What is it: An Autoweek favorite for years, the Mazda3 is a well-built compact car that handles nicely and looks good doing it. This Premium Package tester is the top of the lineup over Base, Select and Preferred. The outgoing 3’s trim levels offered two different horsepower levels, but all of the new car’s trims use the same 2.5 liter, 186-hp inline 4.
Key Competitors: Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Impreza
Base Price: $27,395 As-Tested Price: $27,695
Full Review: 2019 Mazda 3 first drive
Highlights: The mostly new Mazda 3 made its U.S. debut last fall at the LA show in sedan and hatchback form. The above-mentioned 2.5-liter four carries over as do the six-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmissions. The handsome sheetmetal is new, as is the spectacular interior. The new model is three inches longer so interior room is improved and Mazda engineers said the new car is quite a bit quieter on the road than the outgoing car. All-wheel drive is optional.
Our Opinion: The days I have been spending in the new Mazda 3 are in a front-drive sedan with the automatic transmission. Pretty much the opposite of how I’d order mine — I’d get the manual transmission and the hatchback body for the practicality.
Both body styles look good; simple, clean shapes, a low nose and short overhangs. The interior is wonderful in terms of materials and assembly; it’s the new small-car standard.
As the outgoing model was, this new 3 is a delightful driver, with quick steering, a well balanced chassis and a smooth, quiet ride. I’m especially impressed with the quiet cabin on the freeway. It’s in luxury car territory.
And while I believe the 2.5-liter four could use more power, the car is no dog, and the automatic transmission is smooth. I’d like to try to the manual gearbox. I’m guessing it would let me get the most from the four and put the light, nimble chassis to best use. That said I bet more power is coming sooner rather than later. The chassis sure feels like it could handle more.
Before I can say the 2019 Mazda 3 remains near the top of the small car category, or not, (besides trying the manual transmission) I’d like to drive one with all-wheel drive and some models lower in the food chain to get better sense of the how the other trims stack up.
For now I’d say the new 3 and the Volkswagen Golf are the two small cars I’d recommend most often.
–Wes Raynal, editor
Base Price: $27,395
As-Tested Price: $27,695
Drivetrain: 2.5-liter I4, six-speed automatic, FWD
Output: 186 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,071 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 27/36/30 mpg
Pros: Styling, handling, price
Cons: No one appreciates how good they are
Options: machine gray paint ($300)
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