First Drive: 2019 Mazda3

Blend of power, handling and comfort make it a segment leader.

by on Mar.26, 2019

The new 2019 Mazda3 confirms the brand's leadership position within the small car segment.

Small cars or relatively small vehicles remain a fundamental part of the car business and some companies are just better at making them just as some basketball players are better shooting from beyond the three-point line.

Mazda has long been one of the companies that seems to have the right touch for building successful small cars that earn loyal fans and critical praise. So, the debut of the 2019 Mazda3 sedan and Mazda3 hatchback subcompacts are noteworthy events especially at time when Americans seem to prefer larger sport-utility vehicles.

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Moreover, Mazda’s key Japanese rivals have stated publicly, there is plenty of space in a sprawling U.S. car market for small cars.

The prices for the Mazda3 start at $21,000. But with retail price for a Mazda3 sedan with the premium package pegged at $27,900 and MSRP for the Mazda3 hatchback is set at $28,900, the Mazda3 certainly isn’t the least expensive model found in the subcompact segment.

The Mazda3 comes in both a sedan and, clearly, a hatchback with both carrying plenty of style and comfort in their designs.

However, Mazda has made a substantial effort to give the exterior of the Mazda3 styling that features horizontal lines that emphasize the car’s low, wide stance while supporting a calm surface that is meant to meant to offer a sophisticated sense of beauty.

(Mazda takes cover off new small crossover: CX-30. Click Here for the story.)

The hatchback version of the Mazda3 with its aggressive body side and C pillars that are meant to do away with the traditional body sides, is meant to be sportier and more emotional, according to Mazda’s designers.

The exterior styling, which includes a new grille, and new LED lighting in the front of the car and in the rear of both in the sedan and the hatch and 18-inch wheels, complete the racy exterior of the Mazda3, which looks quite handsome standing at the curb.

The interior of the Mazda3 also is quite handsome with a nicely designed instrument panel and center-stack counsel. Mazda’s designers, with help from the car’s engineers have deliberately pushed the 8.8-inch screen away from the driver and the entertainment and in-vehicle navigation system are controlled by the buttons in the center console or in the case of sound on the steering wheel.

A sophisticated Bose sound system with 12 speakers and terrific sound is available on the Mazda3 and the it also comes with Bluetooth and a suite of driver assistance features that include smart braking, lane departure alerts, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist.

The dashboard of the Mazda3 is a clean design that puts all of the tech options at the driver's fingertips.

Not only is the architecture of the Mazda3’s interior striking it is amply furnished with a nice blend of materials, surfaces and colors. The cabin in both the sedan and the hatchback is quite spacious and feels very comfortable even on a long drive.

It is the excellent driving dynamics of the Mazda3, which built on an all-new platform, that sets the car apart from the competition even on slick surfaces.

(Click Here for TDB’s first drive in the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata.)

While the powertrain is built around a 2.5-liter engine and a six-speed automatic transmission that produces 186 horsepower and 186-foot pounds of torque, Mazda also is making a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system available at higher trim levels.

The predictive all-wheel-drive system available on Mazda combined with standard Sciatic-Vehicle Dynamics with G-Vectoring Control Plus helps react to the possible loss of traction by actively monitoring everything from outside temperature and windshield wiper usage to the driver’s steering and braking patterns. It really works on snowy services, providing additional traction on icy surfaces that provides better control and more grip to help stop on slippery roadways.

The well-balanced suspension built into the Mazda3 was most impressive as we drove through the mountains of Central California. The car’s maneuvers were carefully disciplined while the steering was crisp and accurate and the brakes had plenty of stopping power.

The combination of ample power, sophisticated all-wheel-drive technology and an excellent suspension layout that kept the car under tight control meaning the Mazda3 sedan and the Mazda3 hatchback were enormous fun to drive and underscored one of the most salient selling points of smaller cars – their terrific ability to deliver some pure enjoyment on the road.

The emphasis on the ability to deliver enjoyment is built into Mazda’s design and engineering philosophy and it came out quite clearly during our drive in the California mountains.

Mazda also one of the few carmakers hanging on to its manual transmissions and I also got to drive a Mazda3 with a manual transmission on some city streets. The route was short, but I managed to get lost in a maze of one-way streets around the State of California’s capital building, but the clutch and shift were so smooth they helped ease the stress that is one of the chief drawbacks of driving a stick-shift in heavy traffic.

(To see more about the development of the new Mazda3, Click Here.)

The 2019 Mazda3 is an impressive vehicle for those not particularly enamored with larger vehicles or for anyone at all for that matter.

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