2020 Toyota Rav4 vs. 2020 Mazda CX-3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The Rav4 has a standard Secondary Collision Brake, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Rav4 (except LE/XLE) offers optional Rear Cross-Traffic Braking that uses 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 Rav4 Limited/TRD Off-Road offers an optional Bird’s Eye 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 Rav4’s 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 Rav4 and the CX-3 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, 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.

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 Rav4 its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 82 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The CX-3 is only a standard “Top Pick” for 2019.

Warranty

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Toyota pays for scheduled maintenance on the Rav4 for 2 years and 25000 miles. Toyota will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Mazda doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the CX-3.

There are over 2 times as many Toyota dealers as there are Mazda dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Rav4’s warranty.

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 Toyota vehicles are better in initial quality than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Toyota 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 Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Toyota second in reliability, above the industry average. With 51 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 21st.

Engine

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The Rav4’s 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder produces 55 more horsepower (203 vs. 148) and 38 lbs.-ft. more torque (184 vs. 146) than the CX-3’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder.

As tested in Consumer Reports the Toyota Rav4 is faster than the Mazda CX-3:

Rav4

CX-3

Zero to 30 MPH

3.1 sec

3.5 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

8.3 sec

9.6 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

4.5 sec

5.9 sec

Quarter Mile

16.5 sec

17.4 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

88 MPH

82.2 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the Rav4 LE 4WD gets better fuel mileage than the CX-3 AWD (27 city/34 hwy vs. 27 city/32 hwy).

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Rav4 LE AWD/XLE/XLE Premium’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 Rav4 has 2.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the CX-3 AWD’s standard fuel tank (14.5 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Rav4 has 1.8 gallons more fuel capacity than the CX-3 FWD’s standard fuel tank (14.5 vs. 12.7 gallons).

Transmission

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An eight-speed automatic is standard on the Toyota Rav4, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the CX-3.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the Rav4’s brake rotors are larger than those on the CX-3:

Rav4

CX-3

CX-3 AWD

Front Rotors

12 inches

11 inches

11.6 inches

The Rav4 stops much shorter than the CX-3:

Rav4

CX-3

70 to 0 MPH

161 feet

181 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

131 feet

135 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

140 feet

148 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Rav4 has larger standard tires than the CX-3 (225/65R17 vs. 215/60R16). The Rav4 XLE Premium/Adventure/Limited’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CX-3 (235/55R19 vs. 215/60R16).

The Rav4 XLE Premium/Adventure/Limited’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 Rav4 LE/XLE has standard 17-inch wheels. Only 16-inch wheels are available on the CX-3. The Rav4 XLE Premium/Adventure/Limited has standard 19-inch wheels.

Suspension and Handling

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For superior ride and handling, the Toyota Rav4 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 Rav4 has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Rav4 flat and controlled during cornering. The CX-3’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Rav4’s wheelbase is 4.7 inches longer than on the CX-3 (105.9 inches vs. 101.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Rav4 is 2.7 inches wider in the front and 3.5 inches wider in the rear than the track on the CX-3.

The Rav4 Adventure handles at .84 G’s, while the CX-3 AWD pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

For greater off-road capability the Rav4 LE/XLE has a 2.3 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the CX-3 (8.4 vs. 6.1 inches), allowing the Rav4 to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The Rav4 XLE Premium/Limited/Adventure/TRD Off-Road’s minimum ground clearance is 2.4 inches higher than on the CX-3 Touring/Grand Touring (8.6 vs. 6.2 inches).

Chassis

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The front grille of the Rav4 Adventure/Limited/TRD Off-Road uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The CX-3 doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Rav4 Limited 4WD is quieter than the CX-3 AWD:

Rav4

CX-3

At idle

38 dB

39 dB

Full-Throttle

77 dB

78 dB

70 MPH Cruising

66 dB

71 dB

Passenger Space

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The Rav4 has 11.3 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CX-3 (98.9 vs. 87.6).

The Rav4 has 1.1 inches more front headroom, 2 inches more front hip room, 4.3 inches more front shoulder room, 2.3 inches more rear headroom, 2.8 inches more rear legroom and 6 inches more rear shoulder room than the CX-3.

For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the Rav4’s rear seats recline. The CX-3’s rear seats don’t recline.

Cargo Capacity

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The Rav4 has a much larger cargo volume with its rear seat up than the CX-3 with its rear seat up (37.6 vs. 17.8 cubic feet). The Rav4 has a much larger cargo volume with its rear seat folded than the CX-3 with its rear seat folded (69.8 vs. 42.7 cubic feet).

The Rav4’s cargo area is larger than the CX-3’s in almost every dimension:

Rav4

CX-3

Length to seat (2nd/1st)

40”

27.8”/58”

Max Width

59”

n/a

Min Width

39.4”

39.4”

Height

36.6”

26.6”

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the Rav4 (except LE) offers an optional power liftgate, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button or, optionally on the Rav4 Limited, by just kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a power liftgate.

Towing

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The Rav4 has a 1500 lbs. towing capacity. The CX-3 has no towing capacity.

Ergonomics

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The Rav4 offers a 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 two different drivers share the Rav4 (except LE/XLE/Adventure/TRD Off-Road), the optional memory seats make it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position. The CX-3 doesn’t offer memory seats.

The power windows standard on both the Rav4 and the CX-3 have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Rav4 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 Rav4’s 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 Rav4 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. (Your Toyota service department must activate this window function.) The driver of the CX-3 can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The Smart Key System standard on the Rav4 XLE/XLE Premium/Adventure/Limited/TRD Off-Road allows you to unlock the driver’s door, 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 (Rav4 Limited’s optional Smart Key System will also allow unlocking the passenger doors without taking your keys out). 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 Rav4’s available headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the CX-3’s headlights are rated “Acceptable.”

The Rav4’s optional outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. The CX-3 doesn’t offer heated side mirrors.

The Rav4 (except LE) offers optional heated front and second row seats (second row heated seats on Limited) extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated seats aren’t available in the CX-3.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the Rav4 Adventure/Limited/TRD Off-Road 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 Rav4 XLE/XLE Premium/Adventure/Limited/TRD Off-Road’s 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 Rav4 XLE/XLE Premium/Adventure/Limited/TRD Off-Road’s 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 Rav4 and the CX-3 offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Rav4 XLE/XLE Premium/Adventure/Limited/TRD Off-Road has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Toyota Rav4 XLE Premium/Adventure/Limited/TRD Off-Road offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The CX-3 doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Rav4 Adventure/TRD Off-Road has a 115-volt a/c outlet, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters that can break or get misplaced. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Rav4 is less expensive to operate than the CX-3 because typical repairs cost less on the Rav4 than the CX-3, including $107 less for a muffler, $73 less for fuel injection, $101 less for front struts and $131 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 2020/07/03

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Toyota Rav4 and the Mazda CX-3, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Toyota Rav4 outsold the Mazda CX-3 by almost 28 to one during 2019.

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

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