The Mazda3 is the Japanese brand’s compact car and rival to the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, and Subaru Impreza. It’s a compact car with a focus on premium design and fun driving dynamics. It is now offered with all-wheel drive, giving it a special advantage in this class. It first debuted in 2003 as a replacement for the Protege and the 323. It is now in its fourth generation and offered as a five-door hatchback or four-door sedan.
The new Mazda3 has a wonderful interior that’s extremely well designed, and it’s clear that Mazda benchmarked the interiors of upscale automakers. The Mazda3 offers a lot of high-end equipment and technology as well, making it feel a bit more luxurious and upmarket than its competitors. It is only offered with one engine choice, a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder that’s smooth and powerful with 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. The downsides to the new Mazda3 is that it can be slightly heavy with all-wheel drive, which impacts fuel economy and driving feel. It can also get pretty expensive when fully equipped, and it’s not the best when it comes to room for passengers and cargo.
The Mazda3 is assembled in Japan at Mazda’s Hofu Plant in Hofu, Yamaguchi.
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Pros/ Striking styling, Impressive interior design and materials, available AWD, two body style choices, class-leading driving dynamics
Cons/ A little heavy, Fuel-economy isn’t class-leading, Can get costly, Not spacious
Bottom Line/ The Mazda3 is a compact for those in the segment looking to step into something that feels more special and high-end. It has a wonderful interior that's full of features, but it can get expensive and it skimps out on some of the essentials in this class like fuel-economy and space.
Table of contents
Mazda3 Sedan Specs
Engine: 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder
Output: 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Drivetrain: FWD or AWD
Fuel Economy (FWD): 26 MPG city, 35 highway, 30 combined (manual transmission) / 27 MPG city, 36 MPG highway, 30 MPG combined (automatic transmission)
Fuel Economy (AWD): 25 MPG city, 33 MPG highway, 28 MPG combined
Cargo Space: 13.2 cubic feet
Mazda3 Hatchback Specs
Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder
Output: 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Drivetrain: FWD or AWD
Fuel Economy (FWD): 25 MPG city, 35 highway, 29 combined (manual) / 26 MPG city, 35 MPG highway, 30 MPG combined (automatic)
Fuel Economy (AWD): 24 MPG city, 32 MPG highway, 27 MPG combined
Cargo Space: 20.1 cubic feet
Mazda3 Fuel Economy
The Mazda3 has only one engine but two transmissions, two drivetrains, and two body styles, all of which impact the compact car’s fuel economy.
Front-wheel-drive sedan models with a manual transmission earn 26 MPG in the city, 35 MPG on the highway and 30 MPG combined, while automatic-equipped models earn 26 MPG in the city, 35 MPG on the highway and 30 MPG combined. Those automatic numbers are for models without cylinder deactivation, and you can expect models with cylinder deactivation to feature one more MPG in city and highway driving conditions. All-wheel-drive sedans can only be equipped with an automatic transmission, earning 25 MPG in the city, 33 MPG on the highway and 28 MPG combined.
The hatchback is slightly less fuel efficient than the sedan, as front-wheel-drive, manual transmission equipped models can earn 25 MPG in the city, 35 MPG on the highway and 29 MPG combined. Automatic-equipped, front-wheel-drive models earn 26 MPG in the city, 35 MPG on the highway and 30 MPG combined. All-wheel-drive hatchbacks can only be equipped with an automatic transmission, and it earns 24 MPG in the city, 32 MPG on the highway and 27 MPG combined.
Mazda3 Safety Rating
The IIHS has tested the Mazda3 Sedan and Hatchback, and the small car has earned a Top Safety Pick rating, the second highest rating that the institute awards. The Mazda3 has top marks in all crash tests including the small and moderate overlap crash tests, and it also earns high grades for its optional crash prevention system. The institute even awards the Mazda3 with easy to use LATCH anchors, which is important for parents. The only area that is deemed less than perfect is the headlights. Although they’re full LED lights, the institute says that the low beams are inadequate, especially on the left side.
All models of the Mazda3 come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. They can be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual transmission. The Mazda3 sedan or hatchback can also be had with a front or all-wheel-drivetrain, although you can only get AWD with an automatic transmission.
Standard equipment on the base Mazda3 sedan includes 16-inch wheels, power folding side mirrors, LED head and taillights, cloth seating and air conditioning. Other standout standard features include folding rear seats with a 60/40 split, Bluetooth connectivity, 2 USB ports, and a rear-view camera.
The Mazda3 Select Package comes with far more features like 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power-folding side mirrors with integrated turn signals, dual-zone climate control, and leatherette trimmed seats. The car also features a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear stick, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, a push-button start, driver attention alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist as well as radar cruise control. The base hatchback comes with the Select Package.
The Preferred package models come with a power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, an upgraded Bose sound system, and upgraded exterior features like a shark-fin antenna.
The Premium package comes with a head-up display, adaptive front lights, leather-trimmed seats, a moonroof and paddle-shifters for the automatic transmission.
There is a lot of variability to the Mazda3’s price, as the compact car is available as a sedan or hatch, with all-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive, and can be had with an automatic or manual transmission.
The most affordable model is the base Mazda3 sedan, which starts at $21,920 and includes a manual transmission. This is a base model with the only option being an extra cost $200 paint. You can step up into the $23,520 Mazda3 Sedan Select, which adds a few more convenience options like dual-zone climate controls and rain-sensing windshield wipers. You can add the $200 pearl white paint, or the $595 Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint. The Mazda3 Sedan Preferred Package costs $25,120 and upgrades the sound system, and features heated front seats. It offers the same paint as the Select model.
The top of the line version of the Mazda3 Sedan is the Premium Package, which costs $27,420. It comes with a head-up display, special adaptive LED lights, and leather-trimmed seats as well as a moonroof. You can add all-wheel-drive to the Select, Preferred or Premium Mazda3 sedans for just $1,400.
If you want a Mazda3 Hatchback, there are three trim levels to choose from. The front-wheel-drive base hatchback costs $24,520 and features an automatic transmission. The Mazda3 Hatchback Preferred Package is $26,120. The Mazda3 Premium Package can be had for $28,420 and can be had with either a manual or automatic transmission. Like the sedan, adding all-wheel-drive to the hatchback will cost $1,400.
The Mazda3 competes with other compact cars and hatchbacks including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Jetta/Golf, and the Subaru Impreza. The Subaru is one of the closest competitors since it also features all-wheel-drive, but it isn’t as powerful or a premium as the Mazda3. Some may even consider comparing the Mazda3 to premium compacts like the Mercedes A-Class or Acura ILX, since the Mazda is so well equipped and luxuriously designed.
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Future Mazda3 Plans
The Mazda3 has just arrived, so it’s unlikely to be significantly upgraded anytime soon. However, the automaker has promised to bring its new Skyactiv-X powertrain to the car, which features compression ignition technology in order to improve fuel economy while also ensuring the fun-to-drive attitude of the Mazda3 is intact. In addition to this, critics have been harsh on the Mazda3’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, suggesting that a turbocharged unit could spice up the compact car. Some spy photos have even showcased such a hot-hatchback, so it could be happening, even though Mazda officials remain tight-lipped. Enthusiasts are hoping the Volkswagen GTI-chasing Mazdaspeed3 will make a return.
2019 Mazda3 Review
By Sami Haj-Assaad
The 2019 Mazda3 is an entirely new car from its approach to styling, a completely redone rear suspension setup, a distraction-free interior, and an additional drivetrain option that powers all four wheels. It’s impressive that even with all this new stuff, however, that the Mazda3 feels so naturally like its old self in all the best ways.
Let’s start with maybe the most controversial aspect of the car, its design. The Mazda3 has a reputation for being the most classically good looking compact car out there, with a clean design that steers clear of being too dramatic. This new model, at first glance, looks a bit odd. The hatchback, in particular, has a shape that lacks certain sculpting or lines, which is very unique and can make the vehicle look a bit of a blob. There’s a huge C-Pillar on the hatchback that looks very awkward. The sedan is easier for your eyes to digest, but the lack of design lines on the profile is very weird because under certain lighting conditions, you can see… something.
You’re not going crazy; Mazda did this intentionally. The skilled craftsmen at the Hiroshima-based automaker’s design team have found a way to make the light dance off the paint in a way that simulates the sculpting of a clay model. Mazda is proud of the fact that it sculpts all its designs in clay, scan the model digitally, then make the stamps and dies from there, which is a unique method in this industry. It’s supposed to emphasize the human touch when designing the car, and to showcase that, the special paint effect is added that brings texture and an aura to the fairly flat-looking body panels.
Whether you think it is pretty or not may have a lot to do with the paint finish you pick, but the special red and grey shades are striking.
Now With All-Wheel-Drive
While that’s a whole lot of discussion for just the paint and exterior design, the powertrain discussion is a bit less involving. Under the hood is a carry-over engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. It can be had with a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual for base hatchbacks. The engine can now deactivate half of its cylinders in order to run leaner and use less fuel. Front wheel drive models can get about 30 MPG combined.
But more importantly, there’s an all-wheel-drive option available now, which is important because there are so few other compact sedans and hatchbacks offering this feature. In fact, only the Subaru Impreza has AWD in this class. The all-wheel-drive system in the Mazda3 works in combination with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC+) That means that the car is shifting torque to various axles to improve traction and confidence depending on various conditions such as take-off from a stop, slowing down and cornering. We tested the AWD model both with and without snow tires, as well as with and without the GVC+ system, and the response and predictability of the all-wheel-drive system are good. In terms of fuel economy, AWD models can get up to 28 MPG combined.
Those who see snow or inclement weather will feel surefooted in the Mazda3 AWD. The all-wheel-drive system working with the GVC+ is very subtle, working together to better meet the driver’s intended path. Essentially, you’ll find yourself correcting the steering much less in this car, resulting in a smoother drive.
The AWD offering is a pretty big deal for the Mazda3, making it more appealing to a wider audience. Those living in areas that see snowy winters but don’t want a big crossover will probably lean towards the Mazda3 as an option, and the interior will help seal the deal.
Mazda has always offered an interior that’s a touch above the usual compact car standards and the new 3 raises the bar significantly. The layout is smart, a minimalist style that pares down the buttons and brings them up to the dash to make them easy to see. The touchscreen is gone, and in its place is a rectangular infotainment system that is set far forward and up on the dashboard. Mazda set out to put all driving-related information directly in front of the driver, so there’s a decently sized screen right in the middle of the gauge cluster and a head-up display as well. The move away from touchscreens is Mazda’s attempt to mitigate distracted driving, as the touchscreen requires large gestures and motions, while a rotary dial-based infotainment system requires smaller movements, which should be easier to manage while in motion.
The clean layout is done through smart speaker placement, high-quality soft materials are used throughout, and the upholstery is also offered in a dark red, something that’s more expressive than the usual shades of black, white and grey, while also looking less juvenile and obnoxiously bright. I’m not entirely sold on the seats, which sometimes feel like they lack bolstering and support, but that might be a product of the winding roads we were driving on.
Space and Sound
There’s a bit less space in the new model’s cabin. You’ll find about a half an inch less front headroom, rear headroom, and rear legroom compared to the 2018 model, but the addition of AWD can have that effect on cars. The sedan has about one more cubic foot of storage in the trunk than the last model, and the hatchbacks have about the same space. It doesn’t seem significantly smaller, but visibility will take more getting used to. The mirror and infotainment screen pinch a good chunk of the windshield, resulting in an awkward porthole to look through, but the large c-pillar on the hatchback wasn’t as big of an issue as I thought it would be.
ALSO SEE: Top 5 Best AWD Hatchbacks: 2019
At least the car is fairly quiet by small car standards. Mazda spent a lot of time perfecting the layout and acoustics of the speakers to help minimize vibrations and excess noises. At high speeds, you’ll definitely hear some wind and road noise, but the sedan seemed to be the quieter ride. Speaking of acoustics, the Mazda3 is the first vehicle to be offered with a new Bose 12-speaker setup with Bass Match, that has a specific bass placement to maximize clear sound and minimize unwanted vibrations. Bass enclosures aren’t in the door panels, but moved down into the kick panels, while an additional woofer is on the rear shelf of the sedan, while the hatchback has a special enclosure for the woofer in the spare tire well of the cargo area. True to form, the audio system is very good, even at high volume where things can typically get muddied up.
New Rear Suspension, Still Fun to Drive
Things can get kind of muddied up when you completely redesign a vehicle’s suspension as Mazda did with its new compact, ditching the multi-link setup for a beam-style suspension that’s typically used in cheaper, smaller cars. A beam-style suspension is notorious for being adequate at best and hardly sporty, but Mazda made the change to simplify things. A multilink setup has 14 bushings that need adjustment and fine-tuning, while the beam suspension has just two. So it focused its effort into getting those two just right. Mazda has also adjusted the suspension to be a bit firmer, allowing for a softer tire to be fitted as well. Mazda is also boasting that it’s quite rare to have a beam type rear suspension paired with an all-wheel-drive system.
Typically, the torsion beam rear suspension shows its economy roots on broken, bumpy pavement and winding roads. We didn’t have too much of the former, and plenty of the latter and the Mazda3 proved to be as agile and fun to drive as before. We hit a few rumble strips in some construction zones, and the rear end didn’t wander or wobble as we’ve experienced in past compacts that use beam suspensions.
The Mazda3 feels responsive and enjoyable to drive, a trait that carries over from the last generation despite having a simplified suspension and two more driven wheels. We only drove the all-wheel-drive version of the car. It’s a tiny bit heavier as a result of the all-wheel-drive system, settling in at around 3,250 lbs, which isn’t too hefty at all. You could spend a whole day throwing the Mazda3 through country roads as we did, but the compact also has to be solid at commuting and dealing with the daily grind. So many of these compacts are the only or primary vehicle of a household, so if it is tiring or unnatural to drive, it’d be a huge issue. While the forward visibility is a bit of a knock, the braking and throttle response is solid. The engine can feel a bit pokey at times, but there’s a sports mode that inspires the transmission to stay in lower gears in order to maximize the power offered by the 2.5L.
The Mazda3 has a host of interesting and rarely offered features, from the AWD system to the head-up display, there’s also the audio system and the impressive dark red leather. But you’ll find many other important safety features including blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, radar cruise control and an adaptive front lighting system being offered, some on the more affordable trim levels too. The only curious thing is the pricing. The front-wheel-drive sedan will start at $21,895, while the all-wheel drive is offered with the Select Package for $24,895. The hatchback starts at $24,495, while all-wheel drive is offered on base models for a total price of $25,895. Fully loaded versions of the vehicles will cost around $30,000, and there are three extra option paint finishes that range from $200 to $595.
Considering a base Subaru Impreza sedan or hatch just around $20,000, it will be hard for Mazda to capitalize on buyers looking for all-wheel-drive on a budget, but the addition of an impressive interior and fun-to-drive handling should help make the Mazda3 a bit more appealing.
The Verdict: 2019 Mazda3 Review
Even with all the changes, the Mazda3 is a classy car that can impress critical compact car buyers and is available with a versatile and surefooted all-wheel-drive system. It’s a bit pricey, but there’s a special sauce in the way this compact drives that helps justify it.
|Engine /||2.5-liter four-cylinder|
|Horsepower /||186 hp|
|Torque /||186 lb-ft|
|Drivetrain /||Front-wheel drive, optional AWD|
|Transmission /||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic|
Our Final Verdict
The Mazda3 feels much more special and more high-end than any of its competitors, with its upmarket styling, luxurious interior, and German-inspired driving dynamics. Although it’s more expensive and perhaps less practical than many of its competitors in terms of passenger and cargo room, the way it’s executed and the level of attention to detail displayed helps justify that price premium. The availability of AWD also makes it stand out in its segment.4