Review: 2019 Mazda3 is still sporty, adds AWD goodness
The market for compact vehicles in the sedan segment is thinning as buyers look towards more versatility, but the argument for a well-executed small car can still be compelling. The Mazda3 has often set the tone on that front and this new iteration goes further, pushing back hard at crossovers in the process.
The argument towards crossovers as the vehicle of choice in compacts has been that they have more interior room and versatility as well as (often) an option for all-wheel drive. Certainly Mazda’s CX-30 fits that bill nicely, but the little Mazda3 in its hatchback form does as well. And in our experience, it does so with more style and fun factor than just about anything else in the compact segments can deliver.
For the 2019 model year, Mazda is introducing the fourth generation of the 3. The compact retains its excellent interior quality, spirited handling characteristics and balanced power output, with the addition of an all-wheel drive option, more interior refinement, and a classy road-going look.
The new Mazda3 comes in both sedan and hatchback formats. For our money, the US$2,600 premium paid to go from the base model sedan ($21,000) to the much more versatile and better-equipped base level hatchback ($23,600) is well worth it. The hatch gains a lot of cargo room, a better balance to its ride quality and speedy looks, while sacrificing only some rear visibility in the process.
The 2019 Mazda3 comes in four trim levels, starting with the base model sedan. The cheap price of that base model comes thanks to it having very few of the amenities most of today’s buyers expect. Most will, instead, be drawn to the Select trim level, which is also where the base model hatchback Mazda3 starts. The Select package upgrades the 16-inch base wheels to 18-inch alloys and adds automatic headlamps and windshield wipers, dual-zone climate, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a full suite of advanced safety features like forward collision warning with emergency braking, and driver aids including adaptive cruise control and a driver attention monitor. The Preferred and Premium packages go up from there.
Beyond that, the 2019 Mazda3 hatchback adds about seven cubic feet (198.2 liters) of cargo space over what the sedan offers (13.2 cubic feet or 373.8 liters). That space is mostly offered as a higher, wider opening and easier-access floor, making it more useful all around. The sacrifice is in driver visibility, which narrows through the rearview mirror and restricts in over-shoulder glances.
Overall the Mazda3 has improved in many ways. We sang the praises of the Kia Forte as an excellent entry-level compact and see the Mazda3 as good competition. The greatest difference between the two, besides the hatchback option for the Mazda, is in the back seats. The back seat in the Forte is more accommodating in knee and legroom than is that in the Mazda, but headroom is about the same in either car.
The Mazda3 comes standard with an 8.8-inch infotainment interface, but it’s not a touchscreen and suffers from the same issues most of these control knob-based systems do. Menus can be clunky and not easy to navigate on the go. The screen is crisp, though, with fast responses and the inclusion of CarPlay and Auto as standard is great. Using those is recommended as a better way to interact with the system as the voice control system has a steep learning curve.
The 3 now comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as standard (it was an upgrade option in the previous generation of the car). This engine smoothly delivers 186 horsepower (139 kW) and 186 pound-feet (252 Nm) of torque. This enters a six-speed automatic transmission and can be routed to all four wheels if all-wheel drive is present. This optional AWD means that the Mazda3 can compete with crossovers on the all-weather front as well. For those wondering, a manual transmission is available for the Mazda3, but only on one higher-end package as a “sport” option.
That strong little engine does a good job of balancing sporty output with fuel economy. The Mazda3 in AWD is EPA-rated at 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. In the real world, we saw close to those numbers with a 23.5 mpg city average and a 32 mpg highway return. We suspect that a more judicious foot in town would have improved things, but that’s hard to do with this peppy little car.
As with all Mazda vehicles, the Mazda3 has a wonderful drive dynamic that only improves with the better weight distribution of the hatchback model’s design. Front-wheel drive is standard and probably good enough for most buyers, but those who want a little more balance in the drive quality and the assurance of all-weather capability will want to get the AWD upgrade.
In all, the 2019 Mazda Mazda3 is a great little car for the compact segment. It sets the standard for entry-level sporty compacts. And while it has its issues, they aren’t deal breakers for many, and are more than made up for in the smart looks and fun factor that the Mazda brings.
Product Page: 2019 Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback