In recent years, compact cars have been relegated to being nothing more than just cheap ways from getting from point A to B. But while most of them offer cheap transportation for the masses, Mazda has taken a different, more sporty & premium route with their compact car; the 2020 Mazda 3 Sport – or hatchback if you’re reading this in the United States.
Engine – The Mazda 3 is available with 2 engine options. A base 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder with 155hp or a 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder as equipped in this tester. This 2.5L engine produces 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. Not a whole lot of power but because it is naturally aspirated, the engine response is immediate. There’s no waiting around for a turbocharger to spool up and build boost. Day-to-day driving is more than adequate with this 2.5L engine for the majority of drivers. But if you’re wanting for more, a turbocharged Mazda 3 is in the pipeline.
This GT trim Mazda 3 is also equipped with cylinder deactivation which shuts down 2 cylinders when cruising on a highway. The system itself is undetectable as I never noticed a rough operating engine when it was on 2 cylinder mode and when I needed power, all 4 cylinders reacted immediately. But the purpose of this technology is to save fuel and this particular 2020 Mazda 3 Sport is rated for 6.6 L/100km (35.6 mpg) on a highway and 9.2 L/100km (25.6 mpg) in a city. In the real world, those numbers are very easy to achieve as I averaged around 8.3 L/100km (28.3 mpg) during my week with the Mazda 3 Hatchback.
Transmission – For the 2020 model year, the 6-speed manual transmission is available with the 2.5L engine. Previously it was only available with the 2.0L engine. This 6-speed manual is not quite as slick shifting as the 6-speed in the Mazda MX-5 but it’s not meant to be as sporty as the MX-5. Shifts are smooth and fairly long which makes it perfect for city driving. The clutch too is made for city driving as it is light but it has a very prominent bite point.
Braking – Mazda vehicles have never lacked braking performance whether it’s on the small MX5 or the big CX-9. The 2020 Mazda 3 Sport is no exception. Braking performance is good with a firm but easy to modulate brake pedal. Forward collision alert and emergency automatic braking are standard features on this top GT trim and the lower GS trim but not available on the base GX trim. I have not experienced automatic emergency braking in a vehicle with a manual transmission so I can’t say if it will bring the car to a stop and stall the engine if you don’t depress the clutch or if it will just slow the car down but not fully stop it.
Handling – In recent years, Mazda has built a reputation of having sporty cars & SUVs. This new generation Mazda 3 raised a few eyebrows when Mazda announced that it would move away from multi-link rear suspension to more basic torsion beam rear suspension. However, majority – if not all – Mazda 3 customers won’t notice the difference because this 2020 Mazda 3 Sport still has a sporty handling characteristic.
Steering feel is precise with a good amount of feedback to the driver. It’s also not too heavily weighted nor is it too light; it’s a good balance between enjoyment and daily driving. The Mazda 3 also comes equipped with standard G-Vectoring Control. The system slightly limits engine torque around a corner for better turn-in. You can also opt for an AWD system but it is only available with the 6-speed automatic.
Ride Comfort – While the Mazda 3 is positioned more as a sporty hatchback, the ride comfort is not sacrificed. Yes, it is a tiny bit firmer than a comparable hatchback or sedan from a different manufacturer but you can still drive over potholes without the fear of shaking your teeth. The seats were redesigned in the 2020 Mazda 3 to provide better support and after daily drives, I felt relaxed without any back issues whatsoever.
Interior Space – Front occupants have a generous amount of leg and head room. The driver gets a 10-way power seat (if you opt for the Premium package on the GT or Luxury package on the GS) while the passenger has to make due with a 4-way manually adjustable seat. The rear occupants don’t have as much room though. Leg room is tight if you’re over 6’ and headroom is just as tight. Trunk space is generous at 569L (20 cu-ft) with the seats up and 1,334L (47.1 cu-ft) with the rear seats down.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – This new generation Mazda 3 is very quiet. It feels like you’re in a much more premium and expensive vehicle. The cabin feels very insulated from the outside world. So much so that I had problems when it came to shifting gears because I couldn’t hear the engine until it was already past 3,000 rpms. With the automatic, this is not an issue but with the manual, I prefer to hear the engine to know when I need to shift instead of constantly looking down at the tachometer.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – One of the biggest changes to the Mazda 3’s tech is the new infotainment system. Not only does it have modern graphics but it is faster than the previous generation. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but it is no longer a touch screen. You must use the rotary knob on the center console (which looks suspiciously like the one found on a BMW) or voice controls. However using the rotary knob isn’t all that bad because the menus are laid out in such a way that they work with the rotary knob.
Other gadgets include a full suite of active safety features such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and so on. One feature that stands out above other manufacturers in this category is the available heads-up display. Normally this is a feature that’s found on premium vehicles or more expensive SUVs but it is available on a compact car now.
Interior Design – The interior has been updated for this new generation Mazda 3 and it feels more premium than ever before. Soft leather covers the majority of the dash and all of the controls have a satisfying, premium feel to them when you use them. The new 8.8” infotainment screen looks as though it came out of a luxury vehicle with clear graphics and is well incorporated into the dash. Overall the interior feels and looks very upscale not only for a mainstream car but I would even say that it can compete against premium brands.
Exterior Design – The exterior sees an evolution of the Kodo design language with a blend of sharp lines in the front and smooth curves along the side and back. Depending on your preferences, the styling is a love or hate relationship. I personally think it’s the best looking Mazda 3 to date. One other thing to note are the big C-pillars. They do obstruct a lot of the rear ¾ visibility. Maybe that’s why blind spot sensors are a standard feature across all trim levels.
In all the 2020 Mazda 3 Sport is going further from being a mainstream vehicle to being more of a premium vehicle. That change however does reflect in the price depending on which trim you opt for. The Mazda 3 GX Sport starts at $21,300 CAD with the 6-speed manual transmission. Unfortunately for United States customers, the manual is only available on the top Premium trim. Tick all of the options on the 2020 Mazda 3 Sport, and you end up with a bill that is around the $28,500 CAD ($27,500 USD) mark for this 6-speed. But is it actually worth it? I think it is.
Thank you to Mazda Canada For providing the vehicle. www.Mazda.ca