Myth 1: They're a snooze to drive.
It's fair to say that Mazda is the car world's best-kept secret. It accounts for about 2 percent of the cars sold in the U.S., despite putting out a fleet of consistently affordable, fuel-efficient vehicles that offer a tangible connection with the road many somnambulant competitors lack. The CX-3 (from $20,840), its first subcompact crossover, doesn't drop the plot. It's a jolt to drive in a way crossovers haven't been before. Much of its vigor comes courtesy of a rigid chassis made chiefly from high-strength steel that gives it a taut feel as well as a weight drop: The CX-3 checks in at under 3,000 pounds and gets 35 mpg on the highway. Though its two-liter, four-cylinder engine's 146 horsepower won't fool you into thinking you're piloting a pricey German sports car, the six-speed automatic transmission will. In "sport" mode it can cling to a lower gear when it detects you're driving in a spirited manner, making more power available quicker. Also impressive: its minimal-luxe interior and array of tech (predictive all-wheel drive, a heads-up display, smart brakes). Mazda's made it known that the subcompact crossover no longer means cut-rate.