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2019 Mazda3: First Look

  • Sedan and hatchback body styles return, but with greater differentiation.
  • A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine arrives first, with ultra-efficient SkyActiv-X engine arriving later.
  • The 2019 Mazda3 offers a more luxurious and functional interior with a new tech interface.
  • It’s on sale early 2019 with pricing still to be announced.

The all-new 2019 Mazda3 will arrive in dealerships early in 2019, sharing the same general philosophy as the car it replaces. It will be more fun to drive than the typical compact car, with a more eye-catching design and an interior that does a pretty good impression of a luxury car. Fuel efficiency is also high on the list.

Even if the playbook hasn’t changed, however, those elements have been emphasized even further to create a more distinctive Mazda3 sedan and hatchback.

What’s Different Outside?

Both the new Mazda3 hatchback and the sedan shown at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show feature an evolution of the previous car’s design "language" that Mazda refers to as "Kodo" and that can be seen throughout the brand’s lineup. It’s always been a sleek look, but Mazda’s designers have turned the dial up by trying to remove as many character lines as possible, relying instead on body curves and light.

And while the front of the new 3 isn’t a big departure from the car it replaces, the tail end definitely is. It also differs depending on body style — and we don’t just mean the rather obvious differences in cargo area design. The sedan appears longer and sleeker, incorporating design cues from Mazda’s stunning Vision Coupe concept as well as the MX-5 (note the taillights in particular). The hatchback, meanwhile, adopts a pretty radical rounded look that’s virtually identical to its Kai Concept. From the B pillar rearward, the sedan and the hatchback are considerably different in appearance. Note the pinched rear windows in the hatchback versus those in the sedan, which, not surprisingly, make it a bit harder to get in and out. It also makes it a bit more claustrophobic back there.

In terms of dimensions, Mazda indicated that the overall length has been extended, but other specifications were not available at the time of this writing.

What’s Different Inside?

The driver’s seat seems to be mounted a bit lower, and a new seat-tilt adjustment is now standard on every model, which should be a benefit to tall drivers in particular. Those of any size should appreciate the steering wheel’s extra telescoping travel.

The gear lever and revised "Commander" infotainment controller have also been relocated for an improved, more natural reach from the steering wheel. The center console on which they’re placed was further redesigned for extra storage space.

The Commander knob is bigger and is accompanied by extra menu shortcut buttons. It also now commands a larger 8.8-inch central display with crisper graphics and a revised menu structure. You can expect this new infotainment system to gradually make its way into other Mazda vehicles.

Quality has also taken a big step upward. A large swath of the dash is covered in stitched simulated leather and a variety of other impressively premium materials. The new switchgear in particular wouldn’t look or feel out of place in an Audi, as the various knobs even turn with similarly rich clicks. This is definitely a step up from the old Mazda3, as well as the Honda Civic, though the new Toyota Corolla isn’t so far off.

What’s New Under the Hood?

Mazda has announced two engines for the United States market. At launch, the 2019 Mazda3 will come with a revised version of the current model’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Specifications weren’t announced at the time of this writing, but they should be similar to the current version’s 184 horsepower. Automatic and manual transmissions will be available, and for the first time, so will all-wheel drive. We don’t yet know which transmissions or trim levels will be paired with AWD, but it does mean the Mazda3 will offer something in the compact segment that only the Subaru Impreza currently does.

The optional engine will be Mazda’s revolutionary SkyActiv-X engine. Rather than being intended for extra performance, it will provide superior fuel economy. Mazda has said the SkyActiv-X will achieve a 20-30 percent improvement over the outgoing 2.0-liter engine, which could mean fuel economy in the range of 40 miles per gallon in combined driving.

What are some new features available?

Newly available safety features will include a driver-inattention warning system, a front cross-traffic warning system (a rare feature, as most cars only offer rear-cross) and an enhanced adaptive cruise control system that can operate the accelerator, brake and steering when cruising on the highway or in traffic jams. This level of driver assistance is usually restricted to higher-end luxury models.

In terms of infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, along with an 8-speaker sound system. A 12-speaker Bose sound system will supplant it on upper trim levels. And speaking of sound, Mazda says it went to great effort to reduce interior noise within the new 3. Such efforts proved to be quite effective in the recent new CX-5 SUV and the Mazda6 sedan.

How much and when can you get one?

Pricing for the new 2019 Mazda3 has yet to be announced, and there’s plenty of specifications and information still to be released. The vehicle goes on sale in early 2019.

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