2020 Volkswagen Tiguan vs. 2020 Mazda CX-3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The Tiguan has a standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, 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 Tiguan (except S/SE) offers optional Maneuver 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 Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line has a standard Overhead 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.

Compared to metal, the Tiguan’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Mazda CX-3 has a metal gas tank.

Both the Tiguan 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, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras, rear cross-path warning, available all wheel drive and lane departure warning systems.

The Volkswagen Tiguan weighs 763 to 996 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.

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 Tiguan 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 Tiguan 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.

The Tiguan’s corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the CX-3’s (7 vs. 5 years).

Volkswagen pays for scheduled maintenance on the Tiguan for 2 years and 20,000 miles. Volkswagen will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Mazda doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the CX-3.

There are over 15 percent more Volkswagen dealers than there are Mazda dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Tiguan’s warranty.

Reliability

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The Volkswagen Tiguan’s engine uses a cast iron block for durability, while the CX-3’s engine uses an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 12th in reliability, above the industry average. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 21st.

Engine

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The Tiguan’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 36 more horsepower (184 vs. 148) and 75 lbs.-ft. more torque (221 vs. 146) than the CX-3’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder.

Fuel Economy and Range

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In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Tiguan’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 Tiguan FWD’s standard fuel tank has 3.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the CX-3 AWD’s standard fuel tank (15.3 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Tiguan AWD’s 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).

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Volkswagen Tiguan higher (7 out of 10) than the Mazda CX-3 (3 to 7). This means the Tiguan produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the CX-3 every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

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An eight-speed automatic is standard on the Volkswagen Tiguan, 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 Tiguan’s brake rotors are larger than those on the CX-3:

Tiguan

CX-3

CX-3 AWD

Front Rotors

13.4 inches

11 inches

11.6 inches

Rear Rotors

11.8 inches

11.1 inches

11.1 inches

The Tiguan stops shorter than the CX-3:

Tiguan

CX-3

70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

181 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

131 feet

135 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

135 feet

148 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CX-3 (255/40R20 vs. 215/60R16).

The Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 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 Tiguan S/SE has standard 17-inch wheels. Only 16-inch wheels are available on the CX-3. The Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line has standard 20-inch wheels.

Suspension and Handling

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For superior ride and handling, the Volkswagen Tiguan 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 Tiguan has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Tiguan 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 Tiguan’s wheelbase is 8.6 inches longer than on the CX-3 (109.8 inches vs. 101.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Tiguan is 2.2 inches wider in the front and 1.9 inches wider in the rear than on the CX-3.

The Tiguan SEL 4Motion® handles at .82 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 Tiguan has a 1.8 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the CX-3 (7.9 vs. 6.1 inches), allowing the Tiguan to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The Tiguan’s minimum ground clearance is 1.7 inches higher than on the CX-3 Touring/Grand Touring (7.9 vs. 6.2 inches).

Chassis

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As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Tiguan SEL 4Motion® is quieter than the CX-3 AWD:

Tiguan

CX-3

Full-Throttle

73 dB

78 dB

70 MPH Cruising

68 dB

71 dB

Passenger Space

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The Tiguan offers optional seating for 7 passengers; the CX-3 can only carry 5.

The Tiguan has 36.3 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CX-3 (123.9 vs. 87.6).

The Tiguan has 1.2 inches more front headroom, 3.5 inches more front shoulder room, 1.9 inches more rear headroom, 1.5 inches more rear legroom and 5.5 inches more rear shoulder room than the CX-3.

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

Cargo Capacity

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The Tiguan’s cargo area provides more volume than the CX-3.

Tiguan

CX-3

Third Seat Folded

33 cubic feet

n/a

Third Seat Removed

37.6 cubic feet

17.8 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

65.7 cubic feet

42.7 cubic feet

Max Cargo Volume

73.5 cubic feet

42.7 cubic feet

A low lift-over cargo hatch design makes loading and unloading the Tiguan easier. The Tiguan’s cargo hatch lift-over height is 29.4 inches, while the CX-3’s liftover is 30.6 inches.

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

Tiguan

CX-3

Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)

17.2”/39.7”/74.5”

n.a./27.8”/58”

Max Width

55”

n/a

Min Width

39.8”

39.4”

Height

33.5”

26.6”

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Tiguan’s second row seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The CX-3 doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the Tiguan SEL/SEL Premium R-Line has a standard power liftgate, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button, or on the Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line, 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 Tiguan has a 1500 lbs. towing capacity. The CX-3 has no towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

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The Tiguan 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.

The Tiguan has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The CX-3 doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

Ergonomics

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The Tiguan SEL/SEL Premium R-Line 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 Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line, the memory seats and mirrors make it convenient for all three. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position and outside mirror angle. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a memory system.

The power windows standard on both the Tiguan and the CX-3 have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Tiguan 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 Tiguan’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 Tiguan SE/SEL/SEL Premium the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows with the driver’s door power window switch. The driver of the CX-3 can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

Keyless Access standard on the Tiguan SE/SEL/SEL Premium R-Line 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. The Mazda CX-3’s Pushbutton Start doesn’t unlock the doors or the cargo door.

The Tiguan’s power window, power lock, power mirror and cruise control switches are lit from behind, making them plainly visible and easier to operate at night. The CX-3’s power window (except driver window) and power mirror switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the Tiguan SE/SEL/SEL Premium R-Line to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The CX-3 doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

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 Tiguan’s available headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the CX-3’s headlights are rated “Acceptable.”

The Tiguan’s 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 Tiguan SEL Premium is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The CX-3’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The Tiguan SE/SE R-Line/SEL/SEL Premium R-Line has standard heated front seats, which keep the driver and front passenger extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated seats aren’t available in the CX-3.

On extremely cold winter days, the Tiguan SEL/SEL Premium R-Line’s standard 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 Tiguan SE/SEL/SEL Premium R-Line’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 Tiguan and the CX-3 offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Tiguan 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.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Volkswagen Tiguan SE/SE R-Line/SEL Premium R-Line has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The CX-3 doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Tiguan is less expensive to operate than the CX-3 because typical repairs cost less on the Tiguan than the CX-3, including $13 less for front brake pads.

Recommendations

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J.D. Power and Associates rated the Tiguan third among compact SUVs in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The CX-3 isn’t in the top three.

The Volkswagen Tiguan outsold the Mazda CX-3 by almost seven to one during 2019.

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