L.A. Auto Show: Mazda unveils CX-3 compact crossover

With a deft combination of practicality and style, Mazda unveiled its all-new CX-3 compact crossover at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The cute-ute, making its world debut, is loosely based on the compact Mazda3 sedan and hatchback. It's aimed at a new segment of small crossovers that is expected to grow rapidly over  the next few years.

The CX-3 will come in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive versions. It borrows a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine from the Mazda3. Horsepower and torque haven't been announced, but expect them to be close to the 3's 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque.

Buyers will be able to choose a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, though the manual gearbox may not be available with AWD. Mazda promises the CX-3 will deliver heaps of "reassuring confidence" in a sleek and tidy package.

Pricing was not released, but expect it to sell for between $18,000 and $25,000.

This CX-3 will be a direct competitor to Honda's HR-V, also debuting at the L.A. show. The pair are keen to make their mark in the emerging compact crossover segment. By getting in early, these brands have a better chance of establishing dominance before competitors scramble for market share.

Honda's HR-V will go on sale in early 2015, while Mazda's CX-3 hits the market in summer 2015.

They join a segment that includes the Nissan Juke, Buick Encore, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, and Subaru Crosstrek. Chevrolet, Jeep, and Fiat are also putting models on sale in 2015. Toyota, Ford, and Hyundai are expected to announce models in the near future.

These small crossover are riding a wave of popularity that is sweeping the crossover bodystyle in general. Consumers relish their elevated view of the road and practicality, and see them as more aspirational than the common sedan.

This has helped make crossovers a more popular body style than sedan for the first time ever this year, a trend that's expected to continue.