By on December 14, 2021

2022 Mazda 3

Believe it or not, people do still actually buy small cars in this country. Yes, there’s a continuing mass exodus for SUVs and crossover-type vehicles but a few level-headed souls remain who choose to open their wallets for an affordable compact machine.

This migration of buyers has pushed several major automakers to put their efforts into this segment In The Bin which, fortunately for us, means the remaining competitors are some good’uns. One of the best? The little Mazda 3.

One’s first selection in this Choose Your Own Adventure is selecting between sedan and hatchback models of the 3. The latter is priced roughly $2,000 higher than its brother, not an insignificant chunk of change at this end of the market. In fact, it represents about a 10 percent hike, as if someone added five grand onto the sticker of a Tahoe. In numbers most shoppers will understand, that’s about $10 extra biweekly.

Still, the hatch’s practicality can’t be denied and it is the better-looking of these fraternal Mazda twins to this author’s jaundiced eyes. Some reviews carped about that massive D-pillar creating a large blind spot and, after having seat time roughly one year ago, this is a valid complaint. But it’s one with which I would be willing to live given the extra cargo capacity and dose of style.

This sets the floor at $22,750 for a Mazda 3 2.5 S entry-level trim. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter, naturally-aspirated engine making 186 horsepower and a like amount of torque. That power is funneled through the front wheels at this price, and the sole transmission option is a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive (or the manual transmission) doesn’t appear until further up the food chain.

2022 Mazda 3

Economies of scale ensure kit like an eight-speaker audio system and infotainment with all the expected gubbins are included in the base car. Even radar-guided cruise control is on board. But remember that giant D-pillar mentioned earlier? Blind-spot monitoring is absent from the S, making those lane changes on the 405 trickier than they need to be. Suddenly, upgrading to the Select trim for an extra $1,350 seems wise. It brings those eyes in the back of yer head (or at least on the tips of the mirrors) plus niceties like dual-zone climate control and leather touchpoints in the interior. There is no change to the powertrain.

Which brings us to the most important question of all: how much for the Turbo? Deploying 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels in this attractively styled package is a treat that will set you back $31,550 plus destination. A ’22 GTI S is about two grand cheaper, albeit with half the driven wheels, though it undercuts the (also FWD) Veloster N by roughly $1,000.

But if you’re seeking a hatch, not necessarily one that’s hot, the old advice about selecting wine at a restaurant applies: Choose the second least expensive option.

Please note the prices listed here are in American dollars and are currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less (obscene market conditions notwithstanding). Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.

[Images: Mazda]

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40 Comments on “The Right Spec: 2022 Mazda 3...”


  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    250HP AWD Hatch

    How does this compare with GR Corolla?

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      I’ve driven it. My GTI runs rings around it.

      On paper it looks good. But, the map is not the terrain.

      Awaiting the GR Corolla, and have high hopes for it. But I remember driving my GTI for the first time, after 30 years of driving Japanese cars. What an eye opener. There’s some serious special sauce in ze German cars.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        The only thing I don’t like in GTI is electronic dash. For Mazda3 hatch – I like that it is still made in Japan.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “There’s some serious special sauce in ze German cars.”

        That seems to sour at 50K miles.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          60K miles here, my GTI turns 4 years old on Friday.

          No mods, regular maintenance. And actually driving it.

          I have to wonder how many of the horror stories are from people who:

          a) mod it to death

          b) drive it 4K miles/year

          c) don’t do or pay for proper maintenance

          Or–now here’s a thought–the only stories that people go onto the net to talk about are the bad stories.

          It’s like WebMD: after an hour researching your cough, you’ll be convinced you have 2 days left to live.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Others may disagree. The last Teutonic car I had was an ’03 E320 in 2006 and in personal ownership Mercedes got dicey after the 1996 “Merger of Equals” and Audi around the same time (not as knowledgable on BMW). I wouldn’t touch a gas VW after around 1990 but I hope your pleasant ownership experience continues.

          • 0 avatar
            Rick T.

            Our 2016 Sportwagen was pretty faultless for the first 100k miles with mostly highway driving. Since then: oil sensor leak, upper timing gasket leak, ignition coil, fuel injector….Oil changed religiously every 5k and I don’t drive it like I stole it. I still enjoy driving it and I would buy another. But it’s approaching that don’t trust it anymore part of it’s life.

            And the horror stories I could tell about our 2003 MB E500. I wept tears of joy when somebody back hard into it and it got totaled out. Could have paid for the above mentioned Sportwagen in cash with the last several years of repairs.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Answer for BMW – you never know

          My friend had 5-series and it never was troublesome

          My other friend had 5-seriec GT and that always was in trouble

          They owned them in about same period of time.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Good new looking car. So rare these days.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Man I’d have to disagree on the styling. the sedan is much better looking. From the 3/4 rear view it reminds me of peak Acura TSX, which reminds me of an Alfa.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    A question I had about this car is that theoretically the hatchback is sightly faster to 60 than the sedan when all else is equal.

    With that said, I plunked down on a Turbo sedan and bought some snow tires because the Turanzas leave much to be desired.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    A question I had about this car is that theoretically the hatchback is sightly faster to 60 than the sedan when all else is equal.

    With that said, I plunked down on a Turbo sedan and bought some snow tires because the Turanzas leave much to be desired.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I tried out the turbo/non turbo versions of the 3 this spring, so here goes:

    1) Agree on the styling, but I still would take the sedan over the hatch – the latter isn’t just hard to see out of, it’s claustrophobic. The sedan is definitely better. YMMV, of course.

    2) Skip the turbo. Done right, this would be a great alternative to something like an Audi A3/Mercedes A220, but the drivetrain is not impressive at all – plenty of power, but the transmission isn’t quick enough to leverage it. The car feels far slower than it is. A manual or DCT option is badly needed here.

    Make mine the FWD 3 sedan, with a manual, in Soul Red.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      I disagree. I’d much rather take the 6 speed auto instead of the CVT’s and DCT’s being offered these days. VW’s DCTs are expensive just to service, and Hyundai/Kia has had DCTs blow up on them. I find the AWD hatch plenty quick. It’s quicker and less punishing than a VW GTI.

  • avatar
    smokingclutch

    No, the second-least expensive wine on a restaurant’s menu is usually a BAD value. Restaurants know you don’t want to look like a cheapskate so the second-cheapest option typically has more markup than the cheapest option.

    That said, if you can find a good restaurant with a low/non-existing corkage fee for the first X number of bottles, that’s the way to go. They’re rare, of course, but I can report that 555 Steakhouse on Ocean Blvd in Long Beach, CA, doesn’t charge corkage fees until some ridiculous number of bottles, and it’s a really great steakhouse, to boot.

    PS – If letting Toyota’s video ads follow you as you scroll, taking up a third of the screen on mobile is what it takes to keep the lights on around here, it might be time to find some new sponsors. This is obnoxious and further reduces the amount of time I’m willing to spend on this site.

  • avatar
    JD-Shifty

    “I’ve driven it. My GTI runs rings around it.

    On paper it looks good. But, the map is not the terrain.”

    the Mazda will pass you when you’re in the shop or by the side of the road, or after it’s been sold due to frustration with dependability and cost

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “the Mazda will pass you when you’re in the shop or by the side of the road, or after it’s been sold due to frustration with dependability and cost”

      I keep hearing that. And yet, this car has been MORE reliable than the Honda that got me looking at the GTI in the first place.

      Everybody takes it on faith that ze Germans are inherently junk and that Hondas (and Japanese in general) are inherently reliable.

      Huh.

      Anyway, I drove the 3 Turbo. Eh. You can have it. I mean, it’s perfectly nice. I guess it’s true: there are women you date, and there are women you marry.

      And then there’s the perfect blend.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenn

        I don’t think any reasonable person would expect that EVERY single car made by a given manufacturer will be problematic. You may have gotten a good one, and there are likely lots of other happy owners. But if a car maker acquires a sketchy reputation because of a much higher rate of problems than the competition, that’s enough to dissuade me from purchasing one (for long-term ownership). I would feel much more confident with a Mazda product than VW.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          I said that about Honda. Trust me when I tell you, the emperor has no clothes.

          Given that they’re all equally bad–the cars, the manufacturers–set your expectations appropriately and buy the car that, with the best information you have, makes you happiest for whatever reason.

    • 0 avatar
      dark_skies

      My car shopping back in the day came down to a 2016 VW GTI vs a Mazda 3 GT hatch (2.5L, 6-speed manual). Bought the Mazda, still own it; great car. The GTI was/is a great car, and even back then you could tell it had some ‘special sauce’ in the cabin design; gauges, seats, optional audio upgrades, just – better (plus it was a turbo, so the torque peak was way down low in rpms). Mazda could/can learn from VW to make their cars even more engaging. But my work involves storms and my hobby tornado chasing, and for that auto reliability is #1 (also #2, #3..) as the car Must Always Start and Run Flawlessly, and the Mazda has it … along with better cabin electronics, lots of power, and the 6-speed manual. I had a friend who previously owned a GTI who had mechanical problems later in its life, and I wasn’t willing to chance it. So far I’m convinced I made the right choice … not to take anything away from the GTI. I assume the Mazda turbo has similarly brought the torque peak way down vs. the 2016 I own, and that – and exterior noise – were my only complaints in what otherwise is a terric car.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Compact?? The heaviest Mazda 3 plus a couple of bags of dog food weighs more than the heaviest Accord.

    (I’ll show myself out.)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I was thinking that as well that the Mazda is much more reliable than a VW. I will always take reliability over speed. I have no interest in German or European cars with their known reliability problems, higher parts costs, and higher repair costs.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “I was thinking that as well that the Mazda is much more reliable than a VW. I will always take reliability over speed. I have no interest in German or European cars with their known reliability problems, higher parts costs, and higher repair costs.”

      For 30 years I drove and preached Hondas. No problem.

      In 2009, Honda actively took steps to change my mind. Let’s just say, the emperor has no clothes. I came away thinking, “well, if they’re all going be this bad, I might as well drive something I truly like”. I tested the GTI and it did its job. I bought.

      Two years later, when I unexpectedly needed to replace my daughter’s Matrix that some numbnuts totaled (I loved that car!) and a red 2018 GTI with 4.5 years and 40K miles of warranty left came to my attention, I bought it.

      American Honda should be ashamed at seeing pictures of my garage today vs 20 years ago. I went from all Hondas to now two GTI plus a Pacifica Hybrid.

      Hey, if they’re all going to screw you over like Honda screwed me over (did I mention, the emperor has no clothes), then your market choices open up very very wide.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Attractive looking but poor selling niche car. Maybe Mazda should try annoying pop-up adds that follow you around the screen as you scroll through articles. Then they’ll be selling tens of these.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Would rather have the manual than the turbo. Unfortunately that means the hatch, but I’d also rather have the manual than the trunk. So I’ll take the most feature content I can get with a manual hatch, which is a Premium with the red leather interior and a few well-chosen accessories.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Unfortunately most manufacturers have limited availability of manuals but I agree the manual non turbo would be my choice and the manual would not only be more reliable but much more engaging to drive.

  • avatar
    AK

    The truly correct spec would be a fwd Preferred sedan with a stick at $26k.

    Mazda doesn’t offer that so I’ll trade the enjoyment of a manual for options and go fwd Premium sedan (leather + Bose) at $28k.

    That said, $28k is Civic SI money and that’s where my money would go in the compact realm. I used to be big on the Mazda 3 (wife has a 2017 grand touring sedan) but it’s gotten very stale at this point. Stale and overpriced.

    • 0 avatar
      nyexx

      To be fair, at $28,000 the Civic Si doesn’t even have heated seats, dual zone climate, and a bunch of other features even the Mazda 3 preferred has. I think the Mazda 3 is unquestionably the cheaper car with more features.

      • 0 avatar
        AK

        It just depends on what features matter to you. The SI has more power, an LSD, multi link rear, a stick, good stereo and cloth seats. I value that stuff waaaaay more than heated seats and dual zone climate control.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Funny enough, I just bought a Mazda3 Hatch in the one-step-up-from-base “select” trim last month. My prior car was totaled after an accident and I needed to buy something and I had admired the Mazda3. I’d say I was luckier than smart as it was the only non-turbo M3 hatch in stock anywhere within 200 miles of me due to the current market conditions. It’s a dark blue AWD example… I would have snapped up a premium manual (I love that red interior) but alas these were unobtainable in my timeline. I’m in New England so most of the examples I’ve seen around were dealer ordered with the AWD.
    It’s a bit more money but it’s also notable for being one of the only non-premium AWD hatchbacks that isn’t all “outbacked” with crappy black plastic trim and a jacked up suspension, so there’s that going for it, too.

    After 6 weeks and 1800 miles, I agree with your assessment, it really has everything I need in terms of options, it’s comfortable, smooth, quiet, and I’m averaging around 31 mpg. I’ve also moved an club chair and a fairly large piece of wooden furniture already using the hatchback.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Not apple to apple, I guess, but it’s always funny how the options differ between Canada and US. Used to be the Sport appeared more expensive in the ads because only the sedan had the most basic trim level. Now the base Mazda 3 (GX) in Canada comes with a manual in both body styles. Add $1000 for the hatch over the sedan.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    A $1,000 more for the hatch is not bad especially with the added utility of a hatch. Mazda 3 would be a good choice.

  • avatar
    YaMoBeThere

    Just bought a turbo hatch, heck of a car, very refined, perfect daily. There is no reason for Mazda to have put this drivetrain in the 3 but I am so glad they did. My plan is to let the wifey drive it until the warranty is up and then build a DIY Mazdaspeed (assuming there is any aftermarket support).

    Also, I completely agree with another commenter about the stock “Turanza” tires being absolute trash.

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