A Cut Above: Mazda’s Mazda3


Upscale Mazda3 is offered as a sedan or hatchback.



Small car models are dwindling in numbers as consumers continue to move to crossovers. For the remaining players, including the Mazda Mazda3, offering distinct features is important if customers are to be won to the segment, let alone the marque. The 2020 Mazda3 does just that with its sharp styling, upscale interior, and available all-wheel drive.


2020 Mazda3 Review


Mazda offers the 2020 Mazda3 in four trims: base ($21,500), Select ($22,700), Preferred ($24,200), and Premium ($26,500).

On all but the base trim, all-wheel drive is a $1,400 option. Add $995 for the destination charge.



Exterior

Mazda has one of our favorite car designs — period. Its “soul of motion” or KODO design language never gets tiring – it looks sporty, refined, and interesting. We do think the hatchback has the better styling, but the sedan has its own beauty found in its gaping grille, slender headlamps, dynamic character lines, and tucked in rear. It shares nearly everything with the hatchback, but it is 9 inches longer overall.

The list of standard features is impressive as it includes LED lighting all around – headlights, daytime running lights, and rear combination lights. Power-folding side mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, and rain-sensing wipers are standard. Yes, some of these features are upmarket items, more common to top trims or luxury models.

Move up to the Select trim and this one gains side mirror integrated turn signals and 18-inch alloy wheels. The Preferred trim has a shark-fin antenna while the Premium adds an adaptive front-lighting system, better LED lighting, a power sliding moonroof, and upmarket 18-inch alloy wheels.




Interior

Once again, the Mazda3 pulls out all the stops with the interior. Yes, you’ll find some plastics, but you’ll also find soft-touch materials galore. We especially like the two-tone dashboard design.

The front seats are quite comfortable; the rear seat is manageable for mostly anyone of average size. The look and feel of the cabin is upscale and pleasing to the eye.

Mazda outfits the “3” with full power accessories, push-button start, an electronic parking brake, air conditioning, and pretty cloth-trimmed seats.

Move up to the Select trim and imitation leather seats come in. Mazda also wraps the steering wheel and gear selector in leather. The rear bench seat gains a center armrest with cup holders.

At the Preferred level, an overhead console with sunglasses holder comes in. Other features include an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support. The Premium trim features perforated leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel-mounted paddles shifters.



Tech

We like the standard tech offerings with the Mazda3. In fact, with an 8-speaker audio system offered from the onset, that’s at least two more speakers than what most competitors supply.

Mazda equips its compact sedan with an 8.8-inch touch-screen display, HD Radio, Bluetooth, and two USB ports. At the Select level, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are added.

Move up to the Preferred and satellite radio appears. You’ll also find a 12-speaker Bose audio system – yes, Bose.

Is there anything we don’t like about Mazda’s tech features? Yes, the infotainment interface with its big dial takes time to get used to. We’re not sure we ever did either – we like competing systems that are far more intuitive and simpler to use. And much less distracting.

Safety

The list of standard safety features includes high beam control, driver attention alert, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Move up to the Select trim and this one brings in blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

You’ll also find adaptive cruise control with full stop and go (automatics only), while models with the manual transmission also offer adaptive cruise control, but with the stop and go feature.



Performance

Mazda supplies one engine choice and it’s the largest one in its class. With a displacement of 2.5 liters, this naturally aspirated engine matches the size of what midsize sedans have. Indeed, the Mazda6 is powered by the same engine or by the optional turbo version.

With an even 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, the Mazda3’s engine has more than sufficient power to move this little sedan (or hatchback). And as is increasingly difficult to find, you can still get a 6-speed manual gearbox or opt for the 6-speed automatic transmission. One more point: you’ll find available all-wheel drive, a feature uncommon to this segment. Only Subaru offers it as standard equipment. High-performance models such as the Ford Focus RS had it, but that model is no longer offered stateside.

Our test model came with all-wheel drive, but we weren’t able to enjoy its full benefits as the roads were clear on the days we drove it. Ideally, all-wheel drive is useful on slick roads, especially where snow and ice are prevalent. Notably, this part-time system kicks in when rear-wheel slippage is detected, then shuttles some of the power rearward to stabilize the vehicle. We recommend upgrading for anyone living in a wintry climate – just ensure that all four wheels are shod with winter tires for enhanced grip.

When driving the Mazda3, we were satisfied with the amount of power offered – from step-off to passing performance. Its straightaway performance is good, but the way it behaves on twisty roads is even better thanks to accurate steering and sharp handling. The suspension system performs admirably by absorbing most road imperfections with ease.

We think the estimated 35/36 highway mpg is attainable. Our average was just under 30 mpg due to an even mix of local and highway driving. You’ll lose a few mpg with all-wheel drive, but that’s the trade-off for a car designed to offer superior grip throughout the winter.

Competitive Set

The Mazda3 finds fewer competitors these days as Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford are no longer selling compact cars in the U.S. The remaining players, though, are formidable and include the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Nissan Sentra.

Other models in this segment include the Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Jetta, and the Subaru Impreza. All models come with front-wheel drive. The Subaru is the exception with its standard all-wheel drive.


Our Recommendation


Start your search with the Select trim, then decide if the available upgrades are worth the extra cost. Pricey on the top end, the Mazda3 with the Preferred trim will cost you just over $25,000. And that’s a decent price for this stylish sedan that punches above its weight.



2020 Mazda3 Sedan Specifications


Mazda 2020 Mazda3 Sedan
Segment Compact Car
Price Range $21,500 to $26,500
Destination Charge $995
Standard Engine 2.5-liter, I4
Horsepower 186 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 186 @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 3,022 to 3,255
Wheelbase (inches) 107.3
Length (inches) 183.5
Width (inches) 70.7
Height (inches) 56.9
Headroom (f,r…inches) 38.0, 37.3
Legroom (f,r…inches) 42.3, 35.1
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 55.7, 53.5
Hip room (f,r…inches) 54.6, 50.9
Storage (cubic feet) 13.2
Gross vehicle weight (pounds) NR
Towing (pounds) NR
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel Regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 13.2
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined) 27/36/30 (FWD); 24/32/27 (AWD)
Manufacturing Plant Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan

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Author: admin
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.