2020 Mazda Mazda3

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$21,500

starting MSRP

2020 Mazda Mazda3
2020 Mazda Mazda3

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Sharp handling
  • Steering feedback
  • Interior quality
  • Manual transmission still available

The bad:

  • Narrow driver’s seat
  • Small backseat
  • Multimedia system interface
  • Rivals offer better gas mileage
  • All-wheel drive lowers gas mileage

8 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2020 Mazda Mazda3 trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • More standard active safety features
  • Five-seat compact sedan or hatchback
  • Front- or all-wheel drive
  • 186-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine
  • 8.8-inch dashboard display
  • Manual transmission available

2020 Mazda Mazda3 review: Our expert's take

By Kelsey Mays

The verdict: Redesigned for 2019, the Mazda3 doubles down on its roots as a car for drivers, not passengers.

Versus the competition: Drivability and quality shine in the fourth-generation Mazda3, but a cramped interior and fussy controls might push consumers to more practical — and often less expensive — alternatives.

Available as a sedan or hatchback, the Mazda3 comes standard with a punchier four-cylinder engine than is the compact-class norm. The prior generation’s base engine has been dropped for the U.S. market, but all-wheel drive is newly optional. Stick-shift enthusiasts can still get a manual in the hatchback’s highest trim level; other trims have an automatic. We tested the automatic on a hatchback and later a sedan, both well-equipped examples with AWD. Compare both cars, or read our initial thoughts after driving the Mazda3 at a media preview.

Styling and Visibility

Mazda hinted at the Mazda3 hatchback with the beady-eyed Kai concept in late 2017, but the production car is no less dramatic. A heavily raked windshield sweeps nearly over the front seats, while enormous rear pillars envelop the back half. It’s as much pillar as you get in hatchbacks like the Hyundai Veloster or erstwhile Honda CR-Z, and it hurts visibility just as much. If the prior Mazda3 hatch suffered poor sight lines, its successor is even worse. Glance over your shoulder, and an enormous column separates the tapered rear-door window from the tiny rear window.

Over-the-shoulder visibility is far better in the Mazda3 sedan. The rear window remains tiny, but the C-pillars, slimmer by design, no longer engulf adjacent traffic. Both cars position the cabin toward the rear of their respective profiles — a characteristic that makes the windshield seem especially close to the front seats, though it extends far enough over your head to keep traffic lights within your field of view.

How It Drives

Characteristic of the drivetrains in other Mazda products, the Mazda3 pairs a smooth-revving engine — in this case a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 186 horsepower and 186 pounds-feet of torque — with an efficiency-oriented automatic transmission that limits performance potential. The six-speed automatic downshifts swiftly when you need more power, but its tall gearing makes for a long climb up the tachometer. The four-cylinder has gratifying midrange power, but it takes forever to get there from a stop or to hit the sweet spot again after an upshift. A driver-selectable Sport mode improves accelerator response and keeps revs higher by staying out of the highest gears, but it seldom upshifts even if you stay at a steady speed, so there’s sure to be a mileage penalty.

If Mazda could shorten up the gearing by way of an eight- or nine-speed automatic while preserving kickdown response, the drivetrain could be dynamite. (Alas, it seldom works out that way.) It might also improve gas mileage, which is EPA-rated at 30 mpg for automatic front-drive models. As compact cars go, that’s unimpressive. AWD models are rated 27 to 28 mpg, depending on body style.

Ride quality is firm but sophisticated, with controlled shock absorption that belies the Mazda3’s move from its longstanding independent rear suspension to cheaper, torsion-beam hardware for 2019. Still, isolation is not its forte: At higher speeds, weathered roads highlight turbulence that rivals like the Chevrolet Cruze and Volkswagen Jetta do a better job of filtering out. (Both competitors also do that with torsion beams, mind you. The results, not the formula, are what matters.)

AWD might aid cold-weather traction, but don’t expect a boost when it comes to warm-weather handling. Push the Mazda3 hard through a sweeping curve and Mazda’s system shows little interest in sending power rearward to reorient the nose. Still, it’s not like the car begs for help; the chassis masks understeer quite well on its own, and its all-season tires (Toyo Proxes P215/45R18s on our test car) give plenty of warning before progressive sliding sets in. The brakes are strong and steering feedback is excellent, though the rival Honda Civic remains atop the class for steering quickness; the Mazda3’s wheel feels a little slower in terms of ratio.

The Inside

Quality trumps quantity in the new Mazda3, which boasts lavish materials but little space. Drivers of many sizes will find their knees pinched between the doors and center console, and adults in back will sit with their knees jammed into the front seats. Despite that, the Mazda3 has improbable storage space accessible to drivers — a failing of its predecessor — with generous provisions in the dash, doors and center console.

Interior styling mixes overlapping materials that arc around each other, with controls draped into the gaps; it’s a style that’s in vogue right now (see the new Lexus ES). Most controls feel meticulous enough, and certain sounds — the ticking turn signals, the chime when you end a Bluetooth call — have a unique, upscale vibe. Ditto for the materials; on that front, the Mazda3 could pass for an entry-level luxury car. Low-gloss panels cover the upper doors and dash, and generous stitched wrappings extend down to knee level — areas where mass-market competitors often revert to lower-budget plastics. The materials don’t cheap out when you get to the backseat, which is another common practice in the non-luxury class. Premium touches include fabric-wrapped A-pillars and one-touch express windows all around. Many pricier mid-size sedans don’t have it this good, and much of the Mazda3’s quality comes even in base trim levels.

Missteps come on the technology front, where the Mazda3’s standard tablet display (an 8.8-inch widescreen) no longer operates as a touchscreen. It’s high atop the dash and too far away to easily reach even if it was a touchscreen, but the result is a step backward for usability nonetheless. You have to use a multifunction controller ahead of the center armrest, which is anathema to the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems included on most trim levels. Consumer surveys show owners prefer touchscreens over console controllers, and both smartphone integrations are optimized for the former. Mazda is going the wrong way here.

Other head-scratchers: Android Auto consistently crapped out on one editor, and the display is too wide for its own good. The smartphone mirroring doesn’t use all the screen (Mazda says an update from Google should fix this sometime in 2019) and the backup camera occupies only about 60 percent of the space. The camera display also has static guidelines, not the dynamic lines widely available now. Multiple times while driving into the sun, editors observed messages that our test car’s driver-assistance systems were temporarily disabled.

Due to their separate calculation methods, you can’t compare manufacturer-stated cargo space between hatchbacks and sedans — one of several reasons such specs are unreliable — so don’t let the Mazda3’s specs fool you. Despite numbers that suggest otherwise, the sedan’s trunk is nearly a third deeper than the same space in the hatchback, by our measurement, with similar width and height up to the seatbacks. The hatchback adds versatility if you fold the seats down, of course, but if you aim to carry rear passengers and load up on cargo behind them, the sedan is the way to go.

Value

The 2019 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback received Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The cheapest variant, an automatic front-drive sedan, starts just under $22,000 with destination. That’s some $700-$1,500 more than automatic-equipped versions of the Civic, Jetta and 2020 Toyota Corolla, and value-priced versions of the Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra will save you even more.

At its base price, the Mazda3 lacks Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and automatic emergency braking — three must-have features in any compact car. Higher trims have all three features, plus leatherette (vinyl) or leather seats, depending how much you spend. Other options include stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, a power driver’s seat, keyless access and a moonroof. Lane-centering steering, a feature increasingly available in the class, isn’t offered in U.S. models. Loaded with factory equipment and AWD, the Mazda3 sedan tops out around $29,500. That’s also pricey for the class, but most competitors are front-drive only.

Mazda’s latest compact might build a case as a value alternative to entry-luxury subcompacts like the Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but mass-market value is not its forte, especially when you consider its mileage deficit — and the extra-long warranties (Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen) or free maintenance (Chevrolet, Toyota) offered elsewhere. Driving enthusiasts and quality aficionados will find something to like, but it’s hard to build a case for broader appeal.

Editor’s note: This story was updated July 5, 2019, to clarify that the manual transmission is only available with the hatchback.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Kelsey Mays
Assistant Managing Editor-News Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey Mays

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.6
  • Interior design 4.8
  • Performance 4.3
  • Value for the money 4.4
  • Exterior styling 4.7
  • Reliability 4.5

Most recent consumer reviews

4.7

Grown-Up 3

This is my fourth Mazda3 5-door. I have owned one of each generation and it's obvious they are now striving to reach the more luxury car buyers. I wasn't sold on the butt of the new generation until I saw the car in person. Photos really don't do it justice. My 2008 Mazda3 was a scrappy, fun-to-drive-hard, 5-speed manual. It has a place in my dream garage for the sheer fun of the drive. When I got the 2010, second generation, it added a sixth gear to the excellent manual shifter and was still scrappy and fun to drive. 2017 was the next model I purchased and it was a dramatic change from the prior two. Mazda kicked up the interior styling quite a bit and while the outside still looks like a 3, it received a good dose of "sexy" that the two earlier generations missed. The 2017 was my only automatic transmission and though I am tried-and-true for my manual transmissions, the auto did a great job of downshifting when I wanted (mostly), and the sport mode made the car more entertaining to drive around town. Note: when I drove the car in sport mode I never saw it shift into 6th gear so if you get on the highway it is a good idea to turn off sport mode. 8 months into my 2017 ownership I was cut off by someone and ended up wrapping the car around a street-light pole. The airbags deployed and me and my passenger luckily made it out without serious injury. The engine never stopped running and had to be turned off by the fired department after the crash. I feel safer now, having experienced such a bad accident and the car handling it so well. Once that car was gone I decided to go newer and get the 2020 model. Back to a manual shifter again, this car is the evolution of the Mazda3. The 2017 got a dose of sexy, but the 2020 has gone to etiquette school, and got an even heavier dose of sexy. Compared to the first and second generations, this car does not encourage me to drive the heck out of it, slamming through all of the gears while making the 2.5 liters scream. What it offers now is still a very engaging drive, but instead of scrappy, this car has a more grown-up feel to the way it handles. It clearly handles the twisties better than the 2008 and it does it with a quieter and smoother ride. I bought the Machine Gray, Premium with 6-speed manual and it's a beauty. My brother tells me that it looks sinister and I happily agree with him. I find myself wanting to just drive this car, like yesterday when I washed it then drove over 40 miles through the countryside to "dry" it. I bought the car four-hours from my home so got to experience how comfortable it will be for a road trip. It is the quietest and most comfortable of the generations and I would recommend it to anyone who loves to drive.

4.8

My first own car

This car meets my needs, is very reliable, comfortable and very safe. Has a lot of electronic features that make driving fun but also super safe.

1.9

Most unreliable so far

I used to drive Benz , still own an Audi never got problem like Mazda I had to go to my mechanic 4 times in a month, terrible experience, my opinion stay away from Mazda

See all 29 consumer reviews

Compare the competitors

2020

Toyota Corolla Hatchback

$20,290

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2019

Hyundai Elantra GT

$20,450

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2019

Honda Civic

$19,550

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See all 2020 Mazda Mazda3 articles