Mazda's new fun crossover: the 2016 CX-3 is a practical hatchback with the soul of a sports car.

Author:Trevino, Joseph

For decades, wagons have gotten a bad rap.

Call it a backlash against traditional domesticity, an aversion for the vehicles our parents drove or we simply do not think they are that aesthetically pleasing (never mind that in trendy Europe they are still the rage). Wagons are passe.

Well, not quite. Crossovers and to some extent some SUVs are really tall wagons, without the classic 1970s family vehicle look we tend to disdain in America.

The answer could lie in Crossover Utility Vehicles, which combine the roomy space of SUVs with the gas-sipping thriftiness of small, economic vehicles. At last, automobiles that are compact, roomy and perfect for the whole family, without the looks of a domestic vehicle (as if there is anything wrong with that).

Here's the point: we want a proficient household car that can do it all but feels like a sedan. Wait a minute! How about making it fun?

Enter the Mazda CX-3, which is as talented as any small family would want but with an attitude and fun factor that will give many sporty cars a run for their money in that area. Remember, it's made by the same company that created the best roadster in history: the Mazda Miata MX-5.

No, it is not as fun as the MX-5, but then again no car can match the little roadster in that department. Still, it has a lot of the family DNA that ensures a vehicle of this nature gets as fun as it can.

It delivers.

With its terse, 146-horsepowered 2.0 SKYACTIV-G engine, the CX-3 propels its 2809 lbs. (2,952 lbs. if you get the AWD version I tested for a week) with the maneuverability of a stray cat. On the congested streets of Dallas or on the freeways in an almost one-hour drive to my home in Fort Worth, the CX-3 would pass cars with ease, purring nicely.

Not as tall as other crossover vehicles, say like the Jeep Patriot, the CX-3 has a lower center of gravity that helps it move like a dancer with a darty feel that makes you feel, well, alive. The 6-speed automatic transmission works wonderfully, as...

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