2019 Mazda Mazda 3 Review

2019 Mazda Mazda 3 - Compact Mazda 3 travels upmarket

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For all those entry-level shoppers itching for more than an
entry-level experience, step right over to the compact Mazda 3.

The
peppy Mazda 3 entered the automotive fray in the 2004 model year, a notable upgrade
from the preceding, more pedestrian Protégé, Mazda's prior compact. 
In 2019, Mazda 3 returns once again with two body styles, a four-door sedan and
five-door hatchback wagon both proudly sporting an all-new fourth-generation
platform. Worldwide, its Mazda's best-selling offering.

Front-wheel
drive comes standard and for the first time, all-wheel drive becomes available
(for an extra $1,400), in both body builds, an appealing option for those
traversing upper Midwest roads during winter snows.

Historically,
Mazda 3 carved a niche as one of the compact segment's most fun-to-drive
offerings listing a sub $20,000 starting price point. But during the past
decade and a half, competitors took notice and stepped up their game; so Mazda
3 initiated its own leap forward.

The redesigned Mazda 3
continues evolving fun-to-drive characteristics while adding a noticeably
quieter interior and cushier human comforts. Mazda's stated goal for this Gen
Four compact is to boldly reposition it upmarket into a semi-premium range
rather than simply a sporty entry.

Mazda 3 retains its firm
ride, but absorbs bumps and imperfections with greater effectiveness than
previous efforts thanks to an all-new suspension. Attention to detail is
apparent.  For example, squirter fluid jets out from the wipers rather
than the window base for precise glass placement, a nicety usually set aside
for luxury brands.

Size wise, 2019 exterior dimensions
change, but not much. Wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles)
contracts by about one inch while overall length remains virtually unchanged.
Overall height peaks up a half an inch. The starting price inches higher, too.

For
those seeking a closer connection with driving thrills, Mazda 3 continues
offering a six-speed manual transmission, but this year exclusively in
front-drive hatchback configurations (last year, both body styles offered
MT).  Some compact rivals have quietly disengaged from stocking stick
shifts all together, but a handful of old curmudgeons (this writer included)
remain giddy when fine-turning this acquired skill.  If traveling
abroad to Europe, manuals remain the go-to choice.

All trims
include a second generation of 'G-vectoring Control' enhancing stability during
high-speed lane changes and slippery-road driving.

The sole
2019 engine is a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated (non-turbocharged) four cylinder
cranking out 186 horses while delivering quick acceleration.  A
variant of this spunky SkyActiv-G powertrain was a pricier option in 2018 but
now comes standard and teams with a conventional six-speed automatic
transmission when passing on the manual tranny.

SkyActive-G
engines deliver higher compression ratios while employing regular 87-octane
fuel.  Many rival engines require higher-priced premium fuel to equal
SkyActiv-G results. Mazda's working diligently towards the next step
forward.  Mazda's impending SkyActiv-X engine takes compression
technology to the next level while promising leaps forward in fuel economy
results. Stay tuned as SkyActiv-X recently launched in Europe with its U.S.
debut undetermined.

The rather diminutive gas tank holds
12.7 gallons of regular unleaded fuel in all-wheel drive selections (13.2
gallons for front drive). Expect decent four-cylinder fuel economy numbers
around town and better results when opening up on the highway. All hatchback
editions and most sedan builds include cylinder deactivation, shutting down
half the cylinders when cruising at highway speeds.

The
front grille grows in size now forming a fully connected oval replacing a
half-circle design. Flanking the grille, amber turn signal brows hover over
circular diminutive LED headlights. Our hatchback's silhouette 
included a curved, rounded  back end rather than a squared-off design
popular in larger crossovers or sport utility vehicles.  

A
new cadre of marketing designates arrive in 2019.  Gone are Sport,
Touring and top-shelf Grand Touring trim levels from Generation Three
(2014-2018). For 2019, Mazda 3 sedans offer three packages (Select, Preferred,
Premium) while hatchback body styles whittle that number down to two
(Preferred, Premium).   These packages are progressive in
nature.  For example, purchasing the premium package in hatchback
styles requires first opting in for the preferred package.

Starting
price for a 2019 front-drive sedan with Select package starts at $21,000.
Hatchbacks start a few Washington's higher ($2,600 to be exact) but include a
greater degree of standard equipment (larger 18-inch tires, leatherette seating
and door trim, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers). Our Soul Red,
all-wheel drive hatchback with Premium Package (and by default Preferred
Package) reached a bottom line of $32,055 including a $920 destination charge.

The
Premium Package added black alloy wheels, heads-up windshield display, leather
seats, power sliding moon roof and adaptive front lighting while including
preferred package goodies like heated front seats, eight-way power driver seat
and premium 12-speaker stereo.

Standard in all body styles
and trims, a sizable 8.8-inch multi-purpose rectangular screen (growing from
last year's 7-inch size) set deep within the upper dash slightly skewed in the
driver's direction.  The rectangular screen protrudes up from the dash
with an ambiance of a flat-screen TV. It's of a non-touch nature, differing
from the previous generation where touching was allowed. Apple Car Play and
Android Auto come standard in all configurations sans base sedans delivering
easier Smartphone interaction with the system.

An
attractive combination of buttons, dials and narrow horizontal display window
tucked gently mid-level inside the central dash work in tandem to monitor HVAC
functions.

Expect lots going on in between the redesigned,
well-bolstered/contoured front bucket seats. An electronic parking brake tab
and drive mode selector choosing between normal and sport options are within
easy reach. Also, the arm rest lengthens in 2019 while cup holders get
repositioned towards the front. Also prominent, two command dials interacting
with the multi-function flat screen.

A large, round, brushed
aluminum tactile twist orb runs through option. Just press down to
select.  The smaller, taller knob acts as on/off and volume. Four
quick-select buttons surround the larger dial summoning the home position and
back-one option.

While far simpler than the Lexus 'Remote
Touch Interface' featuring either a wiggle pad or touch-sensitive finger-skate
pad, set aside practice time.  Luckily, secondary volume and station
pre-set tabs locate at the 9 o'clock position of the newly-designed steering
wheel.  At 3 o'clock, radar-sensing cruise control settings allow
Mazda 3 to slow or speed up during highway jaunts based on the distance of the
vehicle ahead.

The easy-view 7.0-inch instrument panel
smack dab in front of drivers includes three large, similar-sized chrome-framed
info circles. The far right orb is home to large-print gas and temperature
gauges. The left side dispatches a full-spectrum tachometer gauge. 
Centering the picture is an animated digital orb with several optional windows
summoned via the steering wheel face's left side.  The push-button
electronic start locates down and to the right of the steering column.

In
back, leg room measures in a bit less than many competitors.  With
average headroom, two adults fit comfortably, or three pre-teens. Rear seat
backs manually fold with a 60/40 split conveniently gaining access to the hatch
area.

2019 Mazda 3 Hatchback

Price as
tested:  $32,055

Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder

Horsepower:
186

Wheelbase: 107.3 inches

Overall
Length: 175.6 inches

Overall Height: 56.7 inches

Overall
Width: 70.7 inches

Curb weight: 3,255 pounds

Fuel
Economy: 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway

Powertrain
warranty:  Five years/60,000 miles

Assembly: Hofu,
Japan




Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.