Vehicle has excellent drive and handling dynamics and plenty of room
By Nauman Farooq
It is hard to believe, but the Mazda3 is now in its fourth-generation model!
It feels like just yesterday, when Mazda first introduced the “3” to the public for the 2003 model year, and with the introduction, also brought along a new naming scheme – which at first sounded odd, and risky!
You see, prior to this model, Mazda’s compact segment offering was the highly successful, and quite wonderful, Protege model – in both sedan and wagon style. Say the name, Mazda Protege, and everyone knew what you were referring to. To bring in a new naming scheme, especially one that is a bit confusing [the model series number is attached to the manufacturers name, without any space, so its Mazda3, not Mazda 3 – which means, it is actually called the Mazda Mazda3 – told you, its confusing].
The risk paid off, as the Mazda3 has done incredibly well in the market. Part of the key to its success has to be its style, coupled with good tech, willing powertrains, and lively handling!
On the down side, the interior plastics often looked like they were made from recycled tupperware boxes, and the lack of sound deadening made highway journeys often very uncomfortable!
So, now with the fourth-generation model, has Mazda built up on this model’s strengths and corrected any issues it has had in the past? Let’s find out.
Styling: The Mazda3 has always been the most handsome car in its category, and while Honda and Kia seemed to be catching up in this area, the 2019 Mazda3 is certainly going to cause some envy with its rivals.
Available as both a sedan and hatchback, the new Mazda3 looks like it was carved from a single buck of metal! Every line flows neatly into another – no harsh and abrupt angles and cross sections here.
My tester, was the hatchback – Sport, in Mazda speak – and it looked stunning! Every time I looked at it, I found a cool new detail, and smiled – this certainly isn’t designed like a mass market, low budget vehicle, there are plenty of luxury car style details on this compact.
However, some might say, that design took so much precedence, that practicality was somewhat overlooked! For instance, from the rear-three quarter angle, the new “3” Sport looks fantastic, but when you’re driving, you’ll notice that the rear glass is quite small, and that the C-pillars are simply gigantic. As a result, visibility out the back is not great – thankfully however, this car does have blindspot detection and rear cross traffic alert, making life a little easier.
As just a design, the new Mazda3 is a winner, and rivals should take note!
Interior: Step inside, and the new Mazda3 continues to impress. First thing you’ll notice, are that the seats are very comfortable to sit on, which makes long journeys pleasant. You sit behind a chunky steering wheel, that has some high quality buttons to control the stereo and activate the cruise control – which on the GS and GT trim gives you Radar Cruise Control, which keeps a safe distance between you and the car ahead.
The infotainment system looks a bit better than what you find in other Mazda products and it has a controller behind the gear selector (which looks very similar to the BMW i-Drive system) to fiddle through its various menu options – although, to be honest, this setup can be further improved upon, in terms of screen size, graphics and functionality.
There is plenty of space for four adults, although five would be a squeeze. The trunk is also fairly spacious, and if you need even more space, 60/40 split folding rear seats are standard on all trims.
In general, this interior is a nice place to spend time in, especially since the quality of materials is a huge step forward from where it was previously.
Powertrain: Under the hood, there are currently two engine options. The base, GX trim, gets a 2.0L inline-four cylinder motor that produces 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. Opt up to the GS or GT trim, and you get a mighty 2.5L inline-four cylinder that features cylinder deactivation (to help save fuel) and produces 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are offered with either a six-speed manual transmission, or a six-speed automatic.
Traditionally, the Mazda3 has always been just front wheel drive, but for 2019, the GS and GT trim can also be had with all-wheel drive – now, if only Mazda fits a decent sized turbo to the Mazda3, they’d have a true rival to the Subaru WRX.
Performance: My tester, a GT spec model featuring front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox, performed quite well. Mazda Canada doesn’t provide any performance data, but a little research finds that the 0 to 100 km/h sprint takes roughly 7.0 seconds, and top speed is electronically governed at about 210 km/h. So, while it won’t see off any sports cars, it is more than fast enough for daily chores!
Driving Dynamics: This is where Mazda’s have done very well, and this new “3” is no exception. The ride and handling -especially on the highway- is really good; the car always feels stable. Take it out on twisty country roads, and you’ll find that the chassis and suspension are just excellent, and while the electrically assisted power steering lacks feel, it is better than the systems found in many other compact segment vehicles. Just like the old advert goes, you’ll really enjoy going “Zoom-Zoom” in this new Mazda3.
An area where Mazda vehicles hadn’t done very well in the past, was in sound proofing. I had always found Mazda’s to be very noisy on the highway, and the culprit was a lack of proper sound proofing. All that is fixed now with the 2019 Mazda3. This car is extremely quiet, especially on the highway. It really feels like a entry-level luxury car, and I -who spends a lot of time out on the road- really appreciates that. So, if you like your cars to be compact in size, and big on smoothness; than this is the car for you!
Fuel Economy: So, my tester was a brand new unit (it only had about 116 km on the odometer when I picked it up, so the engine wasn’t properly loosened up) and was wearing winter tires, so my fuel economy numbers wouldn’t be optimal. Still, I averaged 8.4 L/100 km in my test cycle (170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving), which is decent – it matched the results I got with the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback, but the new Hyundai Elantra proved to be a lot more efficient.
Pricing: The base Sport GX trim is yours from $21,300. The GS trim starts from $24,000, while the GT trim starts from $27,200. So, pricing wise, it sits very well among its competition.
Verdict: The Mazda3 has always been a very good car, but there has always been room for improvement. With the latest model, it is close to perfection! Now, if only we’d get one with a big turbo, than it might just become the greatest car on sale!