The Mazda3 has always stood out as a sportier choice than compact rivals from Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. The all-new Mazda3 has an improved, elegant, and quiet interior and a refined ride. But these improvements come at the cost of fuel efficiency and a less exciting driving experience.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission work well together, as the car always delivers power predictably, without hesitation. But this combo’s efficiency is a letdown. Our front-wheel-drive car achieved only 30 mpg overall in our tests. Although commendable by itself, this result means the Mazda is no longer among the category’s most fuel-efficient cars.
The Mazda’s ride is firm, but the suspension effectively soaks up impacts from bumps and ruts. The cabin is significantly quieter than the previous-generation Mazda3, which contributes to the new car’s mature and substantial feel.
Historically, the Mazda3 was among the most agile compact sedans, which made it fun to drive, but it has lost some of those characteristics with this redesign. The sedan is responsive and capable, but it lacks the engaging, inspiring handling found in past versions.
The 3 is now available with all-wheel drive; the Subaru Impreza is the only other model in this class to offer it.
The 3’s interior quality is a step up from its competitors, including the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The cabin looks and feels upscale, with rich, generously padded surfaces and high-quality trim, buttons and knobs throughout, which is rare for this class.
The infotainment system includes a high-mounted center screen with a rotary controller positioned between the front seats. But this system has a steep learning curve and forces drivers to make multiple twists and taps of the rotary controller to complete simple tasks. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility come on all versions except the base sedan.
Unless buyers opt for the Preferred package, the front seats are quite basic and short on lumbar support. The rear-seat room is not very generous—but that’s typical for compact cars.
The Mazda’s i-ActiveSense suite of advanced safety features includes automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane keeping assist (LKA), blind spot warning (BSW), and rear cross traffic warning. But this suite of safety equipment isn't available on the base sedan; it’s standard on the sedan’s more expensive trims as well as all hatchback versions.
Mazda would like potential customers to view the 3 as a semi-premium offering and there’s some merit to that argument. It’s a stylish, pleasant and likable car that’s competitive in every way but more complicated controls and regression in terms of fuel economy keep it from reaching up to the highest ranking peers.