2020 Lexus NX Series vs. 2020 Mazda CX-3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The NX Series’ optional pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The CX-3 doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The NX Series offers an optional Intuitive Parking Assist with Automatic Braking that use rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The CX-3 doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The NX Series offers an optional Panoramic View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The CX-3 only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.

The NX Series’ driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the NX Series and the CX-3 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all-wheel drive, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

The Lexus NX Series weighs 946 to 1329 pounds more than the Mazda CX-3. The NHTSA advises that heavier vehicles are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts. Crosswinds also affect lighter cars more.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH, results indicate that the Lexus NX Series is safer than the Mazda CX-3:

NX Series

CX-3

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Movement

.6 inches

.8 inches

Abdominal Force

148 G’s

199 G’s

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

49 G’s

85 G’s

Hip Force

303 lbs.

487 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the NX Series its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 83 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The CX-3 is only a standard “Top Pick” for 2019.

Warranty

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The NX Series comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The CX-3’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

Lexus’ powertrain warranty covers the NX Series 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Mazda covers the CX-3. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the CX-3 ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The NX Series’ corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the CX-3’s (6 vs. 5 years).

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are better in initial quality than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus 8th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 4 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 12th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 53 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 21st.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Mazda vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Mazda is ranked second.

Engine

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The NX 300h’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid produces 46 more horsepower (194 vs. 148) and 53 lbs.-ft. more torque (199 vs. 146) than the CX-3’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder. The NX 300’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 87 more horsepower (235 vs. 148) and 112 lbs.-ft. more torque (258 vs. 146) than the CX-3’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder.

As tested in Consumer Reports the Lexus NX Series is faster than the Mazda CX-3:

NX 300h

NX 300

CX-3

Zero to 30 MPH

3.3 sec

3 sec

3.5 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

8.9 sec

7.5 sec

9.6 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

5.6 sec

5 sec

5.9 sec

Quarter Mile

16.9 sec

15.9 sec

17.4 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

84.6 MPH

91.6 MPH

82.2 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the NX 300h gets better fuel mileage than the CX-3 AWD (33 city/30 hwy vs. 27 city/32 hwy).

Regenerative brakes improve the NX Series 300h’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the NX Series 300h’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The CX-3 doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The NX Series Hybrid’s standard fuel tank has 2.9 gallons more fuel capacity than the CX-3 AWD’s standard fuel tank (14.8 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The NX Series’ standard fuel tank has 3.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the CX-3 FWD’s standard fuel tank (15.9 vs. 12.7 gallons).

Transmission

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The NX 300h has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the NX Series’ brake rotors are larger than those on the CX-3:

NX Series

CX-3

CX-3 AWD

Front Rotors

12.9 inches

11 inches

11.6 inches

The NX Series stops shorter than the CX-3:

NX Series

CX-3

60 to 0 MPH

115 feet

118 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

137 feet

148 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the NX Series has larger standard tires than the CX-3 (225/65R17 vs. 215/60R16). The NX Series F Sport’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CX-3 (235/55R18 vs. 215/60R16).

The NX Series F Sport’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the CX-3’s 60 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the NX Series has standard 17-inch wheels. Only 16-inch wheels are available on the CX-3. The NX Series offers optional 18-inch wheels.

Suspension and Handling

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For superior ride and handling, the Lexus NX Series has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Mazda CX-3 has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

The NX Series has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The CX-3’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The NX Series has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the NX Series flat and controlled during cornering. The CX-3’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

The NX Series offers an optional driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The CX-3’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the NX Series’ wheelbase is 3.5 inches longer than on the CX-3 (104.7 inches vs. 101.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the NX Series is 2 inches wider in the front and 2.1 inches wider in the rear than the track on the CX-3.

The NX 300 AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the CX-3 AWD (27.2 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 27.6 seconds @ .66 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the NX 300h has a greater minimum ground clearance than the CX-3 (6.7 vs. 6.1 inches), allowing the NX Series to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The NX 300’s minimum ground clearance is .7 inch higher than on the CX-3 Touring/Grand Touring (6.9 vs. 6.2 inches).

Chassis

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As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the NX 300 F Sport AWD is quieter than the CX-3 AWD:

NX Series

CX-3

At idle

37 dB

39 dB

Full-Throttle

74 dB

78 dB

70 MPH Cruising

69 dB

71 dB

Passenger Space

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The NX Series has 1.1 inches more front legroom, 2.8 inches more front hip room, 3.8 inches more front shoulder room, .9 inches more rear headroom, 1.1 inches more rear legroom, 4.9 inches more rear hip room and 4.9 inches more rear shoulder room than the CX-3.

For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the NX Series’ rear seats recline. The CX-3’s rear seats don’t recline.

Cargo Capacity

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The NX Series has a larger cargo volume with its rear seat folded than the CX-3 with its rear seat folded (54.6 vs. 42.7 cubic feet).

The NX Series’ cargo area is larger than the CX-3’s in every dimension:

NX Series

CX-3

Length to seat (2nd/1st)

36”/71.5”

27.8”/58”

Max Width

53”

n/a

Min Width

44.3”

39.4”

Height

27”

26.6”

Pressing a switch automatically lowers or raises the NX Series’ optional rear seats, to make changing between cargo and passengers easier. The CX-3 doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the NX Series. The CX-3 doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the NX Series’ power liftgate can be opened or closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening liftgate.

Towing

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The NX 300h AWD offers up to a 2000 lbs. towing capacity. The CX-3 has no towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

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The NX Series uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The CX-3 uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Lexus service is better than Mazda. J.D. Power ranks Lexus second in service department satisfaction. With a 70% lower rating, Mazda is ranked 25th.

Ergonomics

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The NX Series has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

When three different drivers share the NX Series, the optional memory system makes it convenient for all three. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position, steering wheel position, outside mirror angle and climate settings. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a memory system.

The NX Series’ optional easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The CX-3 doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The NX Series’ instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge - which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The CX-3 has neither an oil pressure gauge nor a temperature gauge.

The power windows standard on both the NX Series and the CX-3 have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the NX Series is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The CX-3 prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The NX Series’ front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The CX-3’s passenger windows don’t open or close automatically.

If the windows are left open on the NX Series the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. (This window function must be activated by your Lexus service department.) The driver of the CX-3 can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

Smart Access standard on the NX Series allows you to unlock the doors, cargo door and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Mazda CX-3’s Pushbutton Start doesn’t unlock the doors or the cargo door.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The NX Series’ headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the CX-3’s headlights are rated “Acceptable.”

The NX Series’ standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. The CX-3 doesn’t offer heated side mirrors.

When the NX Series with available tilt-down mirrors is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The CX-3’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The NX Series’ standard rear view mirror and optional side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The CX-3 offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The NX Series offers optional heated front seats, which keep the driver and front passenger extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated seats aren’t available in the CX-3.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the NX Series keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in Summer. The CX-3 doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the NX Series’ optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the vehicle heater warms up. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The NX Series’ standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The CX-3 doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

Both the NX Series and the CX-3 offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the NX Series has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The CX-3 doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

Economic Advantages

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Insurance will cost less for the NX Series owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the NX Series with a number “5” insurance rate while the CX-3 is rated higher at a number “8” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the NX Series is less expensive to operate than the CX-3 because typical repairs cost less on the NX Series than the CX-3, including $41 less for front brake pads and $70 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/09/28

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Lexus NX Series and the Mazda CX-3, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Lexus NX Series outsold the Mazda CX-3 by almost four to one during 2019.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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