The Mazda3 is easily the most attractive compact car sold in mainstream America today, especially in five-door hatchback format. It really is better than ever. The styling is near-exotic, the interior is masterfully designed, as well. The technology is easy to use, and the level of materials quality outdoes every other model at its price point, as well as one level up on the price spectrum. The problem is that the thing isn't selling well at all.
The final year of the last generation Mazda3 saw 64,638 sold units in 2018. The newly redesigned 2019 model sold only 50,741, a drop of 13,897 units. The Mazda3 wasn't selling in big numbers to begin with. Consider the fact that in 2018, the super-boring Toyota Corolla (which was worse than the Mazda3 in just about every way except for reliability, space, and fuel economy) sold a mindblowing 303,732 units.
We get that the Mazda3 has been a bit of an also-ran in terms of compact car sales. There are so many lesser vehicles that sell way better. The other makers are way bigger and have the huge marketing dollars to promote it. Plus, it seems Mazda can't figure out their brand message. They used to market themselves as the "Zoom-Zoom" company, pointing to the driving fun their vehicles provide. That campaing was quite successful, but they abandoned it for less impressive slogans like "What Do You Drive?", followed by "Driving Matters" and the current and rather vague "Feel Alive"
The last Mazda3, which ended in 2018, was universally praised as wonderful to look at, to drive, and to operate. Both the hatchback and sedan were two of our favorites when we drove them. In fact, we really do love just about everything made by Mazda. But the brand wanted to make big changes to the new Mazda3, even when we didn't think anything needed to be upgraded (okay, the infotainment system wasn't the best). Just take a look at the 2018 Mazda3's interior below, followed by the new 2019 model's interior.
What was already attractive and incredibly well made (it made the Ford Focus hatchback look ten years older) was transformed to premium levels with the new Mazda3. Not only was the exterior of the 2019 Mazd3 beautiful to behold, the interior was echelons better than the 2018 with a wide and layered dash, new crisp triple gauges, streamlined HVAC vents, a sportier steering wheel, and an Audi-like infotainment controller. Everything inside got upgraded... except for the space.
The rear legroom and headroom shrunk by about an inch each, making back seat accommodations tight. The hatchback got impinged in the visibility department because of the styling of the thick (and gorgeous) C-pillar. The brand sacrificed the practicality of the back half in favor of racier styling, and that's a tough pill to swallow for customers. Even the fact that Mazda added optional all-wheel drive to the mix didn't seem to help them.
In an age of crossovers and SUVs, customers want more space, not less. They like big windows and ample leg and headroom, which is a testament to the poor sales of the new Mazda3, which is a crying shame. It really is wonderful to look at, to touch, and to toss around thanks to its superb driving dynamics. It's just not the right mix for Americans, it seems. Enthusiasts adore it (as do we), but that's just not enough.