The 2019 Mazda 3 Is Light on Sticks and Heavier on Price, but It's a Very Different Situation North of the Border

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

There’s more than just differing levels of enthusiasm for the letter “u” separating Americans from their Canadian neighbors. There’s a powertrain divide, too, and in no vehicle line is this more apparent than in Mazda’s new 3 compact sedan and hatch.

You read the first drive review on Monday, and some of you perhaps recoiled a bit after seeing the starting price for a 2019 3 sedan, inflated due to a greater level of standard content, a singular (formerly uplevel) engine, and the lack of a manual transmission in all but one bodystyle and trim. It’s possible the latter change ruffled a few more feathers.

Well, head across the border and you’ll feel none of these concerns. The 3 offered by Mazda Canada casts a far wider net, inviting all comers, though the company insists it hasn’t left its premium aspirations behind.

While the U.S. Mazda’s 3 line starts at $21,895, after destination, for a base sedan — a nearly three grand climb from 2018’s entry point — Canada’s lowliest Mazda 3 retails for $18,000, or $19,695 after freight and PDI. (It’s worth noting that, with customer cash on the hood, a 2018 GX sedan can be had for $16,610 after freight and fees.)

Why the lower entry price? Think less horsepower and more driver involvement. Mazda Canada isn’t about to say goodbye to the 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G that vanished from the U.S. line for 2019. That motor returns with the same 155 hp and 150 lb-ft as before, as does the six-speed manual tranny.

Whereas American customers can only get a manual in one version of the new 3 (a front-drive hatch with Premium package, stickering for $28,395 after destination), Canadian customers have seven stick shift choices: a base GX sedan, with or without Convenience package, the least-trimmed mid-level GS sedan, the GX hatch, GS hatch (with or without Luxury package), and the Premium package GT hatch. Only the hatchback, which Mazda Canada calls the Sport, offers a 2.5L/manual pairing. No sticks with all-wheel drive, though. That’s something both Americans and Canadians have to grapple with.

According to Sandra Lemaitre, Mazda Canada’s PR and corporate affairs director, the manual transmission take rate for 2018 Mazda 3s amounted to 14 percent for sedans and 21 percent for hatchbacks. Like with the Canadian-market 2019 Chevrolet Cruze, enough Canucks still enjoy rowing their own to warrant stick availability.

The cheapest hatch offered north of the border sells for $22,995; again, thanks to the 2.0L/6M combo. American hatches, with their automatic and greater standard power, start at $24,495. If 155 hp is just too tepid, Canadians can expect to pay more — a GS sedan with the 2.5-liter stickers for $25,995, and the ladder only climbs from there (a loaded sedan retails for $32,095 after destination; the priciest hatch, $33,095). All-wheel drive starts at $27,695 for a GS sedan, while grippier hatches begin at $28,695.

In the U.S., Mazda’s cheapest AWD sedan carries the Select package and retails for $24,895 after destination, while a base AWD hatch can be had for $25,895.

When asked about Mazda’s premium push, Lemaitre said the retention of a smaller engine doesn’t change the overall strategy for the model, saying “we wanted to ensure we have a broad range of options to satisfy consumer wants/needs.”

“In Canada, the compact car is one of the more price sensitive segments,” she continued, “and being mindful of these segment realities we have a well-contented entry trim with our manual transmission and 2.0L engine available, allowing us to offer an attainable entry point into our brand, while still offering high trims and packages with a heightened premium execution for those who want it.”

While Canadian Mazda buyers are increasingly opting for higher-content GT and Signature trims (sales of those models rose from 8 percent in 2012 to 35 percent last year), enough interest remains in lower-rung cars to keep them alive, Lemaitre said.

As for the innovative 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X engine that’s missing from the 2019 3 line on both sides of the border, Lemaitre said its introduction “is still under study,” adding “we’ll communicate more information at a later date.”

Offered from the outset in Europe and other overseas markets, Skyactiv-X is being held back in North America, presumably to give engineers time to realize power gains from the unique mill. Jalopnik shed some light on this recently. The novel engine combines diesel and gasoline tech for greater fuel economy: a small burst of fuel, ignited via spark plug, allows a very lean charge of fuel to be ignited via compression as the piston reaches the top dead center position.

Mazda hopes to offer class-leading fuel economy, but it now seems that MPGs alone — in an era of low fuel prices — might not be enough to get buyers to opt for the pricier engine.

The revamped 2019 Mazda 3 hits Canadian dealer lots in April.

[Images: Corey Lewis/TTAC, Mazda]

Steph Willems
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  • RedRocket RedRocket on Jan 31, 2019

    Mazda may be taking a swing and a miss in the US market trying to move the 3 up the price ladder, but their Canadian branch understands that Canadians, especially in Quebec, love cheap, even mean, little cars regardless of the lack of frosting on top. Look for a bunch of steel-wheel silver stripper 3s with black cloth interior when in La Belle Province.

  • TheBrandler TheBrandler on Jan 31, 2019

    So they started developing that SKyactive-X engine when gas was $4+ a gallon. They finally get it ready for production and, oh snap, gas is about $2/g and falling, so suddenly a gasoline engine that's as under-powered as a diesel isn't going to appeal to the US market. "Quick! We need 50 more ponies out of this thing to sell it in the states!" You can't design for fads. High gas prices are the rarity here in the States. That's just the fact of the matter. Even after 20 years of inflation, gas prices have gone from ~$1.50 to ~$2.50 a gallon if you average over time.

    • See 1 previous
    • Hummer Hummer on Jan 31, 2019

      @JuniperBug "ignoring all science and logic in the process" As someone that went out of college into the petroleum drilling industry, and have an extensive engineering background in energy; you are denying science. Old oil sites that were abandoned 60-100 years before have been redeveloped and when measured against their historical data were found to have (on average) over 80% of their original capacity. Oil is naturally produced at a much greater rate than you seem to believe. For all intents and purposes oil is a infinite resource and should be considered as such. I don't need to cheap out on buying fuel because I can drive whatever I want to drive, and nothing interesting short of a Corvette gets great MPG. Why spend your whole life driving something that doesn't put a smile on your face everytime you drive it? That's like being a Rancher and spending your whole life eating spinach sandwiches. Why be a car enthusiast and not drive exactly what you want.

  • 3-On-The-Tree 2014 Ford F150 Ecoboost 3.5L. By 80,000mi I had to have the rear main oil seal replaced twice. Driver side turbo leaking had to have all hoses replaced. Passenger side turbo had to be completely replaced. Engine timing chain front cover leak had to be replaced. Transmission front pump leak had to be removed and replaced. Ford renewed my faith in Extended warranty’s because luckily I had one and used it to the fullest. Sold that truck on caravan and got me a 2021 Tundra Crewmax 4x4. Not a fan of turbos and I will never own a Ford again much less cars with turbos to include newer Toyotas. And I’m a Toyota guy.
  • Duke Woolworth Weight 4800# as I recall.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X '19 Nissan Frontier @78000 miles has been oil changes ( eng/ diffs/ tranny/ transfer). Still on original brakes and second set of tires.
  • ChristianWimmer I have a 2018 Mercedes A250 with almost 80,000 km on the clock and a vintage ‘89 Mercedes 500SL R129 with almost 300,000 km.The A250 has had zero issues but the yearly servicing costs are typically expensive from this brand - as expected. Basic yearly service costs around 400 Euros whereas a more comprehensive servicing with new brake pads, spark plugs plus TÜV etc. is in the 1000+ Euro region.The 500SL servicing costs were expensive when it was serviced at a Benz dealer, but they won’t touch this classic anymore. I have it serviced by a mechanic from another Benz dealership who also owns an R129 300SL-24 and he’ll do basic maintenance on it for a mere 150 Euros. I only drive the 500SL about 2000 km a year so running costs are low although the fuel costs are insane here. The 500SL has had two previous owners with full service history. It’s been a reliable car according to the records. The roof folding mechanism needs so adjusting and oiling from time to time but that’s normal.
  • Theflyersfan I wonder how many people recalled these after watching EuroCrash. There's someone one street over that has a similar yellow one of these, and you can tell he loves that car. It was just a tough sell - too expensive, way too heavy, zero passenger space, limited cargo bed, but for a chunk of the population, looked awesome. This was always meant to be a one and done car. Hopefully some are still running 20 years from now so we have a "remember when?" moment with them.