Which Would You Rather Have: Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V or Mazda CX-3?

Little crossovers are absolutely everywhere. Then came these three new contenders from Fiat, Honda and Mazda and picking between them is tough.

Aside from the Nissan Juke and perhaps the Mini Countryman, they all sort of run together. That’s due in no small part that all of these lifted superminis occupy roughly the same footprint. So when the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 all showed up at the LA Auto Show this year, the comparisons were inevitable. And the similarities made them blur together a bit.

They all have quality interiors, which is surprising. Mazda continues to impress and have a minimalist look that’s well-finished, while Honda fitted the HR-V with something that’s actually more attractive than what goes into some of its larger vehicles. And then there’s the 500X, which amazingly doesn’t feel as unsatisfying inside as other small Fiats and Chryslers. I’d have to go with the Mazda on this, but only because I like the Audi-like look. Your tastes may vary.

The Mazda also wins me over on the exterior styling. It’s sharp and not trying to be anything else. The 500’s looks translate to the larger 500X well, but it breaks no new ground. The HR-V, meanwhile, looks more Acura than Honda – not that it’s exciting, though.

Honda does, however, score big on practicality. It may not be as airy as a Fit, but it feels downright vast for this class of crossover. The Fiat and Mazda are fine up front, but everything else isn’t packaged as well as the HR-V.

I do applaud Fiat’s use of colors and materials to liven up the 500X and in its own way, comes across a little more premium in spirit. Mazda may have better interior styling, but the color choices aren’t quite there. Meanwhile, Honda plays it conservative. In places where everyone has a Mini Countryman, the Fiat 500X may be a slightly better attention-getter than the CX-3. That’s just a hunch.

Without driving any of these three, I’m somewhat torn. My head says to go with the Honda, but my right foot might really like that Mazda. Too bad it’s the only one of the three that won’t offer a manual in the U.S. The CX-3 looks good in a non-trendy way, too. But I’m weirdly drawn to the Fiat 500X much more than I thought I’d be.

And then there are a lot of other small crossovers to think about. The Jeep Renegade looks good and quirky, the Juke is holding up well and the Countryman may cost a fortune but it’s still reasonably good to drive.

What would I do? I’d forget about all of those and go for a Ford Fiesta ST instead. I know, I cheated on that one.

By Zac Estrada

Photos: Zac Estrada/Carscoops

Which new small SUV from the 2014 LA Show would you get?

Fiat 500X Photos

Honda HR-V photos

Mazda CX-3 Photos

  • kachuks

    Toss up between 500 and CX. Practicality says CX but your quirkier side gets drawn to the Fiat.

    • Kenneth

      I like the looks of the CX best, but “practicality”? The cargo area, looking at the exterior only (Mazda doesn’t seem willing to divulge cargo specs or photos – which seems telling), appears tiny. I find the 500X very attractive, especially the interior, but Fiat reliability ranks pretty low, plus poor reviews of the 9 spd auto in other cars. The HR is practical, sure to be Honda-reliable, but underpowered (though somewhat offset by a 6 spd manual). What a conundrum.

  • Six Thousand Times

    C4 Cactus?

    • mccarluvr123

      I know! I always think of the Cactus as well when it comes to subcompact crossovers. It’s such a shame we don’t get it in the US!

      • PedJun

        The Citroën C4 Cactus? Hum… Well, in terms of the looks it’s very cool, but as I guess you never drove one before, let me tell you something about it.

        It’s very well engineered, light and fun to drive (that’s right) and its engines are small and efficient.

        Having said that, the cabin is pretty much noisy, it lacks in some things in terms of equipment and the rear door windows don’t open. Yeah, they have a clip opening for the big rear windows. And the rear seat only lowers as a whole. I mean, they’re not 60:40 as most cars. Other than that it’s fine. But I guess that it is not as refined as a Mazda, Honda or a Fiat… And I say ‘guess’ because those three cars are new. I may have another opinion in the future after driving them.

        Cheers people!!

    • Matthew Raworth

      YES! I’ve actually just ordered a C4 Cactus. It’s just so different compared to all these other small SUV’s, and it’s so cheap to run. Obviously I’m biased, but there’s no competition really 😉

      • Congrats! If we got the Cactus in the States I’d be all over it. Super, super jealous.

  • truthsayer

    HRV, but why is the gas cover a different color?

    • YipYap

      Because *something* about it has to stand out.

  • emjayay

    Isn’t the Buick Encore (Opel/Vauxhall Mokka) one of these too, except not new? Also a couple of others.

    • mccarluvr123

      Not in the same class. Size class, yes, but GM’s real competitor to these three is the Chevy Trax.

      • emjayay

        Yea, the Trax is a different body on the same platform. But the Buick/Mokka looks like it belongs with the new ones and is to me better than the Honda, if not as many cubic feet inside.

  • emjayay

    On looks, the Honda exterior is annoying, the Mazda is very pretty and not exactly a copy of what has been done, and the Fiat is nicely done retro cute. Pretty much the same for the interiors. The Fiat 500’s – all of them – are fun to look at in every detail inside, if you appreciate old time Fiat-Vespa aesthetics.

    But of course there’s a lot more to a vehicle than looks. Comfort, quietness, room, steering, handling, ride etc. And reliability. What you want to be seen in and associated with is a part of the deal to me, and certainly in some cases a deal breaker or decisive factor.

    Because of its Fit architecture, the Honda probably has the most cubic feet inside and best folding seats, and maybe the worst ride and the worst sound suppression.

    • On speculating about performance, I actually think the Honda may be the most refined out of the three. While supposedly improved, the SkyActiv Mazdas haven’t been known for quiet interiors and reviews of the 500L and Renegade make me doubt the 500X is much better.

      Or maybe it’s a tie within the three. I’m sure the CVT doesn’t help the Honda, either.

  • Matt

    The Honda wins the most awkward and bizarre looking award…

    No part of that design gels with anything else. It’s a bit of a mess.

  • MarketAndChurch

    I don’t like Honda, and I make that pretty well known in these comment sections. They always leave much to be desired. But I can’t deny the practicality and reliability, not to mention the likely higher resale value. I’d probably go HR-V. Yes, while I think the side profile is OK, I think it’s front end looks unnecessary and unasked for. But that’s purely a matter of taste, and I’ll be behind the wheel more then I will be in front of the car looking at it, so unfortunately( or not), that may be other driver’s and pedestrians problem.

    My heart tells me to go with the Mazda but from these pics alone, it looks a tad claustrophobic, and gives me the sense that it’s front and rear pillars are kind of harder to see around then the others. But I love its stance, which would make a wonderful alternative to the MINI Countryman. I think the dark horse here is the 500x. In other retro colors, these will not only look better, but likely invade every urban environment far more effectively then the HR-V or CX-3. I’ll have to wait to see one in person before I can adequately warm up to it enough to want it over the other two. The Abarth edition might also just do it for me.

    If it were up to me, I’d probably overlook all 3 of these to lease a MINI Countryman for two or so years. In black-on-black, those Countryman look so cash. Or allow me to cheat as well, and go for a MINI Paceman, which looks and handles even better then any of these three. And… probably has intolerable road-noise insulation, but that seems to be an unavoidable feature of this segment? Too bad there isn’t a FIT Si or C-Max ST or Golf Sportsvan GTI, because I think the popularity of these little CUV’s would be vastly undermined if the most practical options possible were also some of the funnest and fast(er) cars to drive.

    • emjayay

      Seeing a vehicle on the street, preferably in a parking space conveniently located on my block – not even on the lot or worse in the showroom – is somehow a different deal. Photos are good, but you gotta see it in real life.

  • KHM5

    Sorry but I’d rather ride my bike than being seen in any of these.

    • Polyester Poontang

      You may think differently when you graduate to a two wheeler.

      • KHM5

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA OMG YOU’RE SO FUNNY! Best of luck with your comedy career 🙂

  • klowik

    I think it depends on where you live. In Australia, I’ll certainly pick Mazda since the service cost is cheaper than the other 2. I think in Europe Fiat service cost is cheaper than mazda or Honda?

    • Logic need not be applied

      IMHO you might just find that in Europe that Fiats are no cheaper to service than any ‘imported’ Japanese manufacturer. When you have EU built Japanese branded vehicles like the Juke it helps apply pressure on other Japanese manufacturers (who import built vehicles) to keep servicing within reason etc.

      Anyway, come the time when warranty runs out, your visits to the parts/service department is likely to be a lot less frequent if it’s a Japanese brand too, hence possibly lower running costs.

    • Rafał Szychowski

      Mazda and Fiat services are on the same lap in the Europe, but 500X is more expensive than CX-3 cause it’s called premium model and Mazda’s prices start from 15k Euro, but Fiat starts from over 20k.

      • Fedo

        Not true: 500X starts a little bit over 17000 in Italy with some features Mazda does not have.

        • Rafał Szychowski

          In Italy is cheaper cause there is its production, in other european countries is more expensive, in Poland when I live starts from 19 795 EUR for 1.4 Multiair 120 Pop

  • Rafał Szychowski

    CX-3 of course, but 500X is a good car too. The worst is HR-V with outdated exterior and interior.

  • Pauly

    Fiat and Jeep has shocking reliability. Combing Jeep underpinnings with Fiat is just asking for trouble.

    Mazda CX-3 for me. I wish Honda offered the HR-V AWD Hybrid outside of Japan, they would have swung me over them.

  • Grumpy

    Just noticed cx-3 is missing the center armrest and storage. You still get my vote.

  • Γιωργος Κ

    Today I have the opportunity to test drive the Citroen Cactus! I am really impressed, think to order it!!!

  • Sebastien

    I hope the Nissan Kicks will become real before I change my actual SUV.

  • psiqtas

    Most of these small SUV’s don’t even have AWD, so it makes them the same practical use as the rest of standard FWD cars! I won’t chose any one of them…

  • pngrant54

    The 500X is prettier, has a better rear glass vision, has 2 more powerful engines. I’d gotta go with the Fiat.

  • Tim

    I love my very satisfying Fiat 500s. I’ve never been so happy with the interior of any auto I’ve ever owned of seen, as much as these two 500s. The X brings European class and it looks like the perfect Man Cave on wheels.

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