2019 Mazda3 Review and Buying Guide | Redesigned and exceptional

The Mazda3 has long been a darling of car enthusiasts for its sharp styling and sharper driving dynamics. So when it was redesigned for 2019, there was some collective anxiety as to whether Mazda could continue the magic. From our experience, Mazda certainly has, and has improved its compact sedan and hatchback in many areas such as design and refinement. As a result, the 2019 Mazda3 is easily the most fun car in its segment to drive, barring specifically performance-oriented compact models, and now has materials and looks to rival entry-level luxury cars. Its only real faults are a slightly tight interior and a character that might put off fans of cushy cruisers.

What’s new for 2019?

Pretty much everything. The Mazda3 has been completely redesigned for the 2019 model year. It’s down to one engine for now — a lightly updated 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder with or without cylinder deactivation — but a high-efficiency spark-controlled compression-ignition engine is coming later. And for the first time, the Mazda3 has available all-wheel drive on both sedan and hatchback body styles, making it one of only two cars in the segment with such a feature.

What’s the Mazda3’s interior and in-car technology like?

While the interior of the previous Mazda3 was one of the finest in the segment, the new model is vastly superior. In fact, it feels about on par with actual luxury cars in the top Premium trim. The dashboard has a sleek, modern look with subtle air vents, surfaces wrapped in a soft leather-like material, and an elegant steering wheel has nicely integrated buttons. All of the switchgear has a solid, crisp feel. The driving position is excellent, allowing the driver to sit either low or high and keeping all the controls and displays perfectly centered.

Mazda also redesigned its infotainment system for this car. A major change is that there is no touchscreen functionality whatsoever, which is also partly why Mazda has moved the infotainment screen farther up the dash and more into the driver’s line of sight. The entire menu layout has been revamped as well with options listed vertically instead of horizontally. The system runs substantially faster and smoother than the previous version, though it’s not as easy to use due to additional layers of menus. It still isn’t as complex as systems found in German cars, though. Mazda has also finally made Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard features.

How big is the Mazda3?

The Mazda3 is just barely on the large size in terms of its exterior dimensions. It’s longer than the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra, but a bit shorter than the lengthy VW Jetta. It’s about the heaviest car in the group, with every iteration tipping the scales at more than 3,000 pounds. It boasts about the longest wheelbase in the segment, but strangely that wheelbase doesn’t pay dividends inside.

Front occupants will have space right on par with compact competitors, and with nice seats and seating position, it’s plenty comfortable. But the back seat is cramped with about the least amount of legroom in the segment. The sedan’s trunk is useful but is not among the segment’s largest at 13.2 cubic feet of space — the Jetta and Elantra have one cube more, while the Honda Civic has two more. The Mazda3 hatchback jumps up to 20.1 cubic feet, a substantial improvement, but it’s down by over 5 cubic feet to the cavernous Civic.

What’s Mazda3’s performance and fuel economy?

Until Mazda releases the high-efficiency Skyactiv-X compression-ignition engine, the only engine available is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. It’s an updated and slightly more powerful version of the engine from the previous generation. It also includes cylinder deactivation on all hatchback models, all-wheel-drive sedans and the Premium trim sedan. Front-drive, non-Premium Mazda3 sedans don’t get cylinder deactivation. The updated engine also makes 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, which makes it the most powerful and torquey engine in its class this side of actual performance variants. You can feel that when driving, as the Mazda3 provides sprightly acceleration, and being naturally aspirated, throttle response is excellent. It may feel a tad slow for people accustomed to sportier vehicles such as the VW GTI, but average customers will find the Mazda3 plenty quick.

Most Mazda3s will deliver power through a six-speed automatic, since only the top-level Mazda3 Premium hatchback gets a manual option. The automatic is a tried-and-true Mazda unit that isn’t particularly fast, but it is smooth. Importantly, it’s wise about gear selection, meaning you won’t be wanting for a lower or higher gear very often. Rival cars with higher gear counts can find themselves constantly hunting for cogs, or worse, can have continuously variable transmissions with unusual or irritating characteristics.

The manual transmission, of course, will be the enthusiast’s choice, and they’ll be pleased by the excellent pedal placement for rev-matched downshifting. The shift action itself is just above average, though. The throws are a tad long and not especially crisp. But it’s a smooth shifter and the gates are easy to find.

There is a bit of a tradeoff to Mazda’s sporty powertrain, and that’s fuel economy. Front-wheel drive sedans will get 30 mpg in combined driving, as will the automatic-equipped front-drive hatch. The manual drops the hatch to 29 in combined driving. All-wheel drive brings fuel economy of the sedan down to 28 and the hatch down to 27. Keeping transmissions comparable, the Mazda3 is behind most of its class competitors by 1 to 3 mpg.

What’s the Mazda3 like to drive?

The Mazda3 is so much fun. We’ve already talked about the Mazda’s strong powertrain, but its ride and handling really make it something special. The steering weight is pretty much smack in the middle of the spectrum from light to heavy. It builds resistance incredibly naturally and even delivers a bit of road feel. And every input returns exactly the amount of steering you desire.

The chassis then follows in kind, and it’s amazingly neutral. Even under power, there’s hardly a hint of understeer. Body roll is very restrained. Even over bumps, the car doesn’t get nervous, which is impressive considering its torsion-beam rear-end. It’s a car that begs to rip around corners.

Thankfully, the Mazda’s ride quality doesn’t suffer much for its handling prowess. It’s certainly on the firm side, enough that some people used to particularly cushy cars might be put off. But the firmness is couched in excellent body control. There’s very little movement from bumps, and it feels downright European. Road noise and engine noise are hushed, too, making for a refined cruising experience.

What more can I read about the Mazda3?

2019 Mazda3 First Drive | Defining the term ‘fun to drive’

Find out what’s new about the 2019 Mazda3, including its engineering, styling and feature content. Also included are our first driving impressions.

2019 Mazda3

2019 Mazda3 AWD First Drive | Unconventionally incredible

Our first drive of the all-wheel-drive 2019 Mazda3, the only vehicle in its class not made by Subaru that isn’t front-wheel drive. We find it’s a legitimate alternative to entry-level luxury sedans.

2019 Mazda3 AWD

2019 Mazda3 Drivers’ Notes Review

“The Mazda3 is the sportiest in the segment and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s dead-even with the Honda Civic for the top spot in the looks department.”

2019 Mazda3 Sedan

What features are available and what’s the Mazda3’s price?

Pricing for the 2019 Mazda3 starts at $ 21,920 for the base sedan with front-wheel drive (this and all other prices include $ 895 for destination). It comes modestly equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, air conditioning, an eight-speaker sound system, two USB ports, and an 8.8-inch infotainment display. The base hatchback with front-wheel drive has a base price of $ 24,520 and is better equipped with 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity entry and push-button start, leatherette seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a full suite of accident avoidance tech (see safety section below). These features are all included on the next highest sedan model, the Select trim, which starts at $ 23,520.

For information on other trim levels, you can check out the breakdown of their features, specs and local pricing here at Autoblog.

  • Mazda3 Sedan
    • Base FWD: $ 21,920
    • Select FWD: $ 23,520
    • Select AWD: $ 24,920
    • Preferred FWD: $ 25,120
    • Preferred AWD: $ 26,520
    • Premium FWD: $ 27,420
    • Premium AWD: $ 28,820
  • Mazda3 Hatchback
    • Base FWD: $ 24,520
    • Base AWD: $ 25,920
    • Preferred FWD: $ 26,120
    • Preferred AWD: $ 27,520
    • Premium FWD: $ 28,420
    • Premium AWD: $ 29,820

What are the Mazda3’s safety features and crash test ratings?

Ratings had not been released by either NHTSA or the IIHS for the redesigned Mazda3 at the time of this writing. But, with the exception of the base sedan, every Mazda3 comes with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear-view camera with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beams and automatic windshield wipers. Turning headlights come with the top-level Mazda3 Premium.

The base model Mazda3 gets none of the aforementioned safety upgrades and features just modern car basics including a full complement of air bags, ABS, traction and stability control and a rear-view camera.

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