By on January 28, 2019

Corey lewis

We travelled to the small and traffic-free city of Los Angeles last week to check out the newly revamped 2019 Mazda 3, the first product launched under the automaker’s equally new premium philosophy. The next-gen compact apparently heralds the introduction of other higher-end models.

So, is this all-important foundational compact car any good? Let’s find out.

(Disclaimer: Mazda flew me from Cincinnati to Los Angeles and put me up in a very nice hotel in West Hollywood. They also provided me with food and drink, a notepad, and a pen.)

Newly Aspirational New Car

The new 3 is a car of firsts for Mazda. It’s the first to feature new KODO design language destined for all other models, the first to offer the innovative Skyactiv-X engine, the first vehicle built on a revised Skyactiv Vehicle Architecture, and the first 3 available with all-wheel drive in North America. The anticipated Skyactiv-X engine joins the 3 lineup sometime soon (no specifics given), paired with a new M Hybrid system for better fuel economy.

Mazda told me flat out there will be no Mazdaspeed 3, as it’s not in line with the company’s new premium image. So there.

As all test cars provided were Premium-trim, front-drive automatics in sedan guise, there’ll be a subsequent test event in a few months’ time — this one featuring all-wheel drive hatchbacks plunked into a snowy climate. We’ve covered pricing information previously, so give that a read if you’re in a buying mood.

In case you’re wondering, the test car pictured here asks $26,500 at your Mazda dealer come spring.

Three-box Small Sedan

Mazda regretted the coupe-like styling applied to the prior 3 and stuck to a more traditional three-box shape this time around. Subjectively, the smooth, more serious lines represent an upgrade from the outgoing model. The wider grille, outlined in chrome, is now devoid of a smile. For 2019, door handles are a one-piece affair, lacking the interruption of a keyless entry button (the handle is touch-sensitive). The door handle pulled with a slick and nicely weighted motion, and door operation produced a quality “thunk” both inside and out.

Paint quality was good overall, with the tester’s Soul Red Crystal ($595) optional paint appearing deep and lustrous, changing color (pink, orange) depending on the angle of the sun. This shade is new for 2019; Mazda uses a revised paint process solely for this color, with a black base coat and tinted clearcoat. Unfortunately, some light orange peel appeared on the roof area over the doors. Exterior alignment was excellent in panels, trunk, and door trim.

A Padded Room

Interior color choices for the leather-clad sedan variant are either black, or this white and black two-tone theme. A red leather interior is exclusive to upper-trim hatchbacks. Soft-touch surfaces are, perhaps surprisingly, everywhere. The leather has a soft, quality feel, and the stitching throughout the cabin is notably even and without puckering. Upper door panels and dash are a soft rubber, while the trim is a (convincing) padded and stitched leatherette.

Door armrest are thickly padded and swathed in stitched leather, as are the console lid and both sides of the center console. Hands grip a stitched leather wheel. Mazda employs a “less is more” philosophy with the new 3’s cabin, choosing to strip it of the button mélange found in many modern cars. The overall look is decidedly horizontal, helped by a strip of metal that travels across the doors, beyond the integrated door pull (a nice touch), across the dash, and around the vents. The only hard plastics are found below that strip of metal.

Settings are found within the 8.8-inch center display, and dialed-up via a console-mounted rotating knob flanked by four function buttons. CarPlay and Android Auto are included as standard. There’s a smaller rotary wheel to the right of the main one, and it’s only for controlling the audio. Turn for volume, push left or right to seek stations, and a short or long press mutes or turns the system off, respectively. Props to Mazda for including a mute button. Climate controls are simple, with a total of six buttons and two temperature knobs.

We docked points for the sunroof shade and overhead sunglass holder, both of which felt flimsy and had an afterthought quality about them.

Gauges are bright and easily readable; the center one provides different statistical information via the Info button on the wheel. Standard on Premium trim is a head-up display that’s configurable via the settings menu. The display is also adjustable for drivers of different heights.

Into the Mountains

Mazda’s selected drive route took us east from West Hollywood, then north into the Angeles National Forest. The first part of the drive was all traffic, giving us time to come to terms with the 3 in low-speed driving. Notable in the loud traffic was the level of noise isolation in the cabin. Nearby buses and trucks were well muffled behind the wheel.

At idle, no sound or vibration gives away the 2.5-liter’s presence. Said engine is the only option at launch for the 3 in the United States, providing 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. In stop and go traffic, light throttle inputs sporadically caused sloppy shifts from the six-speed automatic. I noticed this on more than one occasion between first and third gear, and it was always under light throttle. In all other situations, the transmission performed smoothly and very well, sliding through the gears accurately and without hesitation.

Once the clogged highway opened up, our 3 gathered speed. Power felt adequate for passing maneuvers, and the ride remained controlled and quiet. While the car’s lane keep assist bugged me a couple of times by tugging at the wheel, this can be turned off permanently. On the return highway jaunt, with the needle over halfway around the dial, the cabin proved remarkably serene. Tire noise from the Toyo Proxes was distant and quiet. The only other discernible sound was a bit of wind around the side mirror. On the topic of sound, the Bose stereo provided nice clarity — and bass. In a new stereo methodology for Mazda, the subwoofers are now located inside the fender instead of inside the cabin. Bose gives you four additional speakers over the standard setup, for a total of 12. There’s also an option to make the stereo driver-oriented, or good for all passengers. In testing, that setting made a distinct difference.

Once in the mountains, we swapped the freeway for a two-lane road where locals really let loose, and I made a game of chasing a particularly wild character piloting an Accord. Changes in elevation and blind, rocky bends were plentiful. The navigation assisted our journey with a 3-D feature that maps road elevation. Learning the medium-weight steering was a quick exercise, as the front went where pointed every time. Tires provided good grip, only scrubbing in corners I entered a bit too hot. Weight transfer, as I threw the sedan around, was smooth and predictable. My passenger remarked that even though he could feel my steering corrections through the corners (I have great skills, of course), the chassis soaked up the corrections without the ride becoming choppy. Dialing in appropriate braking force was never a challenge.

There were a couple of decent straight stretches in the mountains, and it was there I found myself experiencing disappointment on two occasions. Though the engine is generally responsive, I noted that when 15 to 20 percent of pedal travel remained, using said travel and burying it didn’t lead to more acceleration; I was already at full steam. No downshift, no additional RPM. I’m not sure whether this dead space in the pedal is intentional, or a fluke.

Throughout the drive, the seats (redesigned this year) proved comfortable and supportive, with more rearward travel and more flexibility in the bottom cushion for thigh support. A decent amount of bolstering greets the driver, and the headrests do not push aggressively forward like in some new cars. The driver’s seat is multi-powered, while the passenger’s is manually adjustable. I did hop in the back for a moment, and the rear bench felt generally comfortable. Thigh support in the back is lacking a bit, as one might expect in this class, and with the driver’s seat adjusted for my six-foot frame, my knees pressed against the front seat.

I reset the trip computer before the drive. After the fairly rough route, our tester returned 25.6 mpg.

Conclusion of Conflict

At the end of the drive, I found myself with two distinct feelings: those of being impressed, and also concerned. The impressed feeling came from numerous areas. The car feels well made and substantial; Mazda’s clearly put a lot of effort into the interior, the materials, and the significant reduction of NVH. It’s fun to drive, rides nicely, has a refined engine, and offers a great deal of equipment in Premium trim. But the premium is where my concern lies.

Mazda knew it needed to up its game to be considered a premium competitor, and I think that’s what it’s done with this new 3. But the model’s pricing reaches higher than typical compact competitors, while remaining lower than the premium marques. Time will tell if this strategy works with customers. Still, if a compact buyer is willing pay a bit more than they would at the Japanese brand down the street, they’ll be getting a solid car.

[Images: Corey Lewis / TTAC]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

114 Comments on “2019 Mazda 3 First Drive – A Cohesive Compact?...”


  • avatar
    jatz

    If Chief Wahoo were a car.

  • avatar
    AtoB

    That interior color scheme is very “winter wonderland”.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Any comments on rear leg room? Looks a smidge tight compared to some of the 37 inch+ measurements of the newer Jettas, Sentras and Corollas and such.

    I’ve tried the 2.5NA in a rental CX5 Grand Touring which similarly impressed me with the interior material quality and refinement, but all that nice stuff also added quite a bit of weight, the 2.5NA felt overmatched in that CUV with 3 people in it. I’m sure it feels much better in a smaller 3 with just the driver.

    I guess the question becomes: why this over a Mazda6?

    • 0 avatar

      It felt snug back there, I think max comfortable height back there is 6′, assuming there’s an equally tall driver or front passenger.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Lower MSRP and the availability of AWD are significant reasons. If parking is tight, smaller size is also a bonus. Front wheel drive Mazda3 ranges from $21.9k-$27.4k. AWD models go for $24.9k-$28.9k.

      The Mazda6 starts at $23k and tops out at 34.8k. It is not available with AWD (yet) but can also be optioned with the more powerful 2.5T.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        LeMansteve,

        I can’t stop bragging that on labor day of 2017 I bought Mazda6 Sport MT for $18.5K How you going to beat that? Now, problem is, how this Mazda3 can beat that?

        • 0 avatar
          LeMansteve

          slavuta, that’s a great deal but I’m simply comparing MSRP to MSRP. Actual sale prices will vary. I’d be willing to bet you could have scored a Mazda3 Sport MT for even less.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            It was a Mazda dealer, so you never know. It could be that he went there to buy a Mazda3 Sport MT, and they had a Mazda6 Sport MT that they wanted to sell instead. If that was the case, they might have chopped the car they wanted to sell to a lower price than the car he wanted to buy. I’ve seen it happen, although not always at Mazda stores.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      It has more rear legroom than Lexus IS.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    If Mazda wants to position itself as a premium offering it needs to offer premium engines across the board. The 2.5T should at least be an option.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      That’s my thought as well.

    • 0 avatar
      dougjp

      Exactly. Perhaps instead of ” Mazda told me flat out there will be no Mazdaspeed 3, as it’s not in line with the company’s new premium image.”, the better question would have been, when is an optional more powerful engine going to be offered.

      Likely won’t happen, but premium image includes this as a buyer’s expectation in the compact class, because a majority of brands provide it. EG; Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Genesis, Volvo. And Mazda comes to the party with a new vehicle but no engine. A better transmission is missing too. The car does look great, especially the sedan, and kudos for finally dealing with NVH.

  • avatar
    forward_look

    Is the grille big enough?

  • avatar
    Fordson

    The reason 15 to 20% pedal travel is left is because the throttle mapping gives you all the power early, so you’ll think the engine has more power than it actually has. In this day and age, any NA 2.5L engine should be capable of 200 hp.

    With peak torque at 3250 rpm and peak power at 5800, it probably needs another gear or two to match competitors’ powertrains and maximize the power that’s available.

    Basically, this engine/tranny combo is mostly unchanged since 2013…that was six years ago now…tick…tick…tick, Mazda. When it came out, Mazda powertrain engineers excitedly pulled out their brand-new iPhone 5S’s to tell friends and family.

    The 2.5T is a truck engine – it’s fine for the CX-9, and it would be perfect for the Tacoma, rather than the peaky 3.5, if Toyota would buy it from Mazda, but for a car, it’s unsatisfying – as in the old Mazdaspeed 3, Mazda continues to show itself unable to make a turbo engine in which power output does not fall off a cliff anywhere over 5500 rpm.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      That’s an interesting argument when you consider that peak power on a GTI – universally regarded as a first-rate driver’s car – hits at 4700 rpm.

      (And, no, I don’t think the 2.5 turbo is a truck engine.)

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I buy Mazda’s argument that the 2.5T is designed for how people actually drive family sedans.

        If you want a Mazda 4 that sings to redline, get a new 2019 Miata with the revised engine.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        Look at the curves for the GTI an the 2.5T from Mazda – a GTI does hit peak power at 4700, but it’s still making power at 6500. Stock, it’s making 210 hp at the wheels at 4700, but it’s over 190 from 4300 to 6300.

        For the 2.5T, it’s making 200 hp at the wheels at 4900…it hits 190 hp by 3800 rpm, but is down to 190 again at 5100. By 5800 it’s down to 160 whp. This is not exactly news to anyone – it was Mazda’s design criteria for the engine.

        The 2.5T was designed largely for the CX-9, which is not a truck, but is a 4,300-lb SUV. And I think the engine is a pretty good truck engine – its resemblance in state of tune to the Ford 2.3T in the new Ranger is striking.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Every turbo under $100K outside of the STI is a truck engine. There is a large dearth of top end with forced induction these days.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          The top end power on my A3 (and by extension the GTI) is surprisingly good – it’s no VTEC, but you can get some power over 5500 rpm. But it comes at a cost of surprisingly low mpg.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            That’s what I’ve read about the VAG 2.0T as well, it’s the Two Point Oh Tee done right: hardly surprising, they’ve been at it the longest. Strong down low, but doesn’t fade as noticeably/disappointingly as many others.

          • 0 avatar
            vvk

            > That’s what I’ve read about the VAG 2.0T as well, it’s the Two Point
            > Oh Tee done right: hardly surprising, they’ve been at it the longest.

            No, SAAB was at it the longest, since 1978.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          @ajla

          I would argue that the tuning of most modern turbos is directly related to the transmissions that are attached to them. Now that buyers have decided that CVTs are largely verboten I’ve noticed that the 8/9/10 speed automatics attached to turbos are designed to keep the engine in the meat of its torque band at all costs – especially with cruise control engaged.

          I drove my FIL’s Terrain 2.0T wit 9-speed from Gallup to Albuquerque and back (down I-40) and when cruise was engaged the transmission did everything to keep the engine just under or within the band where the engine torque plateaus (2000 RPM to roughly 4000 RPM). Which to be honest is what a CVT tries to do, keep the engine at the RPM where it can be most efficient.

          There was so much sound insulation and the trans was smooth enough I couldn’t tell what gear it was in and I could barely hear the changes in RPM.

          If I prodded it with my right foot I could zing up higher on the tach but their was little joy above 4000 RPM. I even found myself as I was driving around town keeping the engine within an RPM band for quickest acceleration without getting into the high RPM dead zone.

          As a contrast my Highlander with V6 and 5 speed auto with cruise engaged a large hill will drop it down to 3rd gear and 5000 RPM or more where it screams to keep 85 mph.

          I must confess the turbo was more pleasant to cruise in.

          • 0 avatar
            thegamper

            I feel that too much emphasis has been put on turbo engines to eliminate lag rather than provide power up high. I think lag was always seen by the general public as a quality problem, far more than lack of high RPM output. In a car with a manual transmission, lag isnt a problem. Like you said, being in the thick of the torque band is how auto transmissions are programmed. You would have to be driving 9/10’s all the time in an automatic to make use of a car that had turbo power at high RPM’s.

            Personally, I used to have a Mazdaspeed6 and loved nothing more than the turbo coming on like a firehose at 3000 rpm. On the other side of that coin, when cruising around and needing a bit of power, can be frustrating to hit the gas and have nothing happen. In the end, the way 99% of the people drive 99% of the time won out.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Really, and I’m talking outside of Mazda-Land now, the best solution was the modern naturally-aspirated V8. They had enough torque down low that you didn’t *need* to rev it, but when you wanted to they could still offer some entertainment.

            As it is now, my Stinger is quite powerful, but its power delivery makes me tempted to put some Cummins badges on it.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Power peak is 6,000, torque max at 4,000 and it has cylinder deactivation. You’re quoting old specs.

      The rest of your missive seems to want to implant a large downer for no really valid reason. The only 2.5 with 200 hp is the new Toyota. At 6600 rpm and 4500 for max torque. And it’s now coarse at high revs.

      The thing is to try one of these new 3’s instead of theorizing darkly, especially now the car’s supposed to be quiet.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        OK, the 2.5 NA has different power peaks, but it’s not making any more power than it did before.

        Look, the 2.0L engine in a Ford Focus makes 160 hp – that’s 80 hp per liter. It’s not in a radical state of tune – economy car engine they’ve been making since 2012. Any 2.5 liter that makes 80 hp/liter will make 200 hp. If the Toyota engine is rough, that’s on Toyota.

        And sorry I ruined your day.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          If you’re judging an engine only on its stated power peak, you’re doing it wrong. Comparing an old NB Miata with the current one, curb weights are nearly identical and the new one is up only 15 hp – 155 vs 140. And yet their 0-60 times are 2 seconds apart (approximately 7.8 vs 5.8). The low and mid-range outputs are miles apart. Even Mazda’s 2.0L is a surprisingly flexible engine for its size, putting along just fine at 2,000 RPM despite tall gearing, yet peaking at 6,000.

          My 2.0L 3 gets out of its way just fine, and is fairly satisfying to rev out when I feel like it. The 2.5 seems to offer a similar power curve, only amplified by 20% or so.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Mazda is perfectly able to make an engine that peaks at high rpm. Any manufacturer is, for that matter.

      Mazda knows that 99% of their customers keep it below 3,500rpm on a daily basis. For that reason and a number of others (emissions, mileage) their newer engines are tuned for low-end torque.

      Of course, it would be nice to have a high-revving performance engine but I don’t see that happening with Mazda any time soon.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        I think the 2.5T actually is a good engine…just not in any car that has sporting pretensions. My opinion on this is not terribly original – see any road test of it in a 6.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Yes, I agree with your comments about the nature of this engine. I drive a 2015 Mazda6 with the same 2.5L engine and manual 6-speed.

      The engine is a long-stroke design, an is most definitely tuned for fuel efficiency and clean emissions. It does NOT like to rev. The “meat” is in the 3000-4500 rpm range, but even in the peak power/torque range, there isn’t a lot there. Below 3000 rpm, it is, uhm, leisurely, though smooth.

      That said, I drive 56 miles for my daily commute, and am routinely getting 33.5 mpg, which I consider excellent for a car as comfortable and spacious as this car is. And, as has been said here many times, the chassis is much better than expected for a family sedan NOT from Germany.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    This review was a welcome surprise. Well done.

    Yesterday, I surfed all the US, Canadian and Australian reviews that came out on that LA Mazda3 first drive event. About a dozen.

    None of them comes close to yours.

    As for the car, definitely on the “must try” list in AWD form when it finally appears in about six months. I kind of like it, and here in Canada they’re giving them away: $26K Canadian for the base AWD, and $30.4K for the top all-singing all-dancing unit. Plus $1900 shipping fee. Aye, there’s the rub.

    There are all sorts of 2.0 litre models available in Canada – base price for a steel wheel cheapie with, get this, no A/C is Cdn $18K. Add $2700 for alloys and A/C, so Cdn $20.7K really. Plus that $1900 shipping.

    If you don’t want to ride a waspy Civic with a 1.4t oil dilution engine special with admittedly more room, then this Mazda3 seems to be the ticket. AWD availability, no CVT with half-decent looks and interior are the bonus you get.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Offering AWD is definitely smart, someone needs to step on the Impreza’s toes since the lackluster Lancer departed. It’s a useful differentiator in a field being squeezed by crossovers, at least in part because most crossovers offer AWD.

      And I’m confident that this Mazda’s interior absolutely blows the Civic away, that Civic interior is not well built, or with very good materials IMO. Stitching on the slippery neoprene-ish cloth seats is worse than $40 amazon-special seat covers made with similarly cheap neoprene crap.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        Yup, lack of AWD kept me dithering over the Mazda6 turbo these past six months. I live in Nova Scotia and we get winter, and I live in the country. I’ve got an old Legacy GT with real gear center diff AWD, and it’s amazingly enough, almost the exact same size as this new 3 – that’s how much cars have bloated in 12 years. But the Mazda will be 400 lbs lighter than my 3600 lb car. The clutch AWD will suffice. My friend has a 3 despite being well-off, swears by it, and I think it drives incredibly well. Still got to try the new one out – the sideways view out might just be the B-pillar, and I hate that. The new Impreza is no dynamic competitor to the old 3, not even close, and has a wheezer of a motor. Nope.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Yeah the Impreza 2.0L+CVT is wretched IMO, maybe at least okay-ish with a stick. My family test drove a “bug-eye” Outback Sport 2.5L+stick back in the day, that was a satisfying powertrain in the smaller Impreza, good torque.

          • 0 avatar
            conundrum

            I had a ’99 Impreza TS that I loved, such a cheery car, and essentially nothing went wrong in 9 years and 95,000 miles. I’ve been blessed with a ’14, ’16 and ’17 Impreza loaner for a week each, when the silly dealer hadn’t parts in stock for my car, like a front brake caliper or trans cooler pipe or carbon canister for my ’08 GT, the only one they sold that year.

            Wouldn’t touch any of these newer Imprezas with a barge pole. Noisy, slow, gluey steering then hyperactive on the ’17. Not one of them a patch on my ’99. So bad I wondered “what are they up to now?” each time. Really not very good but kudos to the dealer for the loaners.

            The general trundling nature of Subarus these days is what has made me test over 20 cars in the past five years trying to find something as good as the LGT for less than $50K. Haven’t found anything, but Mazdas do comport themselves nicely, oooh, these past whole 1.07 years since they began to get a bit quieter. Before that, the tin can nature turned me off.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you!

  • avatar
    IBx1

    I’m alright with there not being a variant specifically named “Mazdaspeed,” but give me that white interior, cooled front seats, the 2.5 turbo, and a manual, and I’ll buy one.

    They have the new hatch on display at the Houston Auto Show with the new formula of Soul Red, and it is drop-dead gorgeous in person.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    @Tim:

    No Mazdaspeed3 makes sense – that car was fast, but it wasn’t very refined. But how about a version with the 2.5T?

    It sounds like the refinement’s here, but I think Mazda’s missing an opportunity to truly compete against other “premium small cars.” With the 2.5T (or another 40 hp, if you will), a premium interior, AWD, and a sticker of +/- $30,000, this could steal quite a few sales from the GTI, Mercedes A-class/CLA, Audi A3, etc.

    With 180 hp, I’d think the better bet would be a lower-rung version.

    • 0 avatar

      I think they are going to reserve the 2.5T for their larger and more expensive models. It would probably steal sales from the 6 for this lighter, cheaper car to have better performance.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Handicapping is the road to victory.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I don’t see the point, but we’ll see how it goes for them. I think this car probably makes a lot more sense as a base model – the stuff that apparently makes the interior nice is still there on more basic models, and 184 hp standard is pretty generous.

          If they want to sell this car as “premium,” then they need to give it the one thing premium buyers expect: lots of effortless power. Otherwise, you have what amounts to a top-line Civic or Jetta, just with a nicer interior. That may be a tough sell.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I wholeheartedly agree. If there are overlap issues its Mazda’s own fault for making the 3 so big.

          • 0 avatar
            R Henry

            Yes. I like Mazdas. I am on my third.

            That said, each of my Mazda’s has had it’s share of glaring faults that seem to knock the vehicles out of consideration for significant numbers of shoppers. What you describe about an upscale interior in a Civic-competing compact is entirely logical, and I agree–a perfect example of why Mazda never seems to get past its paltry 2-3% US market share

  • avatar
    asphaltcowboy

    Mazda introduces yet another dated looking, non-competitive model, that is underpowered. I’m sure it will ensure Mazda stays at the bottom of the sales heap. Mazda is not premium – they are trying to morph like Volvo did 30 years ago, but it won’t work. Mazda is ripe for a buy out. When the excruciatingly boring /slow/choppy riding Nissan Sentra outsells you nearly 3-1…you know you’ve f**ked up.

  • avatar
    ozibuns

    Beautiful car, IMO the most cohesively styled and probably still the best driving car. The American market seems to prefer hideously overstyled chrome-blinged eyesores (Civic, Corolla, Accord, Altima, Camry) to subtle, classy design. Mazda is the only mainstream manufacturer that embeds beauty, dynamics and consistently good quality throughout its range.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Geez, Mazda went from the drivers car company to the fancy interior for a mainstream car company.

    I know I’m a unicorn (and aren’t all Mazda customers), because I won’t buy an automatic.

    With the Civic Si, Golf GTI, Elantra Sport / GT, Golf Sportwagen, and the Toyota Corolla of all cars, all available with manuals, all with IRS, and all $28K or significantly less, I just don’t get this new Mazda3.

    I don’t need my interior to be finished like a fancy purse.

    • 0 avatar
      chiefmonkey

      Filling the gap left behind by Jettas of old. Makes perfect sense to me.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I hope the interiors last longer than those of the last generation. The “leather” on those cars wears fast. I sat in a 3 with only 5K miles on it last week, and there was already significant wear on the bolsters of the driver’s seat. Another car with only 25K miles was significantly worse. The seats in my Ford still look new at that mileage.

      The only reason I sat in that car was because it was a combo VW/Mazda dealership. I was there to talk about a GTI. It’s too bad Mazda doesn’t even want to try to earn my money, because I’ve owned 3 of them. No Speed3 is their way of saying, “go away, TMA1!”.

      • 0 avatar
        RedRocket

        Mazda these days is all about the frosting and not the cake. This one has the requisite angry face that all cars seem to require these days, is barely powerful enough, is sporting the same Soul Red paint they have been offering forever, and now has a white leatherette pitchfork across the dash to stab you in the eye. But they, it has actual stitching on the armrests. The devotees of the brand will love it, but at the MSRP they are asking it will be another tough sell. I agree the company needs to be bought up by a much bigger fish as they will have a very difficult time competing in the upcoming days of electrification and autonomy at their present size.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Also, the fact that the Car and Driver review, the biggest Mazda fans in the world, was lukewarm tells me all I need to know.

    • 0 avatar

      Here, the Car and Driver headline.

      “The Mazda 3 Shows a Porsche-Like Obsession to the Details”

      Lukewarm?

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        The best thing they can say about the torsion beam suspension is that it “doesn’t lead to the collapse of civilization”

        Car and Driver:

        Turn in sluggish. Steering ratio could be quicker, more feedback through the wheel, lacks the easy low-end pull off turbocharged rivals from Honda, Volkswagen, Kia, and Hyundai. There isn’t much of a push even when you spin the engine towards redline. If the price seems high, we’d have to agree….we’d rather have the sportier GTI.

        Despite the headline, I have never read a more lukewarm review of a new Mazda3 from Car and Driver, ever, and I’ve read all of them.

        So it’s quiet, refined, good looking, but not zoom zoom.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Crap, Corey, I misread who wrote this and asked Tim a question. Sorry about that!

    Any word on a bigger engine?

    • 0 avatar

      Nope, none. You will be able to get the X engine with hybrid, and I think that one will have more power and be the top of the range (while adding weight).

      Mazda told me their turbo mill is enough power for them, though no mention of it going into this vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Scuttlebutt on the non-hybrid X engine is what…190 hp? I don’t think that’s going to cut it if they’re truly chasing “premium” buyers. For their sake, I hope the hybrid has some balls.

        I’d reserve judgment until I could drive one of these, but I’m not sure what market they’re chasing here, and I don’t know if the car is the right one for a “premium” market.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    So, reading between the lines, is it unreasonable to call this Mazda’s Brougham? I can’t blame Mazda since their Zoom Zoom strategy hasn’t done much for them (incidentally, I don’t think it does much for anyone – the heavier CR-V/RAV4/Rogue all seem to have a lock on the marketplace with similar power, and the much-heralded Mazda-alternative turbo Elantras seem to have completely disappeared from the Canadian market for ’19). Admittedly, Brougham is slightly hyperbolic, as this clearly is no Malaise Era heap.

    That said, I don’t know if prioritizing comfort over involvement will do much to change their fortunes either – I’m a little cynical that the public can be sold on those features without the right badge. It’d probably be a waste of money, but time to dust off Amati?

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    I bought my mid-trim manual 2015 Mazda 3 hatch because the value proposition seemed favourable to a base Golf. Bring the price up against a GTI and there isn’t much of an argument for the Mazda, in my opinion, at least not for those who prioritize performance and handling.

    I know that there have been some good handlers with torsion beam rear suspensions – the first 4 generations of GTI and the Cobalt SS off the top of my head – but it seems like a potential step backwards now in 2019. Sure VW went back to one on the Jetta (after adding it in on the 2015 refresh), but the Golf and GTI never looked back after going independent for the Mk5. The ride quality on the third gen Mazda 3 doesn’t leave much room for backtracking, either, even if the handling was on point.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “Mazda employs a “less is more” philosophy with the new 3’s cabin, choosing to strip it of the button mélange found in many modern cars.”

    I prefer more buttons and Genesis seem to do beast job of that. I am not impressed with dash design here. I see nothing special. In fact, a bit weird with white fork at gauge cluster. But the cluster itself thankfully fixes previous model’s idiotic design.

    Mazda created a real problem here. Where is the affordable fun to drive car anymore?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The base model is going to prove to be the fun-to-drive alternative here – low-20s price point and 184 hp. That’s not bad. I just don’t think a higher-priced model makes a ton of sense without more motor.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    I don’t think this will be anything other than a big success. The compact sedan segment is in disarray right now. 2019 Jetta is a disaster! Civic is probably the default choice although it looks a bit brash and wacky. The 3 has a clean, upscale looking design. The sport trim isn’t terribly expensive either

  • avatar
    Watson lee

    Hey Corey,

    My family owns a 2012 and 2014 Mazda3. They are great cars for handling but both are very bad with NVH. Riding in the rain, snow, potholes, or driving even at 40-60km/hr is so loud I get tired. I know you and many reviewers say the 2019 Mazda3 is quiet and smooth but is there a comparison? How would a 2019 Mazda3 fare going over potholes, rain, snow, dirt or poorly conditioned roads versus a 2014 Mazda3? And the noise suppression? How does it fare compared to a luxury car of $40,000 and up?

    Thanks,

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    So, did the lane keeping assist feature still tug at the wheel even when you used your indicators? Or did you forget to indicate a few times?

  • avatar
    deanst

    I love Mazda, but bringing out expensive compact cars is not a recipe for success.

    • 0 avatar
      chiefmonkey

      Won’t it start at like $21,000? Seems competitive to me. I don’t know why the higher trims are always tested! These are starter cars. The most popular Civic isn’t the Ex-L or touring. Same principle here.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      It depends. If they’re doing a $30,000 compact car that performs like, say, a BMW 2-series or A3, then maybe they’ve got something. But I wouldn’t bet that a $28,000 compact that doesn’t perform much better than a top-line Civic is going to be winner, no matter how nicely finished and refined it is.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        You just said it, it is proceed as a top line Civic yet drives better and has a better quality interior. Seems pretty competitive to me.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Right, but the Civic’s been on the market for over 40 years, and has a great rep and a massive following. It’s more or less a ‘default choice’ among compact buyers. It’s such a 900-pound gorilla that anyone who wants to compete with it has to either a) offer insanely low pricing (the GM/Ford, approach, which failed miserably), or b) pump a ton of ’em onto Avis lots (the Toyota approach, which they’ve only been able to get away with because they’re Toyota). Mazda tried approach a) with the current 3, and failed as well – the car’s down 40% from when the current model came out in 2014.

          Meanwhile, Honda keeps pumping out 300,000 Civics a year, and that’s WITH the whole “sedan bloodbath” going on. It’s a 900-pound gorilla in this class. The 3’s down about 40% from where it was in the first year of the current generation. “Competitive” or not, who do you think Premium Small Car Buyer #22121 is going to check out first?

          If the 3 has a future, I think it’s one step up from something like a top-spec Civic and a bottom-spec A3 or CLA. If they gave this car about 220 hp, AWD, and a cool interior, and sold it for GTI money, I bet they’d find buyers, and wouldn’t have to give away the car to compete with Civic and Corolla.

          But at $27,000, with a 184 hp engine, slick styling and a cool interior, nice as this is, I think this will continue to fail against the Civic. We’ll see.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Best looking compact car out there in my opinion. Much better looking that Civic and Corolla. I test drove a manual in 2016 and that was the best manual transmission I’ve experienced in a long time. Better than Honda and much better than Toyota. The lack of back seat room was a concern.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Add another hundred or so horsepower and this thing would be perfect. I would prefer a manual transmission but I’m less adamant about that than in years past. It still has to be responsive, that is, willing to downshift smoothly and quickly at part throttle. (Too many delay downshifting, in the interest of fuel economy, until nearly full throttle and then do so with a lurch.)

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I’m divided on this one. While it is nice to see something clean, uncluttered without swatches of black plastic slathering the front end (Toyota), the overall look from the side is almost too smooth and plain. And while I applaud Mazda for giving us something other than yet another black on black dull fest interior I’m not convinced white is a good option after one year of ownership judging by other used Mazda examples with this color combo that looked dingy grey and dirty. How about instead a nice shade of maple sugar/light brown or some other darker color that doesn’t show use and wear so much.

    The 2.5 would seem like a bonus in this car compared to Corolla’s light on power 1.8 or Civic’s 2.0 and some of tiny 1.4 turbo’s out there but the lack of back seat space is concerning and one area it’s competitors have it beat.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    Surprised at no mention of the most important upgrade of this car over the previous gens: They’ve finally put in a plastic dead pedal instead of leaving it as bare carpet.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    That’s a great review, in particular mentioning road noise, interior quality and even a stereo review to boot.
    I think this is a handsome vehicle which should steal some sales from Subaru, although the AWD Altima might too. Most likely the AWD Prius will end up being the top seller in AWD compact car sales.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I too am of mixed feelings. I came to Mazda in the early 2000’s as an alternative to VW, and while I loved the VW aesthetic, many acquaintances numerous problems kept me away. Bought 4 over the years. Liked them all, but yes the NVH was a downside, and I’m now at the phase in my life that rather than a zoom-zoom “Poor man’s BMW” I’m more in the mood for a “Poor man’s Lexus”. I am a hatch fan, but the new Mazda3 hatch has me concerned about the visibility, and I think the sedan is far more attractive. I’m also worried that I’m constantly checking out Golfs and Sportwagens and maybe my anti-VW cautiousness is waning. I don’t think the Mazda3 pricing is out of line, but it will always lose out on price wars against Corolla, Civic, Elantra. I do like Mazda’s design direction, and that interior looks great.

    • 0 avatar
      nels0300

      You sound kind of like me.

      My first brand new car was a 2001 Mazda Protege ES, manual trans. (First car was a 1986 Mazda 626 turbo)

      I was very interested in the Jetta 1.8T at the time, but couldn’t pull the trigger with the ignition coil and windows falling into the door fiascos.

      Like you, my anti-VW cautiousness is also waning. That new warranty helps.

      I would burn the tires off the rims of my Elantra Sport peeling out on the way to the VW dealer and take a financial bath in a Olympic sized pool if they ever made a GTI wagon.

  • avatar

    Dashboard is terrible – it will be reflected on the windshield annoying driver.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    I looked at the pricing information on the Mazda Canada site, and it looks like the trim levels are a good bit different than in the US. The 6 speed manual is available on every FWD trim for the Sport (hatch) and sedan – GX, GS, and GT like in previous years.

    The difference seems to be that the level of content for each trim has increased. GX now gets 16″ alloys for a starting price of CAD 21,300* still with the 2.0L. The GS now gets the 2.5L and standard CarPlay (previously a $443 option) and starts at CAD 24,000*. That strikes me as very competitive compared to last year’s model when taking into account the increased content, and probably a better deal than in the US.

    *+$1,695 freight and PDI + Air Conditioning tax

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    A fluffy review made worse by mediocre writing skills. Driving dynamics are, or were, the Mazda forte, but little is said of the car’s handling. I believe the absence of commentary tells us what we need to know about the effect of the torsion beam rear suspension. And I guess I need to get over the demise of prose style since the apex which was, in my opinion, the writing in Car & Driver in the 1970’s. This is as it should be, I suppose. We had to pay money for that paper. But still, when I read sentences such as “one bother came from the six-speed automatic, as in stop and go traffic light throttle inputs intended to roll the car forward would sometimes induce a sloppy shift,” I wondered, “during stop and go traffic” what direction do “light throttle inputs” normally intend to move the car?

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      I can’t speak for Mr Lewis, but nothing he has opined on in the past shows any familiarity with the current Mazda3, so I’d be loathe to press the POV that his absence of commentary concerning handling, in the style you prefer anyway, means anything at all. You’re the one reading something into it.

      His lack of elucidation regarding light throttle sloppy shifts, I agree needs amending for clarity. Since the 27th was the day for the press to blow the lid on first drives of the 3, reading some of the other hastily-prepared reviews shows far less detail than is presented here, and far more mindless rah rah. Mr Lewis chased a nutter in an Accord, so had a bit of a go. The rest of them read back the press pack, drove gently, and the Aussies dwelt on the hatchback which had European tuning, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

      As for the torsion beam, it’s hardly a Mark One webbed VW unit. It has long “trailing” arms and is patented. Looks unusual. The CX-3 has one as well, even in AWD form, and nobody complains about its handling sharpness.

      The AWD version of the 3 is the only one that personally interests me. But surely it’s up to any one of us to drive the thing to see if it’s any good or not and decide for ourselves what the final result is. These “reviews” are just a way of winnowing out the obvious dross before visiting a dealer of a vehicle you might be interested in and then listening to a nonense presentation while sipping so-so coffee before an actual drive. Most of the TTAC reviews are so shallow, you can’t even get a clear idea of what they’re nattering about, I agree with you. This review is not one of those.

  • avatar
    loopy55

    Seems barely competitive with the latest VW golf. The 1.4T with the 8 speed transmission is , by all reports, a pretty sweet car with decent performance and excellent MPG. And VW will sell you a GTI if you want more.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      There seem to be a disturbing number of reports regarding bad behavior / odd noises from the 8 speed auto in the new Jetta. Not sure if the Golf is affected, but it probably would be given the same engine / trans. MPG does seem to be excellent. VW finally upped their warranty game, albeit a decade later than they should have.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    I’m a fan of Mazda, but I have to wonder if this is the right move.

    I sold VWs back when the MK4 Jetta came out. The upcoming Mazda 3 reminds me of the reincarnation of the that Jetta. Premium interior vs. rest of class. Somewhat out of the mainstream brand. Poor rear seat legroom. Expensive versus competition.

    We could get away with that in 1999 or 2000 because people still bought small sedans at that time. Also, we didn’t have competition nearly as good as, say the current Honda Civic. Kias were garbage twenty years ago, as were Hyundais. Not anymore. In 2000, we could sell some Jettas because there were a few people willing to pony up more cash to drive what was seen as a premium small sedan. To a certain number of people, being seen in a Jetta was more upscale than being seen driving a Civic, and they were willing to overlook the shoddy reliability and cramped rear quarters to project that image.

    I don’t see Mazda selling many near-$30k small sedans and hatchbacks. Honda probably sells a lot more LX and EX Civics than they do Touring models. The number of folks who are willing to spend, say, $28k on a Mazda3 is very small, I’d guess.

    The Jetta buyers of year 2000 are compact SUV buyers today. The market for a small, premium car from a brand with little to no luxury gravitas is miniscule. I’m wondering if Mazda is about 15 years too late to this particular party.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • kosmo: “How’s that Ranger Raptor coming, Ford? Oh, it isn’t? I see. Thanks for the mobility scooter,...
  • dividebytube: When I’m down south I’m taken aback by the number of decent looking old trucks and even G...
  • redapple: RED…. Great catch. Love it.
  • teddyc73: What an ugly rear end.
  • FreedMike: Have you ever heard a Ghibli’s exhaust? I’d say that’s one big selling point. Otherwise,...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States