The Mazda3 is redesigned for 2019, so we’re taking a last look at the 2018 and liking what we see all over again.
What is it?
The Mazda3 is a compact offered in either sedan or hatchback forms. It sits centered the compact mainstream with prices that span the $20K range, and it offers exterior styling, interior pleasantries and driving fun that put it a cut above others in a market segment that rewards beige homogeneity.
Pricing and trims
For 2018, Mazda3 five-door prices range from $20,240 for the five-speed Sport to $25,840 for the automatic Grand Touring, with the Touring trim slotted between the two.
The tester was equipped with both the $1,600 Premium Equipment Package and the $1,750 Appearance Package. If you think you’d like one and not the other, then you’re out of luck: although they are listed separately on the Mazda USA website, the other package immediately becomes mandatory when you select one.
Adding both packages and a few items from the accessories menu brought the tester’s price just $510 short of $30,000.
…and overall, the trimmings are elegant and well-constructed.
The Mazda3 hits most of the desirable safety notes in tests run by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, qualifying it for Top Safety Pick status.
Mazda disperses its active safety features across the trim lineup, so the only way to get them all is to specify the Grand Touring with the Premium Equipment Package. Here’s hoping the 2019 will have them standard for each trim.
The Sport trim makes do with a 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine, while the Touring and Grand Touring bump up to a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter. There’s a lot the larger engine does right, where eagerness to aim for the redline merges with impressive smoothness and a pleasing exhaust note.
The Grand Touring’s automatic transmission is a six-speeder designed with the enthusiast driver in mind, with quick downshifts and firm gear changes.
Sport mode steps up the transmission’s urgency and adds to the grins.
Ride and handling
“Skyactiv” refers to the lightweight approach to design and construction that Mazda says makes its vehicles more fun to drive. Though we’re hesitant to affirm the abstract meanings of made-up corporate terms, the Mazda3 does indeed have the sprightliness that you’d expect from a car with pared-down weight.
It’s all about the transitions. Cars designed more for ride comfort will feel in their element as they lessen the impacts of a rutted lane, but turning the wheel means all that softness needs to compress a bit before the car bends into its new direction. The tested Mazda3 Grand Touring had a compliant ride but still felt ready to spring whenever you were, and that alone makes Mazda’s compact sedan a compelling selection.
Swing open the test car’s door, and your eyes flick from the whites to the blacks in the high-contrast interior. The seats have somewhat narrow backrests, but the subtle side support keeps you well-positioned for the fun of which the Mazda3 is capable.
Much of what you touch, either with your fingers or your hips, is firmly padded. Mazda seems to have thought carefully about all the points with which you’d come in contact.
Small side windows can make the rear seat seem confined, but there’s almost exactly the same amount of headroom back there as in front, and the legroom measurement nudges 36 inches.
The Mazda3’s five-door can hold 20.2 cubic feet with rear seat up – that almost eight cubic feet more than the Mazda3 four-door sedan. Fold the seats, and you have 47.1 cubic feet to work with, making the five-door something like a small wagon when it’s time to haul.
Infotainment and controls
The driver has two stand-up screens at her disposal – the one behind the steering wheel serves as a notification display for driving essentials, and the center touchscreen measures seven inches and has a crisp color display.
Especially appreciated was the remote-located knob controlled audio on/off and volume, as it fell readily to thumb on the center console.
It’s always sad to see a Mazda3 leave when the testing is done. The hatchback is a good fit for the city, even as it feels like a large and luxurious car inside. Over the road, its balance and responsiveness invite you to probe its limits.
The revised Mazda3 promises improvements of every front, but the generation whose last year is 2018 is a winner to start with. When a new model hits the ground, the outgoing one generally becomes a bit cheaper on the used-car market, and that’s great news for buyers admiring this Mazda3’s set of virtues.
2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring Five-Door Automatic
Base price: $24,945
Price as tested, including $895 destination charge: $29,490
Premium Equipment Package: $1,600
- High Beam Control
- Adaptive Front-lighting System
- Heated steering wheel
- Paddle shifters (AT only)
- Mazda Navigation System
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink®
- Lane Departure Warning System
- Lane Keep Assist
- Mazda Radar Cruise Control
- Smart Brake Support
- Traffic Sign Recognition
Appearance Package: $1,750
- Brilliant Black Front Air Dam
- Side Sills
- Rear Diffuser
- Door Mirror Caps
Doorsill Trim Plates: $125
Rear Bumper Guard: $100
Carpet Cargo Mat: $75
- Fluid handling
- Comfortable ride
- Agreeable tech features
- Familiar styling
- Pricey with options
- Limited availability for active safety features