The Mazda 3 is one of the best selling compact cars here in Canada and it’s easy to see why. It looks great, drives even better, and is reasonably priced. This year, Mazda didn’t change the recipe but improved upon it with the introduction of the 4th generation 2019 Mazda 3 GT.
Engine – The new Mazda 3 is available with 2 engine options. A base 2.0L producing 155 hp and a 2.5L producing 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque as equipped in this GT trim. Because this 2.5L engine is naturally aspirated, throttle response is immediate. However, because it is not turbocharged like many other compact cars in this segment, it doesn’t feel as punchy when you put your foot hard on the throttle pedal. Mazda can easily fix this by putting in the 2.5L turbocharged engine from the CX-5 in the Mazda 3 along with the AWD system and perhaps call it a “Mazdaspeed”. But that’s a story for another time. To get the most out of this naturally aspirated 2.5L engine, you have to take it up in the rpm range.
While the engine does like to be higher up in the rpm range, fuel economy is not too bad. The 2.5L comes equipped with cylinder deactivation when cruising to save some fuel. Mazda claim a fuel economy rating of 8.8 L/100km (26.7 mpg)in a city and 6.6 L/100km (35.6 mpg) on a highway in this front-wheel-drive configuration. With the optional all-wheel-drive powertrain, those numbers are a bit higher. During my time with the car, I averaged 8.0 L/100km with majority of that being city driving.
Transmission – For the longest time Mazda has stuck with the 6-speed automatic transmission. While the competition has moved to 7, 8, or 9 speed transmissions or CVTs, Mazda has pretty much perfected the 6-speed automatic. Shifts are very quick for a traditional automatic, both upshifts and downshifts. However, if you prefer to shift gears yourself, a 6-speed manual is available but only with the 2.0L engine and only in front-wheel-drive configuration.
Braking – Mazda vehicles have never lacked braking performance whether it’s on the small MX5 or the big CX-9. The 2019 Mazda 3 GT 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.
Handling – As I’ve alluded to in this review so far, the 2019 Mazda 3 is available with AWD. I actually wrote a review of an AWD version in the form of the Mazda 3 Sport. On dry pavement, it’s very hard to discern between this FWD and an AWD variant because the engine’s power doesn’t overwhelm the front tires with torque. Mazda’s have always been the sporty bunch of the compact car segment and this 4th generation is no different.
With the standard G-Vectoring control, which slightly limits engine torque around a corner for better turn-in, the 3 feels agile and light on its wheels. Steering effort is harder than other cars in this class but it feels more rewarding when you want to have fun.
Ride Comfort – While the Mazda 3 is positioned more as a sporty sedan, 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 2019 Mazda 3 GT 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 374L (13.2 cu-ft) with the seats up and 940L (33.2 cu-ft) with the rear seats down. If you’re looking for more cargo volume, the hatchback version of the Mazda 3 offers a bit more space.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – If you’re looking for a quiet car, this is the one to seriously consider. The cabin feels very insulated from the outside world. So much so that when I drove a manual Mazda 3, I continuously had to look down at the tachometer to see when to shift gears because I could not hear the engine for an audible cue as to when to change gears. It’s the same story when driving on a highway. Road and wind noise are very well subdued and it makes the 3 feel more like a premium car.
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 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.
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 ever but others that I’ve spoken to don’t agree.
Compared to the Mazda 3 Sport, the sedan does not have the big c-pillar that obstructs the rear ¾ view of the driver. The rear window is bigger than the one in the Sport and just like the Sport, the sedan is available with blind spot sensors.
Interior Design – The interior has been updated for this new generation Mazda 3 and it feels more premium than ever before. Soft leather covers 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 premium vehicle with clear graphics and is well incorporated into the dash. Overall the interior is feels and looks very upscale not only for a mainstream car but I would even say that it can compete against premium brands.
In all the 2019 Mazda 3 GT 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 sedan starts at $18,000 CAD and can go up to $30,400 CAD for the GT trim with AWD. This GT trim in FWD configuration will set you back $28,700 CAD before fees and taxes. A comparable Hyundai Elantra Ultimate is just over $2,000 CAD less than the Mazda 3, so is the Mazda worth the extra money? I think it is. A great driving car with a premium feel but without the Mercedes or BMW or Audi price tag.
Thank you to Mazda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mazda.ca