The Mazda3 compact sedan or hatchback with AWD exudes superb handling, loads of power with the turbo engine and it’s priced attractively and below its Euro competitors.
We were privileged to test the hatchback version that with its AWD traction capability, can be considered a compact crossover. Mazda3 is offered in several trim models, most based on three engine choices. We were privileged to test the 2.5 Turbo w/Premium Plus package.
Like all Mazda vehicles, the 3 is a suave looker. Especially when painted in Soul Red Metallic paint that years back, would be called Candy Apple Red. And when filling up at a service station, it grabbed a lot of eyes and compliments.
As Mazda3’s exterior is a sharp looker, so is its interior. It boasts an 8.8-inch infotainment display that melds nicely into the dash top. No one will complain about the heated front seats that are sumptuously padded and nicely supportive.
A rotary controller on the console selects a host of functions for its infotainment system plus a rearview camera with 360 degree and close-up views, Mazda Connected Service with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, navigation and more.
The burly console mounted gear selector controls the standard 6-speed automatic transmission that is supplemented with paddle shifters for those who want to optimize performance. Kudo’s to Mazda for not going with a CVT transmission although it would improve fuel economy - but the 3 would lose it’s sporty performance.
Mazda3s gear selector shares the glossy black console top with a drive mode selector switch that offers Normal and Sport modes. The latter increases engine rpm’s by about 500 while also increasing shift points for increased performance.
The only feature missing in the cockpit is a wireless phone charger. But there are receptacles for wired charging in the spacious console box. The entire cockpit features quality materials and build.
Over on the gauge cluster, modes and other operating functions appear in the speedometer. Above it, the windshield has a head-up-display that shows posted speed limits and stop signals. If exceeding the posted speed limit, hash marks appear beyond the numbers as a reminder.
Rear seat ingress/egress is easy thanks to wide opening doors. Once in, and with the front seats half-way rearward, a 5’8” person can be comfortably seated with decent leg room and adequate headroom.
Trunk space is on par with others in this class. It’s rated at 20.1 cubic feet with 33 inches of loading depth with the rear seatbacks upright. Flip the seats and capacity expands to 47.1 cubic feet for 60 inches of loading depth. Beneath the trunk floor is a space saver tire but there’s no space around it to stow small items.
With AWD, Mazda’s system sends equal amounts of torque between the front and rear axles. But with a low ground clearance of 5.5 inches, the 3 can handle snow plowed roadways, and only mild, homogenized trails.
The Mazda3 really shines in the handling department. With its G Vectoring Control Plus system, it keeps the 3 planted in sharp turns and corners. The system does a few things like reducing power a bit, applies some braking to the outside wheel to keep the ship stable and true tracking.
As for the ride on Bridgestone 18-inch tires, it’s smooth, quiet and a pleasure to drive with good road feedback. It also parks easily in tight spots with a 37.3 foot wall-wall turning radius.
With three powertrains offered dependent on trim model, the test car came with a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder that generates 227-hp (250 with 93 octane fuel) and 310-lb/ft of torque (320 with 93 octane) for EPA estimated fuel economy of 23 city, 31-highway mpg. Activate the turbo too often and those numbers will slip.
Mazda3 is priced reasonably with a long list of standard amenities and safety features such as driver attention alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitor, smart brake support, rear cross traffic alert, rain sensing wipers, heated power side mirrors and many more. Also standard was Bose audio, sunroof, heated steering wheel. The only extra cost item was for the Soul Red Crystal paint ($595) that took the base price of $34,400 to $36,010 with delivery.
Also impressive is Mazda3s governments 5-star safety ratings. It earned a full five stars for an overall score, five for driver/passenger frontal crash, five for front/rear seat side crash, and five for rollover. A perfect score. Now that’s impressive.
Mazda3 is a good compromise between a full-fledged SUV/crossover and a compact family sporty sedan. Its advantage is that it offers the best of all worlds.
The 3 also comes with 60 months/60K mile, 36/36K bumper-bumper warranties, plus 24-hour roadside assistance coverage.