The Right Spec: 2022 Mazda 3

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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.

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]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Dec 16, 2021

    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.

  • YaMoBeThere YaMoBeThere on Dec 16, 2021

    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.

  • Redapple2 They strove to excel and improve in this era ( on the cheap? ). They gave us Saturnasty and Northstarubish and the F150 grew in dependability and features over the Silveradoffal. -gm- a legacy of utter garbage.
  • Tane94 Yes and yes to both questions. GM and Fird have long used built-in-China components in their vehicles -- the GM 3.4L engines used in past SUVs being just one example. Why is the US so scared of China's manufacturing prowess? Why is the US so scared of China's ascendency to world super-power? Look at China's high speed rail network, including mag-lev trains, and then US trains. I would buy a China-built vehicle with no trepidation.
  • Theflyersfan Adding to what Posky said (and for once, I kinda agree with what he wrote), and as an auto enthusiast it kills me to think this, but why should auto makers care about enthusiasts any longer? Hear me out... It can be argued that the first real enthusiasts were those coming home from WW2, having served in Europe, and fell in love with their cars. And Detroit responded. That carried over to the Boomers and Gen X. The WW2 generation for all sakes and purposes is no longer with us. The Boomers are decreasing in number. The first years of Gen X are nearing retirement. After us (Gen X), that's when we see the love of cars tail off. That was the generation that seemed to wait to get a license, grew up with smart phones and social media, got saddled with crippling home and student debt, and just didn't have the same love that we have. They for the most part are voting on do-all CUVs. Yes, automakers throw us a bone with special models, but they tend to be very expensive, saddled with markups, high insurance rates, and sometimes rare. Looking at you Audi and Lexus. Friends of mine who currently have or have just raised teens said their kids just don't care about cars. Their world is not out in the open and enjoying the moment with the roar of the engine. It's in the world they created for themselves at their fingertips. If they want bland and an appliance, that's what will be built.
  • Kosmo Nope. Not ever. They are not our friends.
  • Aja8888 No, only Chinese food.