While most compact cars try to impress with good fuel economy or sporting intentions, the 2020 Mazda3 puts them all to shame, offering seductive styling, an impressive list of available features and an interior the wouldn’t look out of place in a $50,000 luxury car. Mazda’s attention to detail is evident throughout the Mazda3. For example, the front seats have been developed by studying human anatomy and psychology, and the placement of each audio system speaker has been analyzed and optimized for the best sound delivery. Compared to the previous-generation Mazda3, this version has a tighter suspension and a stiffer body. Mazda even studied cabin illumination to make sure it isn’t distracting at night. And the wipers have washer jets built in, which is the kind of thing Mercedes-Benz does.
Both the exterior and interior designs are distinctive — yet subtle — and arguably pleasing to the eye, right down to how the outer surfaces reflect light. This leads us to conclude that Mazda really has a way with styling that’s sorely lacking in other Japanese companies.
What’s New for 2020?
For 2020, every Mazda3 now comes standard with Mazda’s i-Activsense suite of driver assists that includes lane-departure warning and assist, blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, driver attention alert, auto high beams and adaptive cruise control. See the 2020 Mazda3 models for sale near you
What We Like
- Premium driving experience
- Premium feel
- Agreeable styling
What We Don’t
- Can get pricey — a fully loaded hatchback version is close to $30,000
- Not convinced that the Bose audio upgrade is worth the money
The 2020 Mazda3 uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder unit developing 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard. Although many manufacturers are adding more gears to their transmissions, Mazda has said that it finds six well-chosen ratios to be an optimum arrangement. A 6-speed manual transmission is optional in the hatchback version.
With FWD and the automatic transmission, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the Mazda3 sedan’s fuel consumption at 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in combined driving. A Premium options package for the sedan includes cylinder deactivation, resulting in 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined. With AWD, we’re looking at 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined in automatic.
The Mazda3 Hatchback also achieves 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined in FWD automatic form. With AWD and the automatic transmission, it manages 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined. And the FWD variant with the manual transmission runs to 25 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Mazda3 5-seater compact car is available in sedan and hatchback forms.
The Mazda3 Sedan ($22,420) comes with 16-in alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, keyless entry and ignition, cloth upholstery, an 8.8-in infotainment display, a 7-in configurable driver information display, 60/40 split folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio, an HD radio, two USB ports and an 8-speaker sound system. Also standard are lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, low-speed emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, driver attention monitor, auto high beams and blind spot monitoring.
The Mazda3 Hatchback ($24,520) has more standardized equipment to justify its higher price, such as 18-in alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, automatic dual-zone climate control and simulated leather seating surfaces, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
Most of these additional features are available as options in the sedan. Other extras include AWD, a head-up display, leather upholstery, a power moonroof, adaptive LED headlights, power-adjustable heated front seats with driver’s-side memory settings and a 12-speaker Bose audio system.
Trunk space for the sedan is 13.2 cu ft., about average for the class. The hatchback has 20.1 cu ft. of luggage area behind the rear seats, expanding to 47.1 cu ft. when those seats are folded down.
At the time of compiling this review, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had still not crash tested the Mazda3. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has put the new Mazda3 through its crash test program and rated it a Top Safety pick, earning Good marks in every test. The Mazda3 comes with all the mandatory protection features — airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction/stability control and a rearview camera are set into a body that uses more high-strength steel than the previous generation. Advanced driver assists are now standard.
Behind the Wheel
All the research and development Mazda has carried out brings benefits to so many areas of the driving experience. The cabin is hushed, the ride is smooth, the ergonomics have been well thought out and the front seats in particular are comfortable for hours on end.
Responses to steering and braking inputs are quick but never skittish, bringing just the right amount of feedback to make drivers feel confident. There’s a real pleasure to driving the Mazda3. It has the rare ability to appeal to comfort-seeking commuters and enthusiasts alike.
The AWD version doesn’t have any extra ground clearance, but it brings reassurance in slippery conditions. The AWD system always sends a little power to the rear wheels so that when more is required, the reaction times are as fast as possible.
G-Vectoring Control is an ingenious system that’s standard in both FWD and AWD versions. Instead of the increasingly common torque vectoring (sending power to some wheels to make cornering more effective) or its brake-based simulation (slowing down other wheels to achieve the same outcome), GVC reduces power slightly when turning in to a corner, shifting the weight to the front wheels.
At the exit, it will apply the brakes to whatever wheel is necessary. Mazda’s engineers think this is a less artificial-feeling solution — and we’re inclined to agree. Cornering lines are certainly tight and tidy.
Engine output is pretty good rather than great. If there was a more powerful turbocharged version, it could bolster the Mazda3’s standing as a legitimate rival to entry-level luxury cars like the Audi A3.
The only question mark is the one thing not built by Mazda. It’s the Bose audio upgrade. Both companies collaborated to create the ideal system for the new Mazda3, but on some of the more modern music we heard, the bass end seemed unnatural and over-compressed, while the vocal sound was slightly muffled. Maybe it takes some sitting down and adjusting all the frequencies and speaker balances to get the most out of it, but listen with a critical ear before taking this particular plunge.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Honda Civic — Multitalented and offering a wide range of choices. One of the top players in the compact car category.
2020 Hyundai Elantra GT — High equipment levels for the price, comfortable, great warranty. Not so inspiring 2.0-liter engine.
2020 Toyota Corolla — Reliable, well equipped, cheap to run. A new generation debuts for the 2020 model year that includes a hybrid model.
Used Audi A3 — A 2015-2017 Audi A3 is roughly the same size as the Mazda3, but with more horsepower and features as well as available quattro all-wheel drive, diesel and hybrid engine choices.
We highly recommend the new Mazda3. Each potential buyer will have to decide whether the sedan or hatchback is preferable and if all-wheel drive is necessary, but we think most will be quite happy with either the Select or Preferred package. Find a Mazda3 for sale