The Mazda3 routinely achieves top billing among compact cars and for good reason: it is attractively styled, sporty, efficient, and offers tremendous value. Perhaps the biggest decisions you’ll face is deciding between sedan and hatchback body styles and the standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive.
Competition is fierce in the small car segment with the Mazda3 battling the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and the Nissan Sentra, among others. One year removed from its most recent overhaul, the 2020 Mazda3 returns with light changes. Prices start at $22,400 for the sedan and $24,520 for the hatchback. Well-equipped models cost about $30,000.
Critics praise the Mazda3 for its European styling, which is on the level of the far costlier Audi 3. A gaping grille, curvilinear lines, pulled in corners, and standard LED lighting elements place a premium stamp on this vehicle.
But it doesn’t end there.
Inside, the cabin is a design masterpiece with its layered dashboard, available contrasting colors, and double-stitched trim. Soft-touch materials abound, which is unusual for a class of vehicles that traditionally make use of molded plastic seemingly everywhere.
The front seats are supportive and bolstered, the rear seat is narrow and the legroom is tighter than some competitors. Trunk space measures 13.2 cubic feet in the sedan to 20.1 cubic feet in the hatch, the latter opening to an expansive 47.1 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. That’s slightly more room than Mazda’s CX-3, which is its smallest crossover utility vehicle.
Standard & Optional Features
What sets the Mazda3 further apart from the competition is its standard features. Even the base models come well equipped, although the hatchback’s equipment roster starts higher. These features include automatic headlights, keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, and imitation leather seats.
An 8.8-inch display panel, an eight-speaker audio package, and a long list of standard driver-assist features, including blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control, are also included. Heated front seats, leather-trimmed sport seats, and a 12-speaker Bose audio system are standard with the top trim. Clearly, this little Mazda punches well above its weight in the features department.
Mazda3: Performance Optimized
Most shoppers will find the lone engine choice, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder more than adequate. With an even 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, along with the Mazda’s lightweight frame, this compact accelerates quickly. The six-speed automatic transmission is drama-free, although the paddle shifters allow for a more engaging driving experience. A six-speed manual gearbox is optional on the top trim, which is a capable transmission that shifts smoothly with clean clutch uptake.
The Mazda3 offers optional all-wheel drive, the only model apart from the Subaru Impreza/WRX with this feature. Consider this option if you place an emphasis on spirited driving. Without it, you’ll still enjoy athletic handling thanks in part to the rear suspension’s torsen beam set up, which supplies increased stiffness for reduced body roll. You’ll tackle twisty roads with precision and pull out of corners with little understeer to disturb you. Best of all, the little Mazda remains comfortable on long rides.
Since the powertrain is better than most competitors, enthusiasts continue to pine for a Mazdaspeed variant. The automaker is currently gauging customer interest, which may move Mazda to add a 250-horsepower turbo engine along with the all-wheel drive to form this performance variant. Make your interest known and Mazda may soon bring back the ideal competitor to the Volkswagen GLI.
The Mazda Way
Mazda prices its compact car well above the competition, therefore the value lies entirely in its premium features, outstanding reliability, and superior resale advantage. But it is the fun factor that places the Mazda3 within a small segment of competitors, with aftermarket enhancement possibilities allowing for the ultimate in sporty customization.
2020 Mazda 3 Specifications
|Segment||Compact Sedan and Hatchback|
|Price Range||$21,500-$27,900 (sedan); $23,700-$28,900 (hatch)|
|Standard Engine||2.0-liter I4|
|Horsepower||186 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||186 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,022|
|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|
|Cargo Storage||13.2 (sedan)/20.1 (hatchback)|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||NR|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||13.2 (FWD); 12.7 (AWD)|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||27/36/30; 25/33/28|
|Manufacturing Plant||Ingersol, Ontario (Cananda) and Mexico|
Specifications supplied by the manufacturer. Compiled by Tom Keegan.
See Also — Mazda Puts the “Hot” in its Mazda3 Hatchback
Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.