2016 Honda HR-V vs 2016 Mazda CX-3

Little Tall Wagons Ho!


There’s a baby on the way, and it’s time to trade in that prized sports car.

You know, the sports car that sits on blocks on the driveway more than it’s actually driven. Once a baby arrives, you can’t really justify walking a mile to the grocery store in scorching heat because the firing order hasn’t been sorted yet. It’s time to become a grown up and get a reliable vehicle with some space in it.

But the money tree in the backyard hasn’t matured yet, and the thought of being relegated to the minivan lane of life is cringe-worthy. So what to do? Well, a new wave of practical, little crossovers is invading the market.

Vehicles like the 2016 Honda HR-V and 2016 Mazda CX-3. Based on their company’s respective subcompact cars, the HR-V and CX-3 represent a new league of small crossovers that we first got a taste of with the Nissan Juke and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

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What’s a Subcompact CUV?

Subcompact crossovers are basically for anyone who finds compact crossovers like the CR-V and CX-5 too big or too pricey. The HR-V may be based on the Fit platform, but it uses the Civic’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and makes 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. Power can be sent to the ground through either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. If all-wheel drive is selected though, then the CVT is the only choice.

The CX-3 also uses a four-cylinder engine lifted from the company’s compact car; a 2.0-liter making 146 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the HR-V, the CX-3 is automatic only, but it uses a conventional six-speed transmission instead of a CVT.

Power and Efficiency

2016 Honda HR-VAside from the power advantage, the 2,951-lb CX-3 is also roughly 150 pounds lighter than a fully loaded HR-V. At slow speeds, the power to weight advantage is apparent, as the CX-3 feels much quicker off the line. But neither vehicle is what can be considered powerful and by highway speeds, things have pretty much evened out.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Mazda CX-3 Review

And speaking of even, these two crossovers have identical fuel economy ratings of 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway when equipped with all-wheel drive. During real-world testing, the CX-3 did have a minor advantage averaging 30.6 mpg compared to the HR-V’s 29.7-mpg average.

Fun vs Familiar

2016 Mazda CX-3In terms of driving pleasure, it’s all about the CX-3. It’s far more fun to drive and really behaves like a compact car more than a crossover. Corners can be taken with some speed and the CX-3 is relatively capable at tackling them.

Even if the mechanics aren’t the same as the CR-V, the HR-V sure drives like a scaled-down version of that compact crossover. Power is adequate and the CVT is smooth, blending into the background. But on the highway, it can hunt around at times trying to find enough power to keep the HR-V up to speed. The good news is that, for such a small crossover, the HR-V rides quite smoothly – more so than the CX-3.

Compare Specs

Honda HR-V
Mazda CX-3
Vehicle Honda HR-V Advantage Mazda CX-3
Engine 1.8 L Four-Cylinder - 2.0 L Four Cylinder
Horsepower 141 HP CX-3 146 HP
Torque 127 lb-ft. CX-3 146 lb-ft.
Weight 3,109 lbs. CX-3 2,951 lbs.
Rear Legroom 39.3-inches HR-V 35.0-inches
Cargo Space Seats Up 23.2 cubic feet HR-V 14.4 cubic feet
Cargo Space Seats Dn 55.9 cubic feet HR-V 52.4 cubic feet
Fuel Economy (US) 27 MPG city, 32 MPG hwy - 27 MPG city, 32 MPG hwy
Fuel Economy (CDN) 8.8 L/100 km city, 7.2 L/100 km hwy - 8.8 L/100 km city, 7.3 L/100 km hwy
Observed Fuel Economy 29.7 MPG CX-3 30.6 MPG
Starting Price(US) $19,995 HR-V $20,840
Starting Price(CDN) $22,385 - $22,590
Top Trim Price(US) $26,720 HR-V $29,040
Top Trim Price(CDN) $31,685 HR-V $32,390

What Are They Like Inside?

Honda HR-V-14The interior design of the HR-V is a bit boring, except for the trio of passenger side slit vents that remind me of Geordi La Forge’s eyewear. Even if this is a baby crossover, a lot of grown up equipment is available like push button start, lane watch camera and navigation. But unlike HR-Vs available in Canada, Americans are denied two options – lane departure warning and the front collision alert system.

But the biggest issue with the HR-V is one I’ve complained about in a lot of modern Hondas – headroom. With the standard sunroof, two inches of driver headroom is lost and my head is brushing against the headliner. It’s as if the seat won’t adjust low enough. It’s strange, as the Mazda is actually listed as having less headroom, but I fit in there no problem.

Mazda CX-3-4Besides the extra cranium capacity, the CX-3 has an aura of being more upscale inside, which makes sense since it can be equipped with a lot of features not found in the HR-V like a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, forward crash avoidance and lane departure warning. This does, however, drive up the price. As tested, the CX-3 GT AWD with the i-ACTIVSENSE safety package comes in at $29,040 after destination charges, some $2,320 more than a loaded HR-V EX-L Navi.

But Can They Carry?

And pricing is just the start of the pendulum swinging back in favor of the HR-V. For how small it is, the HR-V offers a ton of rear passenger space. With almost 40 inches of legroom, a six-foot adult can easily sit behind another six-foot adult. Oddly, headroom isn’t an issue in the back and seat comfort is pretty good. All of this space makes installing a rear-facing baby seat a non-issue for the front passenger.

Honda HR-V-12

In the CX-3, legroom is down more than four inches and it’s noticeably tighter. Fitting a baby seat in there will have the front seat passenger eating the dashboard. Headroom for rear passengers is on par with the Honda, but the side windows in the Mazda aren’t nearly as big and airy feeling as the HR-V’s.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Honda HR-V Review

And when it comes to cargo space, the HR-V wins hands down. Forget for a second that the Honda, at 23.3 cubic feet, offers nearly 40 percent more cargo space behind the rear seats. Its real party trick is the magic seats. Just like the Fit, the HR-V’s rear seat cushions can flip up to fit taller items. Or, the entire seat surface can fold flat into the footwell, leaving a nice, big load area.

The CX-3 can’t match the HR-V’s hauling ability, and it also has a much smaller hatch opening. Trying to fit the base of an infant stroller is a chore and a half while the HR-V swallows it up without issue. And it’s not like the HR-V is a massively larger crossover; it’s less than inch longer in total length than the CX-3.

The Verdict: 2016 Honda HR-V vs 2016 Mazda CX-3

Deciding between these two really comes down to a question of where your current priorities lay. If kids aren’t in the picture and won’t be for the foreseeable future, grab the fun-to-drive and stylish CX-3.

But if you do have kids or plan to soon, the Mazda is just too small for a young family. The better choice is the Honda HR-V. Small in stature, the surprisingly spacious and capable HR-V is a baby crossover, ready to haul babies.

2016 Honda HR-V

2016 Mazda CX-3

  • But for the best of both worlds, it’s always the Subaru XV Crosstrek.

  • Shiratori1

    That’s a compact car, not a sub-compact.

  • Shiratori1

    HR-V is the better and more practical choice. If you just want a fun car, why would one not just buy the 3 hatchback over the CX-3?

  • Cameron Johnson

    All the magazines count it as a sub-compact

  • Well, in that case, the Chevrolet Trax, for the best of both worlds.

  • DrewTwoFish

    I have to agree: quicker, roomier, cheaper, better fuel mileage. No AWD? Throw on some snow tires and buy the manual. You’ll be 90% of the way there.

  • Ben-Ghazi

    Honda makes better cars than Mazda.

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    Good review. Being single, (as in not married) and having no immediate plans for kids, I still think I’d prefer the HR-V for two main reasons: the extra practicality of the HR-V would always come handy for shuttling friends or precious loot from my bi-weekly adventures, and second: I just trust Honda’s more. Reliability, resale, and their engines: Bullet. Proof. Besides, I don’t like the heads up display in the new Mazda’s. I find it annoying, tacky, and gimmicky. That infotainment screen placement too. Why, just why?

  • Mike S

    My wife bought a Fit this month, and have to say that it’s an awesome car all the way around. The HR-V is based on it, and had we the need for a CUV, we’d have chosen it over the CX-3 for the reasons outlined in the article, above. The Fit’s versatility is what won our affection, which, for my wife, was immediate: “It’s such a simple car”, she said, and it is. Sure, it has the electronics and backup cameras and LaneWatch plus all the room, yet it seems so simple. That sort of seamlessness between what we needed and what we wanted is lacking somewhat in other makes, and Honda got it just right.

  • Pierre-Alexandre Bélanger

    Mazda CX-3 all the way…I just bought one, quality, design, driving experience…everything from that CUV feels like a high end brand like Audi. Yes the power of the engine could be more, yes the heads up display is not as high quality than BMW, but its very well done and very useful when you try it for a while. Its better than Honda HR-V. For small families, maybe the Honda is more useful because of cargo space, but for the rest, Mazda is much better. And I bought Mazda products all my life…never had issues…they are more than reliable and way more fun to drive…Rust problems have been fixed since 2010

  • Mark

    This comparison is kind of useless. Despite overall length similarity HR-V is a compact whereas CX-3 is very much a sub-compact.

    Mazda has made substantial improvements in quality and design since shaking off their ill-advised marriage with Ford. I think Consumer Reports has shot down any myths to the contrary.

    The placement of the heads-up and infotainment displays in the current crop of Mazdas is to keep a driver’s eyes close to the road where they should be. The overdose on touch screen tech in the EX and EX-L HR-Vs is a dangerous distraction.

    Honda’s magic seat is a killer feature and I’d love other companies to adopt (steal?) it but there are likely patent issues.

  • Jim Bronson

    Funny, WRT the introducion, I have a baby on the way and I’d much rather have the minivan. They have a lot more useful room and the Chrysler vehicles especially will smoke either one of these two in a drag race. Mileage is worse but gas is $1.89 a gallon here.

  • Ukim N. Angot

    Nobody cares about subaru, or toyota for that matter. Subaru toyota toyota subaru whatever, same, taxi cabs.

  • Uber – Trypophobia

    The CX-3 is stronger and lighter. I test drove both and bought the CX-3. Honda HR-V was a disappointment, it would need a 2.4 engine to match with the 2.0 CR-X but they used the old and reliable 1.8 Civic engine. They should have used the 10th generation 2.0 Civic engine but that is already under recall. This subcompact SUV is for singles and couples, never intended to become a family SUV so I don’t get the cargo space and small space comments. This is for people looking for an easy park, city SUV with 4 wheel drive options.
    I love my Mazda but I also have a 2016 Honda Civic so I love Honda too just not the HR-V.

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    Good article, Thank you!

  • windel Vernon

    HR-V comes with the brands reliability worthy of consideration if you’re a long termer. But I like the CX-3 for it’s weight to power ratio, comparable fuel economy and Mazda’s fun to drive reputation. I’ll take mine in silver with black chrome wheels. Please.