Small sedans with all-wheel drive aren’t plentiful, but the latest player, the 2020 Mazda3 with i-Activ AWD, certainly shakes up the field dominated by the Subaru Impreza. As a 2012 Impreza owner who has happily slogged through awful Chicago winters in my little hatchback, I was curious how Mazda’s AWD compares — and was surprised by how well it does. The Mazda3’s optional AWD recently proved unflappable while driving through a dumping of fresh snow as well as slushy, mixed surfaces.
Related: AWD Vs. 4WD: What’s the Difference?
What makes an AWD system stand out is when it’s imperceptible to the driver. We don’t want to observe wheel slippage before power is transferred to the wheels with traction, a flaw that honestly is less common than it used to be, but some cars still favor a front-wheel bias or entirely decouple a set of wheels for fuel economy that can result in delay when power is needed.