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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is the very first auto I have owned in the last 30 years that doesn't have 4-wheel drive, and 6" ground clearance. I live in NYC and spend a lot of time in South Jersey, and I am wondering just what to expect from this AWD. And ideas?
 

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Winter is coming, so we'll find out soon enough. What vehicles did you previously own?
 

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This is the very first auto I have owned in the last 30 years that doesn't have 4-wheel drive, and 6" ground clearance. I live in NYC and spend a lot of time in South Jersey, and I am wondering just what to expect from this AWD. And ideas?
I expect the Ministry of Transportation to call me up to put a snow plow in front of my CX3 and go clear up the highways after a huge snow storm. That's how much I expect from my new baby. Gave her the right snowshoes for the job too.

Looking forward to snow for the first time in my life I think.

- Ben
 

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Mazda has a good history of AWD systems, not sure exactly how it compares to what the CX got but at the very least it should help in getting through the thick stuff, and that's all i'd really be concerned about since the rest depends on your tires and how you drive.
 

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Snow performance is 80% tires. 2WD with snow tires will outperform AWD or 4x4 with all seasons.

I am also eagerly waiting for snow to arrive, especially after a miserable snow season last year in the greater Seattle area. That said, I'm not planning on putting winter tires on, so I'll post some observations about snow performance in all seasons when the opportunity presents itself.

My other vehicle is a snow tire equipped MDX. That thing is truly a snowmobile. The torque vectoring AWD makes tight, fast, and icy maneuvers boring.
 

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I'll also be sticking with the stock rubber. I live in a small apartment, so I simply don't have the space to store a set of winter tires. We'll see how the Mazda AWD does. My CX-3 replaced a RWD Infiniti that mostly had problems with uphill starts, even with snow tires.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
My first 4x4 was a 1977 Chevy Blazer, 1982 Jeep CJ7, '87 Toyota pickup, '95 Toyota 4Runner, '97 Toyota Tacoma extended cab, 2001 Nissan Xterra. All 4x4s with stick shifts. Wife has 2003 Forester AWD 5-speed stick (8.5 inces ground clearance).
 

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Are you driving off road? 6" of clearance is passenger car typical and fine unless you're driving off road and on rugged/unmaintained roads.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Being typical of passenger car clearance is what worries me. I've seen all too many passenger cars getting stuck in snow as I drove past them with 9" of good clearance. So, yes, it does concern me.
 

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Were they stuck due to clearance, crappy tires and/or lack of AWD? If ground clearance is the issue then you bought the wrong car :(
 

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The 6" clearance should be fine for generally-maintained city/metro roads. I never had issues bottoming out (in snow) in my Infiniti, which I believe had a bit less than 6" of clearance.

The primary difference between the CX-3 and your previous 4x4's is that the Mazda has automatic AWD, which (basically) only activates when it detects the front wheels slipping. Mazda says there's some "predictive" intelligence to it, but you ultimately just have to trust it to send power back on its own rather than flip a switch to lock 4WD. There's another thread where @anchorman gives a good explanation of how it works.

That said, I don't think anybody has actually driven these things in the snow yet because the northern hemisphere is just now starting to see some. This will be the first winter that the car has been available. I expect it to handle plenty well for the aforementioned maintained metro roads, but this obviously isn't an off-road vehicle.
 

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Getting stuck is a poor measure for a car's snow capabilities. With the right driver and obstacle, anything from a 80s Corolla to a tricked out 4x4 rig can get stuck in snow.

I expect the CX3 to be about on par with any other AWD car in everyday winter driving. Maybe the stability control and "latest and greatest" AWD system have advantages over other makes/models in some situations or maybe not...

Driving in snow is 80% tires, 15% driver, 5% car. That 5% breaks down into many, many variables - ground clearance, drive system, stability control, weight distribution, ABS system... etc. You get the biggest improvement by switching to winter tires. Next is your experience and skill in the snow. Finally, that last 5% might help you through a tricky situation like starting on a steep, icy hill. If the conditions are pushing limits of that last 5%, better to just stay home.
 

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The 6" clearance should be fine for generally-maintained city/metro roads. I never had issues bottoming out (in snow) in my Infiniti, which I believe had a bit less than 6" of clearance.

The primary difference between the CX-3 and your previous 4x4's is that the Mazda has automatic AWD, which (basically) only activates when it detects the front wheels slipping. Mazda says there's some "predictive" intelligence to it, but you ultimately just have to trust it to send power back on its own rather than flip a switch to lock 4WD. There's another thread where @anchorman gives a good explanation of how it works.

That said, I don't think anybody has actually driven these things in the snow yet because the northern hemisphere is just now starting to see some. This will be the first winter that the car has been available. I expect it to handle plenty well for the aforementioned maintained metro roads, but this obviously isn't an off-road vehicle.
Not wishing to contradict but the AWD is active for a large proportion of the time. For example, the car ALWAYS sets off from rest in AWD then backs off gradually as the speed increases and the torque reduces until it settles back to FWD. I'm told by the administration manager that I can now upload a file which I will do when I get chance.
 

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Snow performance is 80% tires. 2WD with snow tires will outperform AWD or 4x4 with all seasons.
For the majority of people, snow tires are not practical, and the situation doesn't warrant getting snow tires. If you live in some mountainous/rural region where there's heavy snow 10 out of the 12 months, then sure you need snow tires on permanently.

If you live in urban areas (great majority of people) where you expect snow in the winter then AWD is your friend. Having FWD with snow tires will not help you when the asphalt freezes and you lose traction in your front wheels. Having AWD or 4WD is much more helpful in that situation.

I've seen videos of FWD drive cars with snow tires outperforming AWD with all season, but those are heavily controlled tests. In real world situations for most people it is not so cut and dry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I am in a position where I must be out in all weather, snow storms or not. That entails running through NYC, LI and down to Ocean Grove NJ. At 65 I've driven through most snow storms, each one presents a different challenge. AWD is nice, wife's Forester does very well. It's the 6" ground clearance that troubles me. I keep picturing a snow plow scraping down a cross street in front of me, leaving a small wall of snow in his wake. Do you understand why the 6" clearance concerns me? Thanks
 

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Don't forget that winter tyres are not specifically snow tyres. They are designed to conform to the road when ambient temperature drops below 7C or whatever that is in F. They also pump water out of the tread during rain. I put mine on in November and take them off early May. We might only get snow for a week or so during that period. There is some investment needed but they effectively double the life of the summer tyres and you never struggle to sell a set of winter tyres and wheels for a current model.
 
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