2020 Mazda Mazda3 AWD w/Premium Package new car reviews

The Mazda3 has been the go-to fun, practical small car since its earliest days. Still available as a hatchback or sedan, the spec sheet for this newest iteration—unveiled just last year—looks promising. Most notable is the addition of an all-wheel-drive option, with Mazda’s “G-Vectoring Control Plus” distributing power between the front and rear wheels as it sees fit.

 

Of course, while the powerplant isn’t the groundbreaking compression-ignition Skyactiv-X many have been waiting for, the numbers of the more-conventional Skyactiv-G are still impressive: 186 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. of torque, with an easy-to-live-with 27 mpg combined.

 

Our loaner was a 2020 model equipped with the premium package and all-wheel drive, as well as exclusive “Machine Gray Metallic” paint (a $300 option), bringing the total to $29,200.

 

 

 

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Dear Mazda,

The 3 is really nice. And I don’t mean that in any kind of backhanded way. It is nice. It’s quiet on the highway. It looks rich. It feels more upscale than you’d think. The touchpoints feel soft. Even the taillights look cool.

My unofficial-but-not-really-unofficial litmus test for whether a car counts as upscale of not: auto up and down on all of the power window switches. And the Mazda3 has them. Insert golf clap here.

More upscale features: The assorted warning chimes and buzzers sound pleasant and modern, like someone took the time to engineer a soundtrack for the car. See also the displays that have a rich, curated look to them. It doesn’t feel like the least expensive car in the lineup. The detail work is noticed.

More stuff to like: Even with the automatic, performance feels lively. The Sport switch actually does more than just extend the time spent in each gear. No, it’s not a modern ’Speed3, but it’s not pedestrian, either. No matter which Mazda3 Hatchback variant chosen, it comes with a 186-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine. (And you can get a manual box with the front-drive Premium model.)

The seats offer plenty of support. While not for everyone, I dug our car’s red and black interior that, again, looked and felt upscale. While Mazda’s version of iDrive requires a bit of a learning curve, the knobs and switches deliver satisfying action.

Our tester provided a quiet, comfortable ride on the highway. LED headlamps are much appreciated.

So, my question to anyone reading this: Why are sales down an alarming amount for a model that was new for 2019? Mazda found just 3507 Mazda3 buyers in September 2019. A year earlier, they sold 4635 cars that month. That’s a 24.3% drop. Insert gulp of reality here.

Yes, you can say that small car sales are down, but September vs. September sales for the Corolla are down just 2.1%. And if you want a bigger gulp, check out Mazda6 sales: September vs. September figures are down 47.3%, with just 1119 units leaving showrooms during September 2019.

Questions for the audience: Is it marketing and public relations? Is Mazda’s message reaching the consumer? Is it Mazda’s loss of overall market share? (Aside from the CX-3, their latest sales report has little to celebrate as the entire chart is a sea of red ink.)

Does the average Mazda buyer care about a prototype racing program? Does the lack of a hybrid in the entire lineup send customers elsewhere? Is the brand just too small to take on Toyota and the Koreans?

Mazda has long been a favorite among the GRM crowd. And the brand’s cars have in fact offered a little extra dose of sport. While it faces many strong competitors in a shrinking market, the latest Mazda3 is a fine automobile with no real faults.

If only their sales numbers reflected those facts.

Colin Wood Colin Wood
Associate Editor

Maybe it’s because I didn’t have any curvy canyon roads to push the car around, or maybe it’s because our loaner was equipped with an automatic transmission instead of a manual transmission, but the Mazda 3 came across to me as a perfectly average car. Sure, there were sporty undertones, but I really had to dig for them to find them on my commute. And that was particularly surprising to me considering what I’ve come to expect out of a Mazda.

Regardless, the Mazda 3 came across as a very mature, modern car. I’m not crazy about how wide the rear pillars are, but I know that the styling will grow on me. As well, the metallic grey paint our Mazda 3 came with convinced me that grey can actually look pretty good (and even stand out) in the right shade. Inside is more of that same formula, where I was nicely greeted by a full red and black leather interior.

Overall, this is the perfect car for a young-ish professional (or someone who’s looking to fit some youth into their life) that wants to look cool pulling out of the parking garage after work. It has a sporty look to it, but it will behave as any other average car under normal conditions. This is in no way doubting that the 2020 Mazda 3 isn’t a fun car to drive, it’s just that it wasn’t the most exciting thing to drive on the flat, straight road that lead from my house to the office. If nothing else, this was a lesson that even the most fun cars to drive can be muted by boring roads.

J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

While it took a while for us to get a new Mazda3, apparently Mazda spent that time turning it into a junior luxury car. The newest 3 feels decidedly upmarket, and not just from the generous equipment list that our Premium Package test car was outfitted with. It’s got the general poise and refined demeanor of something far more German, like a BMW 2 Series, or Benz A Class than the previous 3, which was a nice, but ultimately economy-focused compact.

The downside of all this newfound niceness is that the 3 seems to have lost whatever edge it had in previous iterations. Yeah, it’s nice, but it’s not thrilling. Mazdas have always lived by their driving dynamics—even my wife’s 2016 CX-5 drives in a more connected way than any small sport ute has a right to, but this newest 3 seems to have traded some of that signature Mazda immediacy for disconnected comfort. It’s… fine. It’s a really hard cat to complain about, because it presses a lot of great buttons: Lots of features, all-wheel-drive, pleasing, comfortable interior. It’s just lacking some of the excitement we’ve normally associated with Mazdas of years past.

So I’m not going to be too hard on the most recent 3. After all, for $30,000 it does what other premium small sedans need $10,000 more to accomplish. But it’s not doing it in a very exciting way in this iteration so far. Fingers crossed for a Mazdaspeed variant in the near future to take on the baby AMGs and Audi S cars.

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RustBeltSherpa
RustBeltSherpa New Reader
11/20/19 12:02 p.m.

I wonder if Mazda's move upscale is working against them in the short term. As the owner of a 2013 CX-5(Sport- 6speed manual) and a 1991 Miata, I'm sold on Mazda's sportiness factor. But; if in the market for a 3, I'd be looking for a gently used 2016-18 Sport with a manual and 2.0 engine.

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
11/20/19 12:53 p.m.

The wife recently sold her MazdaSpeed 3.  We looked at the new 3.... nope.  Obviously not as sporty, manuals not available in all trim level, auto was not really impressive power wise and very bad rear visibility.

Mazda looses a long time customer (B2000 to Miata to Speed3).  You used to be able to depend on Mazda for a certain type of car / driving experience, not sure that is true anymore (perhaps it's the buying public that is no longer responding to it).

Nutsid
Nutsid New Reader
11/20/19 12:57 p.m.

In reply to RustBeltSherpa :

I have owned at least one Mazda since I was 17 - I am 35 now - until now. I traveled the country in an NB Miata and when I was done had decided I was moving across the country. I was trading the Miata in on something with space. The problem was, I needed something that would fill the itch the Miata filled. The only cars that fit the bill was a GTI and a Velostar. I went with the GTI because of the styling. I really wasn't ready to leave Mazda behind so I drove a 3 hatch, but before I even got out of the parking lot of the dealership I was over it. It wasn't going to be sporty enough. While the GTI doesn't fit the Miata's shoes entirely, it fits exactly what I needed my car to be. Currently, the only car Mazda has to offer that appeals to me is the ND, and that obviously can't haul anything around anywhere.

List of previously owned Mazdas:

2017 CX5

2012 3 hatch

2010 3 hatch

2004 Rx8

2004 Miata

1992 Miata

1989 Rx7

1985 Rx7

1984 Rx7

1983 Rx7

 

Now I find myself looking at other brands for what I need out of a car.

chuyler2
chuyler2 New Reader
11/20/19 2:49 p.m.

Mazda used to treat it's enthusiast customers well.  I ordered a Protege5 fully loaded with a stick shift back in 2003.  In 2007 I picked up a Mazdaspeed6 fully loaded (only came in stick).  By the time I was ready for something new they offered nothing but base trim vehicles with stick shift.  I bought a Jeep instead.  My wife is due for a new car, she drives stick also.  The Mazda3 would be at the top of her list if it came in AWD with a stick.  It doesn't.  So I'm having trouble getting her to even test drive it.

Dave M
Dave M HalfDork
11/20/19 5:53 p.m.
RustBeltSherpa said:

I wonder if Mazda's move upscale is working against them in the short term. As the owner of a 2013 CX-5(Sport- 6speed manual) and a 1991 Miata, I'm sold on Mazda's sportiness factor. But; if in the market for a 3, I'd be looking for a gently used 2016-18 Sport with a manual and 2.0 engine.

It's like Kia selling the Stinger: if your dealership experience is half a step up from buy here, pay here, you're going to have a lot of trouble moving upscale. Mazda dealers by me are uniformly scummy. Good luck!

gardnpc
gardnpc New Reader
11/20/19 6:53 p.m.

I hope the buying public doesn't give up on Mazda.  It's the poor man's BMW, although that can be debated.  Mazda has a unique tradition of giving us affordable cars that are great driver's cars.  I'd much rather have a Mazda than a Toyota or Honda.  My question...when will Mazda turbo their line of cars to give us the hp we need????

wrenchklutz
wrenchklutz New Reader
11/20/19 7:18 p.m.

We just bought a Mazda3 with the premium package a month ago.  Unlike most of the previous posters, we have loved the car.  It doesn't make a big deal out of handling, it just goes where you think it should go, no muss, no fuss, no lean.  The chassis feels like it's carved out of a solid block of aluminum.  Suspension components are a bit on the snug side compared to most everything else I've driven lately, which is fine with me.  Sport mode kicks things up a notch.  Comfortable, high-quality interior.  Yes, it has an auto, but it's a good one, and if I want to row gears, there's always the Alfa.  And the dealer's service department has been great about customer service.  The only bad thing is that two of the tires (Toyo's) were out of round and were replaced under warranty. Regarding marketing, where does Mazda advertise these days?  I see constant ads for Nissan, Toyota, Kia, Ford, Chevy, and Ram on the tube.  No Mazda.  If you want to sell, you gotta tell people what you're offering.

CyberEric
CyberEric HalfDork
11/20/19 8:24 p.m.

Mazda has been getting ripped in a fair number of the reviews I’ve read of this new 3. 

A few years ago they were winning every comparison with every model in C&D.

I haven’t driven the new car, so I’ll reserve judgement, but from the sidelines I’m concerned we are losing a good driver’s car, and car company.

That said, I wonder if this is more of the change in image than any thing else. The Cx-5, 9, and 6 (and Miata of course) are all pretty much the drivers choice in their categories, Again just what I see in the media. And there have been some good reviews of the new 3 too. Speed hunters (I think) did a track session w the AWD and were quite positive about it.

dxman92
dxman92 HalfDork
11/20/19 10:10 p.m.

I'm not crazy about the fact that you have to pay almost $30k to get the manual box in the new 3 sedan. That said, I've owned a 6 speed manual CX-5 and I'd own another in a heartbeat.

_
_ Dork
11/21/19 12:12 p.m.

How's the auto? 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
11/21/19 12:18 p.m.
_ said:

How's the auto? 

It's pretty good, but it's an economy car. So it's not like it's performance oriented like a DCT, but it does the job it needs to very well.

*I have an '18 Mazda 3 touring with the auto.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
11/21/19 12:23 p.m.

It's funny how much that thing looks like a half-scale CX-9.  And from a distance, I can't tell a CX-5 from a CX-9, and I drive a CX-9!  I guess they pay their designers for one drawing, then use it to make all their cars.

_
_ Dork
11/21/19 1:14 p.m.

Smoking tire did a cx-3 auto drive. He seemed to be impressed by the shifts. I was too, and I wasn't even in the car. That's why I asked about the automatic. Seems like a great automatic if you have to have one. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
11/21/19 3:56 p.m.
_ said:

Smoking tire did a cx-3 auto drive. He seemed to be impressed by the shifts. I was too, and I wasn't even in the car. That's why I asked about the automatic. Seems like a great automatic if you have to have one. 

Yep. I have no complaints. And if you put it in "Sport" it does quicken the shifts and hold the gears longer. In the 'Normal" mode, the car is in a huge rush to get the lowest gear possible as quickly as possible.

CyberEric
CyberEric HalfDork
11/21/19 8:41 p.m.

In reply to _ :

I think the auto is great. Is it lightning fast with the paddle shifters? Not quite, but it’s pretty quick and in Sport mode it rev matches and engine brakes. 

What I like is you can be in Auto mode, and click the down shift paddle and it does it whenever you need some extra engine braking.

jwagner
jwagner New Reader
11/21/19 9:30 p.m.

I think JG nailed it:  It's a Junior Luxury Car that has lost it's edge.

I've got a first generation 3 and it reminds me a lot of my Miata - a buzzy 3500 RPM on the freeway and sharp handling in a four door package.

I had a 2nd generation 3 and it was a more civilized but still sporting and fun to drive.  Also faster with the 2.5L and 6 speed.

My girlfriend just replaced her crashed 3rd generation 3 and after driving the new one - $30K for an "upscale economy car" (a sunroof was a necessity) she bought a CX-5 for about the same price.  I hate SUVs but I couldn't disagree with her choice. 

The fourth gen car is a really nice ride, more sophisticated, more luxury, and unfortunately, not a 3 anymore.

YMMV

Dootz
Dootz Reader
11/25/19 4:10 a.m.

The pricing pretty much competes with the mid-size market - easy way to kill your compact car's sales.

Add in the fact that even the new Sentra is going to be coming in with IRS, and that's pretty much gameover for the Mazda3. Nice car, but what it has going for it is not what compact segment buyers are looking for.

killeen_john
killeen_john New Reader
3/1/20 10:55 a.m.

My wife noticed that new 2019 Mazda3 hatchbacks with AWD are available for $17,558 and seems like a lot of car for the price.  My 2007 Mazda3 has been great so, another Mazda3 is appealing but, I'm very concerned with the cylinder deactivation.  Anyone willing to share longer term ownership experience with this new model?

https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/773305777/overview/

_
_ Dork
3/1/20 6:54 p.m.

In reply to killeen_john :

What is to be concerned about?

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
3/1/20 9:42 p.m.

For me, Mazda suffers from my high expectations. Lately they always seem to be able to and close to  making something awesome and end up making something... good. Which is fine, but it doesn't set me on fire with anticipation, need, want, whatever. I do think the latest 3 is one of the less-well-executed models in the lineup. Interior is good, the powertrains that are offered are good, but it's lacking a little breadth there and the styling... well, it's basically an automotive catfish. It photographs well from certain angles but is not actually an overall good looking car in my opinion.  

 

CyberEric
CyberEric HalfDork
3/1/20 10:39 p.m.

In reply to _ :

It was reported to be... problematic. Something about cruising and then asking for rapid acceleration caused things to hit things that should not hit. There is a software fix that supposedly ups the oil pressure and fixes the problem. Time will tell. I haven't read up on it in the past few months.

I wonder if you can get them without the cylinder deactivation. You can in the CX-30, IIRC.

Advan046
Advan046 UltraDork
3/2/20 12:18 p.m.

I must say that I think Mazda is going the right direction. It is the only way for them to stay profitable. I wish they would at least offer some meaningful Mazdaspeed parts for their 3, 6, and Miata.

My biggest issue with the current 3 hatch is I think it has very bad exterior styling. 

I have wanted a 6 manual or 3 manual for many years now. Just hasn't worked out. But they remain strong on my used car list. 

Mazda is the only brand that I recommend to family though. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
3/2/20 1:35 p.m.

There are a number of things keeping me from wanting to replace my current, trusty 2012 3 hatch with a new one:

-Styling. The front looks great. The back looks great. The side profile looks like a 1973 AMC Gremlin. I like Gremlins and all, but not mixed with the 3. It has what we used to call "MySpace Angles". I kinda like it, but also kinda don't.

-Price. To get one the way I want it (that means with a manual transmission), Cost of entry is $9000 more than what I paid for mine new. Yes, I bought that nearly 9 years ago, but a similarly equipped Corolla Hatch with a stick and the XSE package is about $22k, not $29k like the 3 is now. And you can't even get AWD with the stick. For shame!

-The Competition. The Corolla XSE is closest to the 3 in terms of a car in its class, but it is short about 20hp. I bet they are close in a real-life scenario, though. So, what else can you buy for $29k? In its own class, the Civic Si comes to mind, and it's $4k less. The GTI is around the same money, as is the WRX with some bells and whistles. Then, there's the Hyundai stuff that can be had with all the performance goodies for around the same. With $29k, you can also step up a class and get an Accord Sport, a Mazda 6 Grand Touring, or a ton of other options.

I'm sure it's a fine car, but it's not for me, sadly. I'm guessing they stop selling it altogether in the next couple years. They have priced themselves out of the market, which is dwindling due to the obsession with CUV's.

FWIW, the auto trans in these is likely the same one that's in all of the other Mazdas, and it's great. The one in our CX-5, especially in Sport Mode, can be entertaining.

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
3/2/20 3:46 p.m.

They have priced themselves out of the market, which is dwindling due to the obsession with CUV's.

Seems almost intentional when you frame it a certain way.  I'll be sad to see the 3 go but it's not what it started as and has no halo model that would raise it's image even above that of a cx-3 or cx-30. It's just a 'good small car that happens to be a mazda but isn't the best mazda even at its price point'. Yeesh. It almost seems to exist only to satiate CUV-haters, but considering the CUV haters have a lot of overlap with people wanting a sporty drive, they really should have made it faster if nothing else. 

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 UberDork
3/2/20 4:08 p.m.
dxman92 said:

I'm not crazy about the fact that you have to pay almost $30k to get the manual box in the new 3 sedan. That said, I've owned a 6 speed manual CX-5 and I'd own another in a heartbeat.

Same here. When I was searching for a new sporty DD I had to immediately throw out the Mazda 3 hatch w/ manual because of the price. I can get a similarly equipped Honda Civic Hatchback Sport with 3 pedals for nearly $6-7k less. For the price of a Mazda 3 Hatchback with a stick shift you can also have yourself a Veloster N. 

The interior is a great place to be and it drvies well but paying an upmarket price for an entry level car isn't going to happen. I hate that Mazda is doing this because I do enjoy their cars, I used to always shoot for a Mazda 6 rental car when on work travel--which you also don't see anymore in rental car lots. I feel like their upmarket push is a bit long in the tooth and they are losing some of their longtime core customers, I fear they will even lose their depressed millennial crowd who are currently driving clapped out NAs and NBs.  

oldeskewltoy
oldeskewltoy UberDork
3/3/20 9:29 a.m.

we've had our 2019 for 5300 miles so far....  it is an auto awd, with the preferred pkg - we chose not to spend an extra $5 grand on the premium.    As far as sporty... it may not be the earlier car... but that is perfectly fine with me, and swmbo.    It goes where it is pointed, and it does it moderately drama-free.  Yes rear visibility is poor, but the car is equipped with nannies... that can be "tuned" to some degree.   Back up cam, side warning, lane warning, along with mirrors.....  my wife calls it "Zen".

 

Power is good, trans is ok (someone said it rushes to be in top gear - that is true) it also is unlike(for me) other autos as coasting seems to be one of its high mileage traits..???   "SPORT" is just trans shift points... I'll occasionally use it, but for the most part it says in normal.   MPG - yeah... not 27... more like 25.

Brakes - like them. 

Suspension - still unsure... car does "feel" tight most of the time... but going over bad, broken roads it almost feels like the suspension bushings are "soft".

 

We have had the one recall - false braking issue - software update.  We are lucky on this, as early 2019 models required cluster upgrades as well - which means you carry a modified odometer

 

 

As to its looks... One of the negatives about the Mazda3 line up in my eyes was it always ugly... too many different lines all competing for attention.  With the 2019 model, the lines are all smooth, the front and rear end treatments look very good.......

 

Wicked93gs
Wicked93gs Reader
3/3/20 10:22 a.m.
Nutsid said:

In reply to RustBeltSherpa :

I have owned at least one Mazda since I was 17 - I am 35 now - until now. I traveled the country in an NB Miata and when I was done had decided I was moving across the country. I was trading the Miata in on something with space. The problem was, I needed something that would fill the itch the Miata filled. The only cars that fit the bill was a GTI and a Velostar. I went with the GTI because of the styling. I really wasn't ready to leave Mazda behind so I drove a 3 hatch, but before I even got out of the parking lot of the dealership I was over it. It wasn't going to be sporty enough. While the GTI doesn't fit the Miata's shoes entirely, it fits exactly what I needed my car to be. Currently, the only car Mazda has to offer that appeals to me is the ND, and that obviously can't haul anything around anywhere.

List of previously owned Mazdas:

2017 CX5

2012 3 hatch

2010 3 hatch

2004 Rx8

2004 Miata

1992 Miata

1989 Rx7

1985 Rx7

1984 Rx7

1983 Rx7

 

Now I find myself looking at other brands for what I need out of a car.

Why would you not just buy different vehicles for different purposes? Daily commute/fun where you are only hauling yourself a Miata is just fine....a beat up old pickup to haul things...and a minivan to haul people. I don't understand people trying to make 1 vehicle to everything....all you get when you try that is a vehicle that does nothing well. 3 vehicles with different purposes can be had for the cost of one new SUV.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
3/3/20 10:33 a.m.
Tony Sestito said:


-Price. To get one the way I want it (that means with a manual transmission), Cost of entry is $9000 more than what I paid for mine new. Yes, I bought that nearly 9 years ago, but a similarly equipped Corolla Hatch with a stick and the XSE package is about $22k, not $29k like the 3 is now. And you can't even get AWD with the stick. For shame!

I bought my 2018 Mazda 3 in August of 2018 brand new, and after some haggling got the dealer down to $16,000....for the Sport model with the 6MT.  So the 2019 in the only trim you can get with a manual is almost double the price.  Granted, it also comes with the larger engine and bunch of other goodies, but for me the 6MT was the raison d'etre.  

The Corolla has a CVT and the rental-spec one I drove a few months back was buzzy, slow, and unhappy.  This is likely why the Mazda automatic is superior, if you're into that whole car-shifting-for-you thing.  

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
3/3/20 10:34 a.m.

In reply to Wicked93gs :

Except then you have to register, title, insure, park, and maintain 3 clunkers.  Which is not a big deal for some, but I wager it is for most.  

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
3/3/20 1:06 p.m.

I just spotted a manual 3 (in white, just like mine) for $25k with some incentives in a local search. That's better; even at the high end of what it should be, it's at least competitive. The manual 3 used to match up well on paper with other performance-minded compacts like the Civic Si, giving up a little performance for creature comforts.

I bought mine mainly because of this. I actually wanted a Civic Si, but the Japanese tsunami shut the factories down at the time (late 2011) and they weren't making them. I bought my 3 new for the same money as a used Si was going for, and traded the availability and extra cargo space for a few 10ths of a second less in the 0-60 times.

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