The Mazda CX-3 is a subcompact crossover SUV with a sporty charm. It’s easy on your wallet and user-friendly, but is it reliable?
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Like any other popular model, the Mazda CX-3 is not a perfect car.
You’ll likely encounter multiple common problems along the way, which we shall discuss in this post.
1. Control logic which monitors the charging control program fails
Mazda issued a recall for Mazda CX-3 vehicles produced between 2015 and 2017.
When the control logic which monitors the charging control program fails to divert electrical power away from the capacitor, a fault is detected within the capacitor circuit.
This results in a short circuit inside the DC-DC converter itself, which can easily lead to fires. You may notice an “i-ELOOP fault” warning light illuminating the instrument cluster along with “i-Stop” light flashing.
In extreme cases, your vehicle’s engine may stall and fail to restart. The DC-DC converter can overheat, causing fires.
Battery monitoring is vital as it helps improve system reliability by detecting battery problems at the earliest stages before they cause a dangerous system failure.
To remedy the problem, you must reprogram the PCM with the correct control logic and replace the DC-DC converter if the error code “U3000: 49-DCDC” is stored.
2. Liftgate may drop down without warning
Several drivers have reported experiencing problems with their liftgate dropping down without warning.
The problem is caused by water penetrating the tailgate strut cylinder, causing corrosion which may affect the strut’s attachment.
When the surface of the struts corrode, the external body can swell, and the end cap could split and break when the liftgate is opened.
As a result, your liftgate may drop open without warning, increasing the chances of an accident or injury.
There’s also the risk of components being dislodged and ejected when the liftage fails, causing potential risks of injury to people nearby.
Mazda noted that this issue was more common in vehicles whose owners lived along the coast or parked near a beach. The most affected CX-3 vehicles are 2016 models.
Since this was a recall, drivers can present their vehicles to their local Mazda dealer for a replacement of the liftgate struts free of charge.
Some people have also reported not being able to open their lift gates. If you notice that you’re unable to open your liftgate due to corrosion, here are a few steps you can follow to open it.
- Fold down the rear back seats.
- Remove the cover on the interior surface of the litigate using a flathead screwdriver.
- Open the inner cover with the screwdriver.
- Turn the lever to the right to unlock the liftgate.
Note that this is not necessary nor recommended if you can access the trunk through the rear. For this reason, ensure that the vehicle is inspected by an authorized Mazda dealer near you immediately.
3. Brake hose retaining clip may fail
If your 2016 or 2017 Mazda CX-3 leaks brake fluid, you’re probably among over 700 drivers affected by a manufacturing fault.
The manufacturers noticed they may have damaged the surface finishing on the brake hose clips during installation. As a result, the brake hose clips can rust and break casing brake fluid to leak.
To solve the problem, take your vehicle to the nearest dealer to have the brake hose clips replaced with modified ones at no cost.
Your vehicle’s brake system relies on brake fluid to operate, as it helps transfer movement to force the braking system to slow or stop your vehicle safely.
Without it, the brake pedal is useless, creating a dangerous driving situation for you.
If your Mazda CX-3 has problems with the braking system, you may want to check the brake fluid. Signs of brake fluid leak include:
- Pooling fluid under the car: Check near the wheels for alight yellow or brownish slippery residue. You can follow the path of the leak back to the brake lines. Brake fluid also resembles motor oil.
- Break warning light on your dashboard: Your vehicle will notify you of the leakage through an illuminated brake warning light. This light comes on when the brake fluid is running low, usually due to leaking.
- Soft or spongy brake pedal: When the brake pedal feels soft or spongy, it’s an indication of low brake fluid level. The pedal will feel like it’s sinking when pressed or reduced resistance when slowing the car.
- Low brake fluid levels: When the brake fluid drops drastically over a short period, it’s possible that there’s a leak somewhere in the system.
Brake fluid leak problem can easily be solved by a certified technician. It’s best to visit your nearest Mazda dealer to repair the leaks immediately.
4. Engine turns over, won’t start
Many Mazda CX-3 drivers have shared their frustrations over the vehicle’s engine cranking but not starting and others not turning at all.
Ironically, it’s easier to diagnose a vehicle that won’t turn over at all than when it cranks but won’t fire.
Since there are no recalls issued so far, the problem may be caused by other issues. Here’s how to fix both problems.
Mazda CX-3 Won’t Start: Not Cranking
Here are some things to check if your vehicle won’t turn over or crank.
- Battery cables
- Battery charge
- Faulty starter
Mazda CX-3 Engine Cranking; won’t start
If your vehicle’s engine cranks but doesn’t start, it can be difficult to troubleshoot if you have no clue where to start. The most common possible causes of engine cranking but not starting include:
- Fuel issues
- Ignition problems
- Engine timing
- Security system
- Computer systems
- Clogged fuel injectors
When your engine cranks but fails to start, it’s best to call a professional to check it for you. Many things can cause this issue, and it can be time-consuming and tiring going through all of them.
A professional knows the most common reasons and will have an easier time finding and fixing the problem.
5. AC not working properly
According to Motor Biscuit, your 2016 Mazda CX-3 is one of the most likely vehicles to have AC problems.
If you’re sweating more than usual, you may want to look closely at your SUV’s air conditioner, as this is a common problem.
Drivers have reported their air conditioning system taking too long to cool properly, or it’s blowing hot air.
The owners noted that their vehicles started experiencing air conditioning problems between 22,000 and 49,000 miles.
The most reported causes were condenser problems and refrigerant leaks. Other known causes that could hinder normal operation of your air conditioning system include:
- Dirty cabin air filter
- Clogged or dirty condenser
- Faulty blower
- Low refrigerant
- Bad blend door actuator
- Defective compressor
- Dirty or clogged evaporator
- Electrical system issues
Since refrigerant leaking is the most common cause of AC not working in your CX-3, it’s crucial to get a professional to inspect and fix it.
Your crossover’s air conditioner won’t work if the refrigerant is too low. While it’s tempting to get more coolant and keep driving, it’s not a good idea.
Unless you find where the leak is coming from, you will experience the same problem again soon.
6. Forward collision and lane departure warning coming on intermittently
The Mazda Cx-3 is loaded with safety features, including the forward collision and lane departure warning.
Drivers have reported seeing these lights come on when there are no cars and not drifting over lanes.
Some drivers say the lights come on and off, while others stay longer before going off a couple of times as they drive. This problem is common in the 2016 and 2017 models.
If you notice one of your safety sensor lights coming on when there’s no possible cause, notify your dealer.
They will inspect the computer system and the camera sensor to determine which one is faulty.
If you still have your warranty, it will cover this replacement.
Please also read my article about the best and worst years for the Mazda3.
General pros and cons for the Mazda CX-3
The Mazda CX-3 is one of the sportiest small SUVs you’ll find on the market today.
It features a stylish exterior resembling the CX5 with an angular front, modern LED headlamps, and a large grille that gives it a masculine, sporty look.
However, the backseats appear rather cramped up, meaning you will struggle to carry three passengers in the back.
Pros of the Mazda CX-3
Here are the advantages of the Mazda CX-3:
- Stylish exterior
The CX-3 oozes style when it comes to its exterior. It features a wide grille and narrow headlights that appear pretty aggressive. There are visible creases on the doors that make the SUV look sportier and masculine.
- Strong built and finish
The SUV is impressively detailed and well-built, with a spacious cabin. The straightforward and comfortable driving position makes it easy to settle for a drive.
Mazda uses soft leather, textured plastics, and bright chrome detailing to style the interior.
- Great safety features
The Mazda CX-3 earns excellent among most reviewers due to its excellent crash ratings.
It received a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It also has earned a top Safety Pick Award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Some impressive safety features include the six airbags, brake assist, emergency brake assist, dynamic stability, a blind spot monitoring system, and many others.
- Easy to maintain and drive
The CX-3 is an affordable car to buy and maintain. Fuel consumption is fair, and most parts are durable. Depending on how you use the vehicle, you don’t expect to replace parts in the next four years.
Cons of the Mazda CX-3
Here are the drawbacks of the Mazda CX-3:
- Control logic which monitors the charging control program fails
- Liftgate may drop down without warning
- The brake hose retaining clip may fail
- The engine turns over, but won’t start
- AC not working properly
- Forward collision and lane departure warning lights coming on intermittently
What do the reviewers say?
“It has some space in the subcompact segment with the slightly bigger and slightly more expensive CX-30. However, its proximity to the CX-30 doesn’t render CX-3 absolutely obsolete.”
“The Mazda CX-3 is worth considering and buying for a subcompact SUV, particularly if you prioritize performance. However, if you value cargo space and passenger room, you may want to skip this SUV and look elsewhere as it falls short in these areas.”
What is the resale value of the Mazda CX-3?
Check out our article about the best and worst years for the Mazda CX-3.
Final Thoughts on Mazda CX-3’s common problems
The Mazda CX-3 is relatively safe, fun to drive, easy to maintain, and stylish. It’s perfect for a young family, as the back seats don’t have enough room for adults.
If you’re tight on budget, this vehicle is economical to maintain, fuel-friendly and comes at an affordable price.
However, like any other car, this crossover SUV has several issues you may want to look at critically before making a decision. From AC to safety and engine, be sure to check out the problems we’ve highlighted to save time and resources.
Overall, Mazda has done a great job owning to the few recalls seen on this vehicle.
Go Back: Problems for all Mazdas.
ⓘ The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.