By on January 30, 2019

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.

Image: Mazda

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.”

Image: Mazda

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]

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29 Comments on “The 2019 Mazda 3 Is Light on Sticks and Heavier on Price, but It’s a Very Different Situation North of the Border...”

  • avatar

    Doesn’t matter. Unless it has an independent rear suspension, it might as well be a Model T. Right?

  • avatar

    Considering that Mazda charges extra for the nice paint colours, good luck finding anything more than a token base model on the lot. Overall the CDN pricing strategy makes sense, the most common versions of the current gen seem to be the loaded 2.0L cars, you see an odd 2.5L here and there, but the ratio is quite low.

  • avatar

    With Mazda ditching the manual transmission option in most of its 3 series, that leaves Honda as pretty much the only carmaker that offers a manual in a good portion of its compact lineup, at least in the US. I knew the manual was on its way out for non-sporty cars, but this seems to be happening in a hurry.

    Does the Skyactiv-X give anyone else a case of deja vu for the CVCC engines Honda used to build?

    • 0 avatar

      The Elantra still has pretty wide manual availability as well

      • 0 avatar

        Turns out I was giving Honda too much credit. The Civic sedan can be had with a manual in the base and sport trims, Civic coupe and hatch only in sport, plus the Si and Type R. Hyundai has a manual for the base and sport Elantra, and for both trims in the Elantra GT.

        Manuals are indeed getting scarce in non-sporty cars. The falloff in sedan and subcompact sales are only going to exacerbate this.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota offers a fair number of manuals in their compact lineup. Yaris iA, Corolla, Corolla hatch, 86. They even went to the trouble of putting the rev match feature in the Corolla hatch, something I think few people expected.

      VW still sells manual Jetta, Golfs, GTIs, and Golf Sportwagens.

      Subaru sells manual Imprezas and Crosstreks, as well as the WRX.

      You can still buy a manual Kia Rio, Forte, and Soul.

      Compact lineups are actually the place where you see the most manuals left these days, actually.

      By the way, Honda still sells manual Accords, to my surprise…and Fits. The take rate on manual Accords has to be really low.

    • 0 avatar

      VW offers manuals on every model of the Golf in the US regardless of trim level or options. They actually expanded availability for 2019 by offering a 6 speed stick on the top of the line Alltrack SEL wagon for the first time. (the electric e-Golf lacks a transmission of any kind). Unfortunatly, the standard Golf isn’t offered in high-level SEL trimmings anymore in the US but still is in Canada.

      Honda, likewise, often offers many more variations of the Civic in Canada. The US is only now seeing a Civic 5 door hatch for the first time, but several generations have offered that body style in Canada. There was even an Acura version of one Civic generation.

      Mazda has long offered a wider range in Canada than in the US. My first new car was an ’89 Mazda 323 which was available in Canada as a well-equipped LX hatchback that Americans could get only in the first year of this generation (’86) before being dropped. And the 5 door body style Canadians could buy was never offered in the US.

  • avatar

    > Does the Skyactiv-X give anyone else a case of deja vu

    Right now, bit more concerned that it reminds me more of Honda’s VTEC-A that never saw the light of day despite promising early press releases.

  • avatar

    It has never been easier to resist buying a Mazda.

  • avatar

    I had my hopes up for the possibility of a GT with a 2.5L and a manual transmission here in Canada as I’m starting to look at options for a small car with some performance chops. The hatchback just doesn’t look as good as the sedan in my opinion, though the fact that the VW Golf R and GTI are on my shopping list means that I’m not opposed to hatches. I’m really disappointed that I won’t be able to cross-shop a Mazda3 GT sedan. They look great!

  • avatar

    Oh no…. I’m getting echoes of Mazda Skyactiv-D diesel fiasco with the wishy-washy words direct from their mouths about the Skyactiv-X

    FYI, at least in Germany, the Skyactiv-X is not yet available. According to Mazda Deutschland website the Skyactiv-X does not become available until summer 2019.

    I don’t know about other European countries, but I would suspect Germany is fairly indicative of the cars release in the rest of western Europe.

    I am a Mazda fan. Owned several over the past 20 years. But I tell you, this new 3, they’re really pushing me away with their engine availability, their manual gearbox availability, and the pricing. Was quite excited about this car but now view it as something I’ll probably just pass on.

  • avatar

    I always knew that Mazda just screwed me.

  • avatar

    It’s easy to download the entire pricing and options scheme from

    That $18K base 3 sedan is a steel wheel, no A/C special for Quebec fans living along the St Lawrence. But remember, the shipping/PDI fee is $1895 in Canada, making the car near enough 20 grand in Canuck bucks, or $15K US.

    The one that interests me is the $26K GS AWD 2.5l, or C$28K with shipping. No useless-for-me sunroof because I’m bald, manual 8 way cloth seats instead of vinyl but still heated, auto A/C, heated steering wheel, and thank goodness 16 inch wheels. Can use the rims for winter tires and get some Mazda6 17’s for some decent summer tires – that would be a personal indulgence of mine.

    For the equivalent of $21K US, it seems to me this car is a deal. The fully optioned one is about US$24.5K. Why US prices are so high, I cannot imagine.

    All the 2019s are made in Japan, not Mexico, which hasn’t been retooled yet. The recent Canada/Japan free trade deal means a 6% import duty is gone. All trims cost less than the miniature inside CX-3, so it’s sedan heaven for once. The only reason to buy a CX-3 is “it’s an SUV” – sure, but with 6.3 inches of ground clearance, zero elbow room and 148 hp, no thanks.

    The UK magazines online went gaga on their previews of the hatch, so to me, the carping about the torsion beam is irrelevant. It’s real life performance that matters, and remember – the Fiesta ST so beloved of Bark Maruth has a torsion beam.

    Can’t wait to try one out.

    • 0 avatar

      US Prices high?
      Must be what they think the market can bear, with seemingly some profit taking on us Yankees. Checking the Toyota Mexico site for my newest car, the Prius, the base 2018 Prius is 20,052 US $, the premium model is $23,592. Not so good with Spanish, so there may be some lesser equipment content for all I know.
      Base Prius Canada $21,058 USD equivalent.
      Base Prius USA $23,475.

      • 0 avatar

        The fact that these cars are built in Japan, and Canada has a free trade agreement that covers them (an agreement that the US backed out of), might play a role too. That’s a free 6% savings that the manufacturer can either pass along, or keep for themselves. In this case, I’d say Mazda is passing the savings along.

  • avatar

    I’m glad that my post from the other day sparked an article.

  • avatar

    Mazda will be okay. Those who would buy Focus otherwise will be mightly tempted to buy Mazda3 since Focus is no more. Cruze buyers will go for Corolla though. And regarding rear suspension – doesn’t golden standard of Golf-class cars VW Golf also have torsion bar in the rear? Does BMW 3-series even offer MT? Mazda wants to survive that all. Want MT – buy Lada.

  • avatar

    As far as the new engine goes, I’d hope Mazda learned from the RX-8 fiasco, and is being very cautious in testing and fixing their new engine design before sending thousands to the field.

  • avatar

    So only one Mazda3 model to consider when I replace my 6 speed 2015 Accord next year.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      I love how on one hand the media and everyone are crying about the middle class shrinking, regular people not being able to make ends meet, and people generally drowning in debt, yet people still think that the idea of saving money on gas is “a fad.”

      Even if you happen to believe that the oil supply is infinite (ignoring all science and logic in the process), why wouldn’t you champion saving gas for the money savings, especially given how overrun with excess horsepower we are? For crying out loud, we’re talking about a 130 MPH economy car as being “underpowered.”

      • 0 avatar

        “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.

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