• An evolution of Mazda3 design, performance and technology
  • Priced from $21,000
  • On sale in March
  • Sleek new looks meet Mazda’s inherent athletic handling
  • First all-wheel-drive system available on a Mazda3

 

Mazda's new overhead philosophy of "Mazda Premium" gets its first full-on test with the upcoming 2019 Mazda Mazda3. From the look of things and our first driving impressions, the new versions of the company's venerated compact 5-seat 4-door sedan and hatchback are worthy evolutions of the brand.

The new 2019 Mazda3 goes on sale in March with base prices ranging from $21,000 to $28,900. In addition to selecting from sedan and hatchback body styles, buyers can also specify front- or all-wheel drive models. A total of 9 trims are being offered.

Looking good, Mazda3

Styling-wise, both vehicles carry on as some of the best-looking compacts going. Both are recognizable as evolutions of the Mazda3s they are replacing. Their exterior surfaces smoother than ever as part of the latest iteration of Mazda's "Kodo" design philosophy, which would remove every character line it could (if it could), but somehow really works for all of the Mazda vehicles.

Dimensionally, the new Mazda3s are close to their predecessors, but with a few notable exceptions. The sedan is stretched three inches over the current model which adds an air of elegance, while the hatchback drops nearly half an inch to hunker it down for a sportier look. Both models gain a full inch in wheelbase, which may add a bit to the rear-seat legroom (always a plus in the compact-car arena). For lipstick purposes, the Mazda3 hatchback gets a new exterior color -- Polymetal Gray and will again offer extra-cost paints like Soul Red Crystal for $595, Machine Gray Metallic for $300 and Snowflake White Pearl Mica for $200.

Mazda is still serious about driving

The 2019 Mazda3's under-the-hood engine offering is the Skyactiv-G version of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder -- good for 186 horsepower and 186lb-ft of torque. All models are equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission except for the Premium hatchback, where a 6-speed manual can be substituted at no cost.

Driving impressions

We had a chance to briefly test the 2019 Mazda3 sedan around the Los Angeles region, driving from the traffic-choked streets of West Hollywood to the famed mountain roads of Angeles Crest highway. The models provided by Mazda to test were higher-trim, front-wheel-drive sedans with the 2.5-liter SkyActiv G gasoline engine (stay tuned for all-wheel drive and other variants as they are closer to launch).

The first and most immediate thing we noticed are the improvements to the new Mazda3’s NVH – noise, vibration, and harshness. The engineers’ work has paid off, making the new Mazda3 feel like it has luxury-vehicle levels of quietness. The same can be said for its overall rigidity. Close the door and there’s a gratifying “thunk” akin to a German luxury car, not a mainstream compact car.

The Mazda3 has always been among the most satisfying cars in its class, if your idea of satisfaction involves a fun-to-drive nature. Mazdas have athleticism in their genes, and this all-new, fourth-generation Mazda3 retains them well. This was most obvious in our run up and down the mountain road. The new Mazda3 remains among the best – if not the best – handling vehicle in its segment.

Even with the switch to a torsion beam rear suspension, the 2019 Mazda3 remains agile and spry. Steering is spot on and plays a big part in the Mazda’s more dynamic attitude. The feel is precise and stiffer than some competitors, as is its suspension overall. The tradeoff -- and payoff, if you enjoy fun-to-drive cars -- is the Mazda’s spry handling.

Power-wise, the new Mazda3 now comes standard with the formerly optional, up-level engine of the outgoing vehicle: Mazda’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that’s good for 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers felt just enough for the new Mazda3. Initial power delivery has actually been smoothed for this new vehicle, which makes it feel slightly less punchy off the line, even if it’s just as quick as the current model.

For the instances when we craved more oomph – such as our run up Angeles Crest – we switched to sport mode. Doing this doesn’t grant more power or even change steering feel, but does make a significant difference in shift patterns. When engaged, Mazda’s in-house 6-speed automatic holds gears longer and gives the vehicle more verve overall. We should also mention that even in normal mode, the 6-speed works admirably, with just enough engagement to remind you that it isn’t a boring CVT.

Our takeaway from this initial test is that the Mazda3 remains a fun, dynamic compact car that aims to make the most of the power that it has. More notably for the majority of drivers, the new Mazda3 offers a more refined, premium drive experience.

We look forward to testing other variants as they come online, including hatchback models with the manual transmission, and eventually the potentially ground breaking new Skyactiv-X engine. That powerplant runs on gasoline but combines a gas engine's spark ignition (that's what spark plugs do) and a diesel engine's compression ignition (that's how diesels work) to get the advantages of both. Skyactiv-X's promised benefits include stronger initial response and significantly more torque, with better fuel economy. 

Mazda fans in the Northeast who aren't already driving a CX-5 will be happy to hear that all-wheel drive will be offered for the first time on the new Mazda3. The i-Activ AWD system not only gives you strength at every wheel with traction, it also works with Mazda's G-Vectoring Control Plus to distribute torque between the front and rear wheels, depending on which have more grip.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

The 2019 Mazda3 interior

Inside the 2019 Mazda3, simplicity reigns with a few extra nods to tech. The cockpit design reflects the simple fluidity of the Mazda3's exterior, especially the center console and dash, which are composed of large, unbroken sections of material. Climate controls, horizontal vents, and the cup holders are tucked into the dash, to clean-up the look and allow the center console to extend further forward. The infotainment display still sticks up out of the dash and now features an 8.8-inch screen, still controlled by a knob on the center console. For the new Mazda3, the company consciously studied how we hear within a car's cabin, and repositioned the speakers to get the most out of the standard 8-speaker sound system and optional 12-speaker Bose unit.

We were also impressed with that aspect of the new Mazda3 in our initial test. Controls were easy and satisfying to use, and even the base audio system sounded exceptionally good.

2019 Car Reviews: First takes on new models

Something for everyone

The $21,000 base price is for the Mazda3 front-drive sedan, while the base hatchback is $23,600. Moving up the line, sedan models are offered in Select, Preferred and Premium packages, while the hatchback comes in base AWD, Preferred and Premium packages.

The 2019 Mazda3 Select sedan is priced from $22,600 for front drive and $24,000 when equipped with AWD. Front-drive Mazda3 4-door models with the Preferred package cost $24,200 and $25,600 with all-wheel drive. The Premium package starts at $26,500 for sedans and all-wheel drive bumps that to $27,900.

The higher-priced hatchback starts at $25,200 for front-drive Preferred and $26,600 when AWD is added. Premium hatchbacks start at $27,500 and topping the range is the all-wheel drive Premium hatchback with an MSRP of $28,900. All prices exclude $895 destination and handling.

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