Meet the all-new redesigned Mazda3, Mazda’s best-selling vehicle in the world. The brand says it’s sold more than 6 million of them since introduced in 2003. Mazdas are known for their fun to drive handling and near luxury best-in-class interiors. The new 2019 Mazda3 sedan, with a new design approach and a re-designed, more driver-friendly interior, makes good on both of those promises. The Mazda3 is also available as a slightly more expensive hatchback, but our test model is the top of the line Premium sedan. It comes loaded with features like leather seats, a power sliding-glass moonroof and paddle shifters.
The new Mazda3 rides on an updated platform and comes four ways: Base, Select, Preferred, and Premium. It’s heralded as introducing the next evolution of Mazda’s Kodo design language to the lineup. Mazda went for sleek and “elegant” over athletic and overly aggressive lines. LED and rear LED combo taillights are standard across the lineup. The Premium adds an Adaptive Front Lighting system, along with Front & Rear LED Signature Illumination Headlights. The Premium also trades the standard 16-inch for 18-inch wheels and sports a shark fin antenna. In back you also get dual exhaust and the exterior mirrors come with memory positioning.
The lineup shares one engine, Mazda’s SKYACTIV G 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, good for 186-horsepower and matching 186 pound-feet of torque. It felt perfectly powered with good acceleration. If, however, you want a turbocharged engine you’ll need to step up to the Mazda6. As with other Mazdas I’ve driven lately, like the CX-5 and CX-9, the Mazda3 has an older 6-speed automatic transmission that shifts slowly. I wish Mazda would update it with more gears. (A 6-speed manual is optional on the Hatchback Premium.)
Ride and Handling
Mazda is known for delivering more of an engaging, sharper, ride than others in its class and the Mazda3 lives up to those expectations nicely. It’s equipped with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus designed to offer smoother, more precise control. It’s also equipped with a sport mode for the most engaging dynamics. My test model is forward-wheel drive but Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD is an option on the top three trims. Overall, the Mazda3 delivers good, precise and responsive steering and handling for a compact sedan. The ride quality is on the firmer side. Also, cabin quietness improves thanks to the use of more sound deadening materials.
Mazda sets the bar for best interiors in its class and the Mazda3 does not disappoint. It’s a very clean, minimalist interior and the premium trim has a stand-out two-tone leather interior, with soft touch surfaces on the door panels, armrests and dash. The 8-way power driver’s seat, which is heated but not ventilated, is quite comfortable. It’s been redesigned to offer more thigh support and is very comfortable. Memory front seats are also a nice feature for this class.
Everything is simple and straightforward in the cabin, from the leather-wrapped steering wheel’s easy to use controls to the simple to operate dual-zone climate controls. (But the head scratcher is a fake middle air vent in front of the passenger seat. )
Mazda redesigned the whole console area, and pushed it forward a bit, also lengthening the center armrest and moving the cupholders. That includes moving the leather-wrapped gear shifter forward and positioning it higher for easier driver access. The console area is home to the sport mode toggle, as well as buttons for the electric parking brake and auto brake hold. It’s also where you find the Mazda3’s Audi-esque multifunction infotainment control knob for Mazda Connect.
The push button start lights up the digital and analog tachometer where you get a 7-inch driver display. My test model’s tachometer displays posted speed limit signs, and if you go over it, it will alert you audibly and visually with a red line on the tachometer.
The Premium trim comes with a 12-speaker Bose system with nice-looking aluminum speaker grilles in the front of the cabin.
Now let’s talk Mazda Connect. First off, a nice, new 8.8- inch infotainment screen is standard across the lineup. It’s not a touchscreen and its pushed back farther in the dash. You control it via a knob on the center console and I found there to be a bit of a learning curve to navigate the menus, but one surely solved with more time. It’s both Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-friendly. In terms of connectivity, only two USBs and a 12-volt are standard and though you get Bluetooth, I’m not finding an available WiFi Hotspot.
There are some signs of cost cutting in the back seat. There is only one storage pocket in the back and sorry, backseat passengers won’t have their own air vent. The audio speakers are also black, not aluminum. Also, note there is a large hump in the floor corresponding to the middle seat. One notable safety feature enables you to tell if the back seat passengers have their seatbelts fastened. Visibility is good out the back.
The Mazda offers a traditional 60/40 folding rear seat. You can open the trunk from inside the car or the key fob or by pressing a hidden button underneath the Mazda logo on the trunk. It reveals 13.2 cubic-feet of space. The Mazda3 Hatchback has 20.1 cubic-feet if you’re comparing.
Mazda offers some great - and very robust - driver assist features through its i-ACTIVSENSE safety suite, but unfortunately the base Mazda3 sedan misses out on them. You’ll have to step up the other three trims to get standard Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Smart City Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Assist, along with Cruise Control with Stop and Go. Driver Attention Alert, on the top three trims as well, detects driver fatigue or decreased attentiveness, and activates a warning sound and displays an alert.
A rearview camera is standard across the lineup, but it’s rather small for the size of the screen, and it’s quality could be improved. On the plus side, Mazda upgraded the Premium trim’s Active Driving Display and it now directly projects onto the windshield.
Fuel economy lags a bit behind similarly equipped rivals. The FWD gets 27 city and 36 highway, good for a 30 combined. The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra (turbo) and Kia Forte do slightly better.
What You’ll Pay
A base model Mazda3 starts from around $21,000. My top-of-the-line tester rings in at $27,595, which includes $200 for its Snowflake White Pearl Mica hue.
The 2019 Mazda3 is a class-leading, near-premium compact sedan that’s fun to drive, with a fantastic interior. I would, however, request an updated transmission with more gears from Mazda (which would help with fuel economy) and suggest than Mazda do more to outfit the base trim with advanced driver assist features.
2019 Mazda3 Premium
- What I liked most: The Audi-esque interior.
- What I would change: Update the 6-speed automatic transmission.
- MSRP: Base price, $26,500; as equipped, $27,595.
- Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined with filler on the driver’s side.
- Official color: Snowflake White Pearl Mica.
- Odometer reading when tested: 5,171 miles.
- Weight: 3,071 pounds. (FWD-model)
- Length-width-height: 183.5 inches long/70.7 inches wide/ 56.9 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 13.2 (FWD)
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- Spare tire: Temporary Spare.
- 2019 Mazda3 in a few words: A standout compact sedan that delivers the best-in-class interior and engaging driving experience we expect from Mazda.
- Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile new vehicle warranty; 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty; 3-year/36,000 mile roadside assistance.
- Final assembly location: Hofu, Japan
- Manufacturer’s website: Mazda