, but these vehicles are not really aimed at families, so the Mazda's more stylish interior wins this round.

Fuel Economy

Although fuel-efficiency isn't the main reason for buying vehicles like these, they still need to deliver respectable figures and the Mazda CX-3 certainly does. Front-drive versions get 29 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg combined, while all-wheel drive changes those numbers to 27/32/29 mpg.

There's no hybrid version of the Subaru Crosstrek this year, so this is a fair fight between two gas-powered crossovers. The EPA gives the Crosstrek best figures of 26 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined. Anecdotal evidence suggests CVT versions can do slightly better in real world driving, but this is still another victory for the CX-3.

Performance

Like all Mazda models these days, the CX-3 is fun and engaging to drive. Great emphasis is placed on the experience of driving, communicating with the road through the wheels, inspiring lots of confidence, and producing a sporty character sometimes lacking in this segment. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine isn't hugely fast, but it's still a great drive.

The Subaru also has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and once again the focus is on how the vehicle drives and handles rather than straight line speed. However, all versions of the Subaru Crosstrek get all-wheel drive standard, and it's a system that really can be used off-road if you need to. This is an all-weather, any surface hauler, and that makes it the winner in this area.

Learn More about the Mazda CX-3

2017 Mazda CX-3 vs Subaru Crosstrek

If you want go-anywhere capability and a decent amount of practicality from a compact crossover, the Subaru Crosstrek isn't a bad choice at all. But this is a segment where most of the time the vehicle will operate in an urban environment with just the driver or driver and passenger inside. Desirability is all-important then, and the 2017 Mazda CX-3 has desirability to spare. When the Mazda looks and drives so beautifully and also costs less than the Subaru, it's not a difficult decision to name the CX-3 our winner here.

*Any MPG listed is based on model year EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary, depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, battery pack age/condition (hybrid only) and other factors. For additional information about EPA ratings, visit http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/label/learn-more-PHEV-label.shtml.

** Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) New Car Assessment Program. Model tested with standard side airbags (SABs). For additional information on the 5-Star Safety Ratings program, please visit www.safercar.gov.