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2019 Mazda3: First Drive Review

There are so many things about the all-new 2019 Mazda3 that illustrate how Mazda is not just another Japanese car manufacturer. For example, the company went deeper than most into human anatomy and psychology to design the ideal seats. If Mazda was a retail chain, it could be described as selling products with the quality of Whole Foods, but at Target prices.

Premium Comes to the Mainstream

Ignore the company name for a moment and concentrate on the what went into the new Mazda3’s development, and it will seem as if we’re describing a luxury car like a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW. The attention to detail and desire to make incredible improvements are there right from the all-new body shell outward. And it’s not as if the previous generation was a dud. It was one of the best compact cars around.

The body is, of course, stiffer than before, with a judicious use of high-strength steels. While in this basic state, Mazda also added sound-insulating materials at various points. The ultimate result is a super-quiet cabin, and a ride quality that’s virtually free of vibrations and harshness.

Responses to driver inputs like steering and braking are immediate yet smooth. It’s always easy to calibrate how much effort needs applying. An optional adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assistance lends a digital hand on the steering wheel and a foot on the brakes, plus another pair of virtual eyes. These features are now expected in luxury cars. Mazda also considered how the cabin looks at night, bringing an ideal amount of illumination while reducing distractions.

Even the windshield wipers have washer nozzles built in, to leave a clearer picture after squirts. There’s a similar arrangement on Mercedes-Benz vehicles, upon which the German company bestows the grand title of Magic Vision Control.

The placement of the sound system’s speakers were worked out before pinpointing where exactly the engine would be located. The main speakers that are typically in the doors have been repositioned into the main body (again, much like Mercedes-Benz’s “Frontbass” approach), for better frequency responses. There’s now just steel in the doors, contributing to the tranquil interior.

The crazy thing is that a driver can listen to something at high volume and it would be practically imperceptible outside the vehicle. So that guilty musical pleasure, be it Taylor Swift or Gilbert & Sullivan, can be indulged fully without judgment from others.

Cams, Cogs and Beyond

The 2019 Mazda3 comes with one engine, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder unit that generates 184 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. That’s a healthy amount of muscle rather than overkill. And with a chassis as eager as this, it feels well-judged. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual that shifts sweetly, while the position of the lever is pretty much perfect. A 6-speed automatic is optional. Front-wheel drive is the default setup, but Mazda offers all-wheel drive as well.

Best Buy

After appreciating all the fine details, it seems almost humorous that the 2019 Mazda3 sedan starts at just $21,895. The hatchback is priced from $24,495.

Standard equipment includes 16-in alloy wheels and push-button ignition. Options (often bundled into packages) include a Bose 12-speaker audio setup, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, keyless entry/ignition, rain-sensing wipers, forward-collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection, leather upholstery, adaptive LED headlights and heated front seats.

Japanese Apparel

Everyone will have their individual take on the styling of both cars. The hatchback seems to have developed something of a crossover look, especially with those wide rear pillars. Mazda worked on the front pillars of both models to optimize outward vision. Compact sedans can often look more awkward than their hatchback counterparts, but on this occasion it seems the sleeker of the two.

In general, it could be argued that Mazda is the only Japanese marque with a well-developed design philosophy with a great understanding of lines, shapes and proportions. Or at least has a firm grasp of Western tastes. This applies to the elegantly unfussy interior design of the Mazda3 as well.

Smart & Final Verdict

Anyone seriously considering one of the smaller luxury offerings, like an Audi A3 or perhaps a Lexus UX, should also look at the new Mazda3. It rides and reacts like a premium car, is certainly as calm and refined, and build quality is remarkably high, which is one area Mazda has in common with its countrymen. But there’s an uncommon pleasure in driving a Mazda3 that can’t be found in, say, the Toyota Corolla or the Nissan Sentra. Find a Mazda3 for sale

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More about Colin Ryan

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