2021 Kia Sportage vs. 2020 Mazda CX-3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The Sportage (except LX/S) offers optional Parking Assist to help warn the driver about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind or in front of their vehicle. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a front parking aid.

The Sportage’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.

Compared to metal, the Sportage’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 Sportage 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.

Warranty

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The Sportage comes with a full 5-year/60,000-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 2 years and 24,000 miles sooner.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Sportage 5 years and 40,000 miles longer than Mazda covers the CX-3. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the CX-3 ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

There are over 36 percent more Kia dealers than there are Mazda dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Sportage’s warranty.

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates rated the Sportage second among compact suvs in their 2020 Initial Quality Study. The CX-3 isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2020 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia first in initial quality, above the industry average. With 48 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 22nd, 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 Kia vehicles are more reliable than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia 10th in reliability, above the industry average. With 33 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 21st.

Engine

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The Sportage’s standard 2.4 DOHC 4-cylinder produces 33 more horsepower (181 vs. 148) and 29 lbs.-ft. more torque (175 vs. 146) than the CX-3’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder. The Sportage SX Turbo’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 89 more horsepower (237 vs. 148) and 114 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 146) than the CX-3’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder. The Sportage SX Turbo’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 92 more horsepower (240 vs. 148) and 114 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 146) than the CX-3’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder.

As tested in Motor Trend the Kia Sportage 4 cyl. is faster than the Mazda CX-3:

Sportage

CX-3

Zero to 60 MPH

8 sec

8.6 sec

Quarter Mile

16.3 sec

16.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

86.4 MPH

83 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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The Sportage has 4.5 gallons more fuel capacity than the CX-3 AWD’s standard fuel tank (16.4 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Sportage has 3.7 gallons more fuel capacity than the CX-3 FWD’s standard fuel tank (16.4 vs. 12.7 gallons).

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Kia Sportage higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Mazda CX-3 (3 to 7). This means the Sportage produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the CX-3 every 15,000 miles.

The EPA certifies the Kia Sportage as a “Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (SULEV). The Mazda CX-3 is only certified to “Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (ULEV) standards.

Drivetrain

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The Sportage AWD has Dynamax, a true all-wheel-drive system, which uses a four wheel traction control system to redirect engine power to the axle and wheel that still has traction to keep the Sportage moving if even only one wheel still has traction. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a true all-wheel drive system; it could get stuck while one or more wheels still have traction.

Brakes and Stopping

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

Sportage LX/S/EX

Sportage SX Turbo

CX-3

CX-3 AWD

Front Rotors

12 inches

12.6 inches

11 inches

11.6 inches

Rear Rotors

11.9 inches

11.9 inches

11.1 inches

11.1 inches

The Sportage stops shorter than the CX-3:

Sportage

CX-3

70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

181 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

128 feet

135 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

131 feet

148 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Sportage has larger standard tires than the CX-3 (225/60R17 vs. 215/60R16). The Sportage SX Turbo’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CX-3 (245/45R19 vs. 215/60R16).

The Sportage SX Turbo’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 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 Sportage LX has standard 17-inch wheels. Only 16-inch wheels are available on the CX-3. The Sportage SX Turbo has standard 19-inch wheels.

Suspension and Handling

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For superior ride and handling, the Kia Sportage 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 Sportage 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 Sportage has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Sportage 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 Sportage’s wheelbase is 3.9 inches longer than on the CX-3 (105.1 inches vs. 101.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Sportage is 3.4 inches wider in the front and 4 inches wider in the rear than the track on the CX-3.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD handles at .83 G’s, while the CX-3 AWD pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the CX-3 AWD (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 27.6 seconds @ .66 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the Sportage has a greater minimum ground clearance than the CX-3 (6.8 vs. 6.1 inches), allowing the Sportage to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The Sportage’s minimum ground clearance is .6 inch higher than on the CX-3 Touring/Grand Touring (6.8 vs. 6.2 inches).

Passenger Space

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The Sportage has 11 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CX-3 (98.6 vs. 87.6).

The Sportage has .9 inches more front headroom, 2 inches more front hip room, 3.6 inches more front shoulder room, 1.9 inches more rear headroom, 3.2 inches more rear legroom, 2.2 inches more rear hip room and 4.7 inches more rear shoulder room than the CX-3.

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

Cargo Capacity

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The Sportage has a much larger cargo volume with its rear seat up than the CX-3 with its rear seat up (30.7 vs. 17.8 cubic feet). The Sportage has a much larger cargo volume with its rear seat folded than the CX-3 with its rear seat folded (60.1 vs. 42.7 cubic feet).

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

Sportage

CX-3

Length to seat (2nd/1st)

33.4”/68.2”

27.8”/58”

Max Width

52.3”

n/a

Min Width

41”

39.4”

Height

29.5”

26.6”

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Sportage EX/SX Turbo’s power liftgate can be opened just by waiting momentarily behind the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Sportage’s power liftgate can also be opened or closed by pressing a button. The CX-3 doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening liftgate.

Towing

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The Sportage has a 2000 lbs. towing capacity. The CX-3 has no towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

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The Sportage 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 Sportage 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.

The power windows standard on both the Sportage and the CX-3 have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Sportage 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 Smart Key standard on the Sportage (except LX) 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 Sportage’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 optional on the Sportage 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 Sportage’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 Sportage 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 Sportage (except S/LX) 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 Sportage’s optional (except S/LX) 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 Sportage’s optional 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 Sportage and the CX-3 offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Sportage 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 Kia Sportage (except LX) offers an optional 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 Sportage is less expensive to operate than the CX-3 because typical repairs cost less on the Sportage than the CX-3, including $20 less for front brake pads, $144 less for a starter and $128 less for fuel injection.

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 2020/10/21

The Kia Sportage has won recognition from these important consumer publications:

Sportage

CX-3

Consumer Reports® Recommends

TRUE

TRUE

Car Book “Best Bet”

TRUE

FALSE

The Kia Sportage outsold the Mazda CX-3 by almost six to one during 2019.

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

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