2019 Mazda 3

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Updated: September 10, 2019

2019 Mazda 3

The redesigned 2019 Mazda3 marks the beginning of a new generation. With it, the perky personality of the previous car has matured into smooth and refined.

The hatchback has a stunning shape, with European lines suggesting Jaguar. The cabin is warm, upscale, and finely detailed. For the first time, the Mazda3 is available with all-wheel drive, which makes it a challenger to Subaru and Volkswagen.  

The hatchback and attractive but less-gorgeous sedan are five-passenger compact cars, about the same size as the Honda Civic. Their 107.3-inch wheelbase is about 1 inch longer than before, while the hatchback is nearly 8 inches shorter than the sedan, yet offers quite a bit more cargo space. The redesigned cabin on both models is tight, quiet, and boasts exceptional fit and finish. 

All Mazda3s are powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 with a 6-speed automatic transmission or, at the top of the hatchback lineup, a 6-speed manual. The all-wheel-drive system offered on all but the base sedan is a version of what’s used in other Mazdas. It can move power to the wheels that might need traction before wheelspin actually occurs, making it great in snow and ice. 

With the 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, the Mazda3 earns EPA ratings of 26 mpg city, 35 highway, 30 combined in either the sedan or hatchback. With all-wheel drive, the sedan gets 25/33/28 mpg and the hatchback gets 1 less mpg.

Mazda offers cylinder-deactivation technology on some Mazda3s, that shuts down two cylinders at very light loads. It comes in sedans with the Premium Package, and brings 27/36/30 mpg ratings.

The 2019 Mazda3 hasn’t been crash-tested yet. All hatchbacks and all but base sedans come with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. On base sedans those features are options.

Model Lineup

The front-wheel-drive Mazda3 Sedan comes in base, Select, Preferred, and Premium versions, while Hatchbacks skip the base model. All-wheel drive is available with every model except the base Sedan, which starts at a highly affordable $22,000.

Even the base model has decent standard equipment, but the Select Sedan for $23,600 offers more for the money; for that $1,600 difference it adds dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, 18-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and last but definitely not least, a nearly full suite of active-safety equipment. That feature alone can cost $1,600 on some cars. 

Select hatchbacks have synthetic leather upholstery instead of cloth.

Preferred models add a 12-speaker Bose sound system, heated front seats, and power driver’s seat with memory.

Premium adds leather upholstery, adaptive front lighting, LED headlights, a power moonroof, and a head-up display. The 6-speed manual transmission is only available on the top model, the Premium hatchback. 

Exterior

Both the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback have visual flair; the hatchback is overtly angling for attention, while the sedan only does so subtly. 

The lovely sedan’s beltline accents a crease running from the hood to the trunk over softly contoured sheetmetal. The roofline reaches farther back than other compact sedans, making the 3 look bigger than them. The rear deck adds to that image, being sharply detailed and formal.

You have to look to find the individualism in the sedan, but you can’t take your eyes off the hatchback. It’s not what we would call perfectly proportioned, but that’s why you can’t take your eyes off it. The hatchback erases the sedan’s creases. The sides expose large swaths of slightly curved sheetmetal tapering into the thickest rear pillar we can recall seeing in any hatchback since the Saab 900. 

Interior

The Mazda3 cabin feels plush and elegant, more calming than stimulating. It’s understated and upscale, way out of its compact-car league, up there with luxury cars. 

The display screen—not a touchscreen—is 8.8 inches on the diagonal, canted toward the driver. The Command Controller dial on the center console can be rotated, pressed or tipped/tilted to trigger various functions from icons on the high-resolution screen. The menu is simple. Mazda says its non-touchscreen system avoids awkward hand-eye coordination, as well as long glances away from the road. 

Despite the slightly increased wheelbase, the interior doesn’t feel any roomier than before, in the rear. Head room suffers, although entry and exit is easy thanks to wide door openings. 

All of that 7.9-inch difference in length between the hatchback and sedan comes behind the rear seats. Yet despite the hatchback being chopped off, it has 20.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, to the sedan’s 13.2 cubic feet in the trunk.

Driving Impressions

The direct-injected 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine in the Mazda makes a healthy and efficient 186 horsepower. The engine and the 6-speed automatic transmission are very responsive. Curiously, the Sport mode switch next to the shifter only affects transmission response; unlike every other sport mode we know, this one doesn’t change throttle or steering response. 

The ride is firm but compliant, definitely improved over the prior generation. It’s soft enough for rough city streets but damped in a way that soaks up freeway heaves and bumps. The steering is precise, and the handling very capable; in a high-speed sweeping corner, if you set it up with the correct amount of steering input, it will stay right there for you all the way to the end.

Final Word

The Mazda3 updates a compact-car formula with some winning touches of style and performance. Especially as a Hatchback Select with all-wheel drive, the Mazda3 offers gorgeous styling, an elegant cabin, a smooth and competent powertrain, a firm and compliant ride, and great gas mileage.