2019 Mazda3 Hatchback Premium AWD Review

How to make an exotic hatchback


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: One of the most beautifu cars made today, handles better than most sporty cars, interior is sublime, improved infotainment, AWD traction adds versatility.
Negatives: Huge blind spot due to the thick C-pillar, mediocre gas milege, cramped back seat.
Bottom Line: The Mazda3 hatchback has now entered the territory of premium with its superb design and upscale materials. It also happens to drive like a dream. You just have to be ok with a smallish back seat and obstructed sightlines out the back. Other than that, it's just about perfect.
Though the 2018 Mazda3 didn't really need improvement, Mazda didn't quite see it that way. The last one we drove did pretty much everything well. Great hatchback style, an impeccable interior, and sublime driving chops made it one of the best in the segment, with only the infotainment in need of some upgrades. The new 2019 Mazda3 Hatchback ups the style quotient in a huge way, and the interior gets more of everything. If Mazda's considering breaking into premium territory, it looks like they may have already ventured there with the redesign. There's now an all-wheel-drive option, which totally changes the game. We drove it for a week to see if we could fall even more in love. Read on for the full details.
 

Driving Experience

9.3

 

The Mazda3 is a driver's car through-and-through, and it carries on its legacy of great steering, handling, and braking. What we long for, however, is more power to match the chassis and suspension. There's no Mazdaspeed3 coming, so we're not gonna hold our breath, and we'll wait to see what the upcoming Skyactiv-X engine will bring in the way of torque.

Ride Quality: The ride is more firm due to the fact that Mazda gave the new 3 a rear torsion beam axle instead of multi-link, which makes it stiffer. You feel the bumps more, but it's all in the name of handling.

Acceleration: The 3 is no rocket because the same 186-hp from the last car is still on tap here. 0-60 comes in the high 6-second range, but the sportiness and quick transmission makes it feel faster than it is.

Braking: Brakes are strong, and pedal action is progressive, a great match for the driving dynamics. Stops are smooth and authoritative.

Steering: Mazda continues its trend of great steering that's both precise and quick. There's also some feedback, too. The only hatch that compares in this regard is the Honda Civic Sport.

Handling: There's minimum body roll and the new 3 handles the changes far better with AWD and G-Vectoring control, which adjusts power delivery to the rear and shifts vehicle weight to the front wheels in turns. The 3 feels remarkably composed when others fall apart under even moderately aggressive driving.

Technology

8.9

 

Mazda's infotainment system from the last generation was fair to middling. It was easy to use, easy to read, and pretty much no-nonsense. But it was in need of an upgrade to the screen, menus, and controls. The new Mazda3 got exactly what it needed. And thankfully the cheesy flip-up heads-up screen is gone, replaced by direct projection onto the glass.

Infotainment System: The 8.8-inch screen is more vivid, losing that washed out look from the previous generation. Menus are more crisp, and the cheap visuals are gone.

Controls: The Multi-function control knob actuates even better and grows in size, too. The knurled edges are very much Audi, too. Also standard is a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster between the beautiful analog gauges. The cluster provides digital data displays of navigation commands and music info. It's a very nice setup.

Styling

9.9

 

Though the price of the 2019 Mazda3 has climbed significantly ($23,600) from the 2018 model ($19,345), we still wonder how the brand can provide such excellent design and materials quality for the money. The Mazda3 Hatchback is easily the best-looking vehicle in its segment and outdoes more exotic offerings. The sheetmetal sculpting in the back half is simply stunning, and the car's stance gives it serious muscularity combined with elegance.

Front: The slender leading edge of the hood forms the top half of the grille that's been beautifully blackened and flanked by long and attractive headlights. The 3 no longer has fog lights in the lower fascia, and the simplicity an sportiness of the front end is one of the best looks in the industry.

Rear: As much as we love the front end, it's the specialness of the back end that we adore. The sculpted sheetmetal that transitions from the C-pillar to the rear quarter panel and the tailgate is poetic in its fluidity. How Mazda managed to make an artful rear quarter panel and a muscular back end is beyond us, but they pulled it off perfectly. Damn the visibility, they said, and it was worth it.

Profile: Is this the perfect side view? Yes. Mazda did away with creases and opted for subtle and elegant negative space in the body. The whole thing is fluid thanks to a long hood, a raked front windscreen, and a C-pillar to die for. The black wheels are the perfect mate, as well.

Cabin: The interior of the Mazda3 (sedan and hatch) have no equal at this price point or segment. The rich leather, elegant lines, and the crisp layout of the cabin are sumptuous and visually stunning.

Comfort

8

 

You have to sacrifice something in the name of high style, and the Mazda3 hatchback's rear passengers get the raw deal. Both headroom and legroom have been compromised in order for the sloping roofline to exist.

Front Seats: The seats are very comfortable with the right amount of cushioning and bolstering. The headroom and legroom are a bit tight, though, and six-footers will have to push the seat all the way back into an already snug second row.

Rear Seats: It's tight back here since headroom and legroom both drop by around an inch. The sloping roofline and thick pillars also make passengers feel a bit suffocated.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): It's quieter inside than ever before, and the result is that the Mazda3 feels more refined at all speeds.

Visibility: Visibility all over has been compromised in the name of style. While the front and sides aren't bad, the back view is miserable. Lane changes are a challenge without the blind spot monitor and properly angled side mirrors, and the backup camera is a must with the short rear glass.

Climate: Though the climate system's controls are excellent, the airflow has been compromised from the dash vents, which are much thinner now to keep a streamlined look. Heated seats work quickly, at least.

Safety

8.8

 

The Mazda3 retains the mantle it held for safety with the 2018 model year. It does particularly well in crash tests and comes with a solid set of standard safety features. Its adaptive cruise control system works incredibly well with no abrupt stops and starts.

IIHS Rating: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2019 Mazda 3 a Top Safety Pick rating thanks to "good" scores in all crash tests but "acceptable" headlights.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: Our Premium tester cam standard with rear cross traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring system, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Lane Departure Warning System, and Lane Keep Assist.

Optional Tech: Active Driving Display, Adaptive Front Lighting System.

Storage/Cargo

6.8

 

If you're looking for a capacious hatchback, you should look elsewhere. The Honda Civic hatchback, Honda Fit, and the, Hyundai Elantra GT have more usable space for big and small items. It's really the price you pay for slick design.

Storage Space: The first row occupants don't fare too badly in this department. There are two large cubbies at the base of the center stack and a decently sized armrest.

Cargo Room: Cargo room drops by a smidge, which isn't good. It was already tight in the boot. The Mazda3's 20.1 cubic feet of space behind the second row are drops from 2018's 20.2 cubes.

Fuel Economy

7

 

While the ratings are decent, the AWD setup combined with the non-turbo engine make for somewhat compromised fuel numbers. The Honda Civic does better, and it's almost as good to drive (but not to look at). We also drove the car pretty hard in Sport mode, so our numbers are less than what the average human would get.

Observed: 19.6 mpg

Distance Driven: 166 miles

Audio

8.6

 

The Bose system is a very good one and comes standard on the Premium trim. It's clear with solid bass. We're no audiophiles, but our guess is that the smaller cabin dimensions don't make the most of the fullness of the system.



Final Thoughts

Though we're huge pragmatists, especially when it comes to hatchbacks, we also want them to drive well and look great. The Mazda3 is the most mature version of the model, and it's one of the only ones that will turn heads of anyone over 40. It's beautiful from every angle, and it has an interior to show off. It's just too bad the interior is tight, and the visibility isn't something to write home about. That being said, Mazda has clearly jumped to the next echelon in terms of style and sophistication. Now, just bring us a tad more power.

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