2022 Mazda 3
2022 Mazda 3
The Mazda 3 is a sedan or hatchback that drives like a larger, more expensive machine. The hatchback, especially, has beautiful lines–the sedan’s curves are lovely too–the handling is crisp, the cabin well thought-out with great fit and finish, and the safety is at the top of the compact class.
For 2022 there’s a new S Carbon Edition with a 186-horsepower engine, red leather upholstery, bigger wheels, and 12-speaker Bose audio.
The base engine is a 2.0-liter 55-hp inline-4, but the 186-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 in is worth the money for its better acceleration. There’s also a new 227-hp turbo-4 that’s even faster. The common transmission is a slick 6-speed automatic, but a 6-speed manual is available.
The EPA rates the base Mazda 3 at 28 mpg city, 36 highway, 31 combined, while the sedan with the larger 2.5-liter engine gets just a shade less at 26/35/30 mpg with FWD and 25/33/28 mpg with AWD–the hatchback drops by 1 mpg. The turbo-4 gets 23/32/27 mpg with FWD and 23/31/26 mpg with AWD.
The Mazda 3 earns five stars from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, thanks to “Good” adaptive LED headlights on top models. Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Safety options include blind-spot monitors, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive headlights, and a surround-view camera system.
Made in Japan, the Mazda 3 is called 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.5 S and 2.5 Turbo. It comes as a sedan or hatchback, with front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive.
The $21,185 base Mazda 3 2.0 comes with cloth seats, steel 16-inch wheels, keyless start, an 8-speaker sound system, 16-inch wheels, LED headlights, and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen with a rotary controller (not a touchscreen), that doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That’s added to the 2.0 S.
The 2.5 S gets the bigger engine, With Select trim it’s $24,115, including synthetic leather upholstery and 18-inch wheels. With Preferred trim it’s $25,295, with an 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats, and a sunroof.
The $27,515 2.5 S Carbon Edition adds dark gray paint, red leather upholstery and 12-speaker Bose audio. With Premium there’s also a head-up display, navigation, paddle shifters, adaptive front headlights, and the choice of 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.
The 2.5 Turbo has standard all-wheel drive, and the $34,115 Premium Plus comes with leather upholstery, a head-up display, and 12-speaker Bose audio.
The Mazda 3’s sweet clean curves give it elegance, and the shield-shaped grille with a forward stant adds athleticism, qualities that aren’t expected from a compact car. Thin LED headlamps flare into front fenders gentle contours.
The hatchback has a controversial look, with hefty roof pillars that block some view from the cabin, despite a low beltline. The shape of the sedan is more conventional, tapering softly at the rear; the shorter hatchback makes a sweeping upturn at the back.
Mazda works some magic with colors and trim to turn an entry-level cabin into a satisfying and pleasing space. Red or white leather in an economy car? We’re fine with that. The thin strips of metallic trim are solid, not cheap plastic, the level of fit-and-finish is high. The standard 8.8-inch display isn’t a touchscreen, and as a result its interface is slow, but at least it’s well integrated into the dash, and goes away with upper models.
Given that Mazda is all about practicality, there isn’t so much small-item storage. The glovebox is big enough and the console tray has a spot for a smartphone charger, though.
The base cloth seats with manual adjustment are supportive, with good bolstering and rugged cloth that’s the coolest we know–you almost don’t miss synthetic leather. Beyond the base, the driver seat has power adjustment and heat, with available synthetic leather and cooling.
The rear seat is narrow and light on head room thanks to the sleek roofline, but leg room is good. The sedan’s truck is just 13.2 cubic feet–or 12.7 cubic feet with all-wheel drive–so if cargo space is important, the hatchback is the way to go, with 20.1 cubic feet behind the rear seat.
Car reviewers have been citing the Mazda 3 as the standard-bearer in compact-car handling for years, and for good reason. That said, it’s not as quick and nimble as it used to be; today it has a torsion-beam rear suspension, when back then it was independent. As the Mazda 3 has gotten more refined and its ride has gotten smoother, it has lost some of its early visceral quality. But the steering is still crisp and precise.
The 155-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 keeps the price low, but since the rest of the Mazda 3 deserves the stronger 2.5-liter engine making 186 hp. It has good torque for strong acceleration at low rpm, and builds speed in a linear manner, from 0-60 mph in a bit more than seven seconds. It can sound coarse at high rpm, though.
The transmission doesn’t need any more gears than the six it has; more gears are mostly just for gas mileage, and the Mazda 3’s mileage is good. A 6-speed manual is available, but, tight and quick-shifting as it is, we’ll save it for the Mazda MX-5 sports car.
Last year Mazda introduced a 2.5-liter turbo 4 making 227 hp and a whopping 310 lb-ft of torque, bringing the 0-60 mph time down to less than six seconds. It’s tempting, but if that’s the kind of car you want, there are many rivals to look at.
The 2022 Mazda 3 has striking looks, a high-quality interior, and very good fuel economy. It’s a standout among small cars, even before its excellent crash-test scores have been considered.
—By Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection