Crossover mania has reached a fever pitch. Crossovers the size of the CR-V, RAV 4, and CX-5 are now a larger automotive segment than mid-size sedans like the Camry, Mazda6 and Accord. Next up are the sub-compact cute-‘utes. Both Mazda and Honda are out front leading this pack. Honda’s new HR-V is a fantastic car we had the chance to test recently. It has space in all the right places and it will be Honda’s next mega-hit. Mazda’s CX-3 is a real looker and as Car and Driver’s latest instrument test show, the clear leader in terms of performance in this new segment. Both cars have the same price points.
In Car and Driver’s* September print edition the magazine does a full comparison of the Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, Chevrolet Trax, Kia Soul, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3. We won’t spoil the story for you by saying which cars finish in what rank, but we will compare the HR-V and CX-3’s instrument tests and explain why the CX-3 is so much quicker.
HR-V vs. CX-3 Performance Numbers
These are small city cars. One good gauge of performance is the 0-30 mph sprint. Here the CX-3 takes just 2.8 seconds. The HR-V 3.7 seconds. Next up is the 0-60 mph sprint. Again the CX-3 tops the HR-V with a respectable 8.1 seconds with the HR-V trailing at 9.3 seconds. Nobody will ever race these cars side by side to 100mph, but if they did the CX-3 would take 23.8 seconds and the HR-V would take 29.1 seconds. So, in terms of straight line acceleration the CX-3 is significantly quicker than the Honda HR-V.
When it comes to the slalom, the CX-3 is also faster with a speed of 42.1 mph compared to 39.7 mph for the HR-V. So the CX-3 can turn faster. The CX-3 also has a faster “top gear passing time” and top speed. So, if you are a fan of the Honda HR-V, you are now starting to think that there must be a fuel economy penalty for all this quickness the Mazda CX-3 is demonstrating. Nope. The CX-3’s tested fuel economy was 28 mpg; the HR-V’s was lower at 26 mpg (cue the sad music).
How CX-3 Beats HR-V
The Mazda CX-3 uses a transmission with gears. Despite the theoretical advantages constantly variable transmissions like the one in the HR-V should have, they are usually slower. The real trick though is torque. The CX-3 has 146 ft-lbs of torque and the Honda HR-V just 127 ft-lb. The CX-3 also has a smidge more power with 146 hp compared to the HR-V’s 141. We did not see the power and torque curves plotted, but clearly the Mazda CX-3 has it where it counts, down low in the rev band compared to the HR-V. The Mazda is also lighter by 174 pounds. Lighter, more powerful, better transmission. A win for the CX-3.
There is also one small detail we picked up on. The CX-3 uses slightly smaller tires. Smaller tires usually are also lighter. That means that the tires have less rotating mass to accelerate and thus, the car can be a bit quicker. What we like about this comparison of two excellent cars is that the Mazda edges the Honda by doing many small things. It was not just more powerful. The power is almost identical. The Mazda was just a tiny bit better in all the categories that add up to quickness and also fuel economy. That is what Skyactive means, and why Mazda talks about it so much.
Related Story: Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 have nearly identical prices
*Car and Driver September 2015 Pages 86-97