We recently took our first drive in the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-3 sub-compact crossover to see how it compares in the hot new class.

First up is my take on the styling. I think this is really one of the best looking versions of Mazda’s KODO design language yet. It just looks so cute, like a little bushy squirrel squinting its eyes into the wind.

And when you turn it around its hind quarters make it look like its ready to pounce and run up a tree. It has bulbous proportions and a stance that just really works well I think. It also has one of the more well done flying roof design themes that’s much in vogue right now with the Japanese brands.

Because this is a fully loaded Grand Touring model it has the LED headlights that turn with you at night and the nicer 18-inch painted alloy wheels. At the back it gets LED tail lights and a roof spoiler that accentuates its bounding character. It just needs a bushy tail to be complete.

The interior is also fully decked here and very pleasing to the eyes. Grand Touring gets you leather seats, heated but not power operated. They have suede inserts that hold you tight and are quite comfortable.

Red accents can be found here and there, along with red stitching all around that dresses it up nice. On the door panels is more of the suede trims that feels good on your arms when you lay them on the padded rests.

The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split as expected, easily without having to remove head rests. They make for a flat load floor but one that is pretty high up. Under the rear floor is a small storage area but its only about two inches high, so not use full for much, not even a pair of shoes.

At least one more layer under that is a spare tire which is always a plus in a crossover SUV. In the larger picture the interior has decent materials but really just suffers from a lot of design issues that lend me to believe the people at Mazda really don’t spend much time actually living in cars. Thus I rate it at 3 of 5 stars.

Driver assistance features always please me when they do their job without disturbing the peace, and best of all they have an off switch here in the CX3, which is even better. But all in, the technologies are another area where Mazda really needs to get it together I think.

If you think I was being too nit picky what I showed you with this infotainment system, know that I was just scratching the surface. I could have done a 30 minute video on all the reasons this system is less than livable, let alone competitive. But nobody wants to watch that. It has a great audio quality from its Bose hardware, but using it is almost unsafe while driving, bringing the technologies score to 3 of 5 stars.

Moving to what makes the CX-3 go is its 2.0 liter four-cylinder SkyActiv engine. SkyActiv is a marketing term for the fact that it runs clean and sips fuel. It has 148 horsepower and comes only with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Its powertrain while less than exhilarating does offer up good fuel economy. The EPA pins it at 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. In my time with it I got 32 mpg combined and didn’t have to work that hard at it. You’d probably even do better with a front-wheel drive only model.

In scoring the powertrain though, it’s rough and noisy particularly at start up. It just doesn’t have the silky smoothness of the Honda HR-V or even the Fiat 500X or Jeep Renegade which aren’t much known for their refinement either. It earns 3 of 5 stars here.

The all-wheel drive system in the Mazda CX-3 is of the passive type. This means it behaves as a front-wheel drive vehicle most of the time unless it detects slippage, and only then will it send power to the rear wheels.

Overall the chassis as said offers a sportier handling character on the pavement than most, but that comes at the cost of a harsher and noisier ride off the tarmac. In that way it earns 4 of 5 stars in the chassis department.

When it comes to quality feel the Mazda CX-3 is reasonably good on most counts. Exterior finish and body panel fit is good. Inside there are some finishes that don’t match up to one another here and there, as well as the rattles that crop up on rougher roads. Overall, quality feel comes in at 4 of 5 stars.

This gets us to value that at its $29,590 price is similar to others in class at this trim level but still missing a few things. We rated value at 4 of 5 stars which when combined with all other measures makes for a 3.5 rating out of 5 stars in total.