Mazda has given the little CX-3 SUV a light freshening for 2019 that doesn't alter the subcompact SUV much, but adds details aimed at making it seem a little more premium. That's in line with the brand's efforts to differentiate itself from bigger mainstream brands with a more upscale experience.
Related: More 2018 New York Auto Show News
Style aside, the well-designed Mazda CX-3 already says premium with a sportier driving experience than most mainstream subcompact SUVs, as I confirmed on twisting mountain roads in western Maryland and West Virginia.
And in a seemingly continuous improvement plan, the 2019 CX-3 builds on 2018 refinements, and a small price bump, that already took it a little more upscale. The 2018 CX-3 upgrades included tweaks for better handling and the addition of Mazda's G-Vectoring Control system, which adjusts power delivery and shifts weight for better cornering. The cabin got more sound insulation and an optional head-up display, driver-seat memory and heated steering wheel. Most significantly, all models got a standard low-speed (up to 19 mph) forward collision system with automatic braking.
Full specs and pricing for the 2019 Mazda CX-3, unveiled at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, will come closer to when it goes on sale this spring, but here are six things we already know:
1. Classed-Up Exterior
The busy seven-bar grille insert gets a bolder treatment with four more interesting bars; the lower bumper gets chrome accents that are echoed on the lower doors; the taillights get a new LED signature; and the side pillars and foglamp house get a shiny piano-black finish. Add Mazda's extra-cost Soul Red Crystal paint to the CX-3 and stir.
2. Leather, New Seats, Colorful Trim
For the first time, higher trim levels of the Mazda CX-3 will have full-leather seat surfaces, with prominent stitching and pleated piping. The leather covers redesigned seats that are wider and have firmer foam support. And there is faux suede trim and shiny red accents on the climate vents.
3. A Rational Console
While I'll miss the handbrake, I won't miss the dysfunctional cupholder arrangement. A switch to an electronic parking brake with auto-hold opened up space for a redone console that's not perfect, but it now has relocated cupholders and an integrated armrest (rest your arm and your drink at the same time?), plus usable console storage. If you think this is a small thing in subcompact crossovers, find the passenger-side center armrest in a Buick Encore.
4. New Wheels
New 18-inch wheels with shiny spokes and painted hollows add depth, while Mazda says new low-profile tires have been developed for those wheels to better absorb road imperfections for the firm-riding CX-3, as well as improve braking distance.
5. Rear Cupholders
With cupholders apparently on the brain, the rear armrest has been given built-in cupholders. This won't make the CX-3 tight rear seat any roomier, but at least there's a place for your drink.
6. A Little More Power
The 2.0-liter engine has been retuned to put out 148 horsepower and 148 pounds-feet of torque, each number increased by 2. Perhaps more importantly — though we won't know the effects until we drive it — Mazda says the new tuning increases torque across the rpm range.
In other Mazda news at the New York show, the company gave a U.S. debut to the minimalist Kai concept car that previews Mazda's design direction (and maybe the next Mazda3?).
Mazda also said the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, promised a year ago, will arrive in the summer on the new Mazda6 and can be added as an upgrade to the 2018 models at the Touring trim level and above. The company did not announce a schedule for other models, nor which other older models could be upgraded.
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