The 2019 Mazda3 GT sedan is a sleek new compact going back to basics delivering ease of use and driver appeal
Mazda has revamped its vehicle range to meet the growing demand for SUVs. But while the CX-5 is now its best-selling vehicle in North America, demand for the Mazda3 compact sedan and hatchback remains strong enough for it to retain second place in Mazda’s charts – even in 2018, the final year of the old model’s life.
The all-new 3 was revealed at the LA Auto Show last December, in sedan and 5-door hatchback (Sport) form. It’s the first of a new, seventh generation of Mazda models; expect the entire lineup to be renewed in the coming years, all based on the architecture underpinning the new 3.
Mazda3 range and pricing
In Canada, starts at C$18,000
In Canada, the 2019 Mazda3 range incorporates GS, GX and GT trim levels and 2-liter or 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G gasoline engine options. It starts at C$18,000 for the 2-liter GX with FWD and a 6-speed manual transmission. It tops out at C$30,400 for the 2.5-liter GT with AWD and a 6-speed auto.
In the US, starts at US$21,000
In the US, only the 2.5-liter motor is offered, for now. The cheapest model is the US$21,000 FWD auto sedan, the most expensive a US$28,900 hatchback with AWD and the Premium package.
We tested a FWD GT sedan with the 2.5 Skyactiv-G engine and a $2,500 Premium package. Total price as tested was C$30,695.
Also see – Luxury Compact Competitor: Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan
The new 3 features a further evolution of Mazda’s familiar Kodo design language. We wouldn’t argue with the maker’s description of “sleek and elegant” – this is a great-looking sedan, although the C$300 Machine Grey metallic paint doesn’t necessarily to the shape full justice.
The light clusters are attractive, too, front and rear. LEDs are standard at the front; the rear clusters get LEDs from the mid-range upwards.
The hatchback, not tested here, features a strong, coupe-like C-pillar treatment that is perhaps more polarizing than the outgoing car’s design. We’ll leave it to you to make up your mind on that one.
Controls and equipment
Mazda hits design highs on the inside, too. The thin, flat dashboard design is distinctive and clean, and both it and the switchgear feel solid.
Ahead of the driver is an easy-to-read, 7in LCD multifunction display. One of its functions is to relay low tire pressure warnings from the direct tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Climbing into the 3 on a sub-zero morning, the TPMS was vocal in warning that the tires were below the recommended pressure.
The pressures came up as the tires warmed during the journey and the warning eventually went away, never to return, but the system’s admirable persistence could become irritating if you park your car outdoors through the winter.
Atop the dashboard is a central 8.8in screen for the Connect infotainment system. It’s one of the best such systems we’ve used. Operation is now entirely via an intuitive ‘HMI Commander’ dial between the front seats, rather than a touchscreen.
We found it easy to navigate and the screen, which is angled slightly toward the driver, was clear to read in all light conditions. Sensibly, key controls are still available via conventional buttons.
Also read: 2019 Mazda CX-3 Review
Front cabin layout
Between the seats, the gear shift and HMI Commander have been moved forward and the armrest extended. It all seemed ergonomically sound to us, but lovers of super-sized drinks might struggle to place them in the relocated central cupholders, which are now somewhat tucked underneath the ‘floating’ dashboard. There are alternative locations in the door pockets, however.
Front and rear head-and shoulder room, and rear legroom, are all slightly reduced from the outgoing model. We never felt tight for space in the new 3, but as an adult in the rear seats, things could feel a little cramped on a long journey.
New Mazda3 seats
The seats are brand new and part of a wider effort across the car to take the design back to the basics of human physiology. Mazda looked at the human’s natural balance when standing on two legs and tried to replicate that sensation in a seated posture by firmly supporting the pelvis in an upright position to maintain the spine’s natural S-shape curve.
The goal is to increase comfort and reduce fatigue on long journeys. We can’t confirm the long-term benefits of the redesign, but the seats are certainly very comfortable and have a good range of adjustment.
A black interior
The all-black cabin of our test car could have used some lighter accents – and piano black trim is bad for showing dust – but there are other options. Our car’s black leather seat material is one of two alternatives in the Premium package, the other being white. Basic variants get black cloth seats while the intermediate Luxury package offers leatherette seats in black or greige (grey/beige).
Also read: 2018 Mazda6 Signature Review
Rear cargo space
The trunk looks huge, and a check of the figures confirms that luggage capacity behind the rear seats is up by 23 liters to 374 liters (13.2 cu ft). It makes the sedan surprisingly practical – with one of the rear seats folded, we were easily able to bring an 8ft piece of lumber home from the DIY store.
Engine and transmission
Like all GTs, our 3 had what is, for now, the top-of-the-line engine option. The Skyactiv-G 2.5 is a reworked version of the motor in the 2018 car. It makes 186 HP and 186 lb-ft of torque, which is fine for everyday use. It spins up nicely and sounds more sporting than some of the other units around.
In this instance it also benefits from fuel-saving cylinder deactivation tech that’s more usually found on higher-capacity V6s and V8s. In Canada, the system is standard on the GT but also available as an option on the GS. In the States, it’s standard on all Mazda3 hatchbacks and any sedan with either the Premium package or AWD.
Fuel economy: KMs and MPG
It’s to the system’s credit that its operation is impossible to detect, but we were hoping for a rather more obvious impact on fuel economy. For the record, in a very cold week of testing and on mainly short journeys around town, the 3 delivered 11.7L/100km (20.1mpg). The official figures are 8.8L/100km (26.7mpg/city) and 6.6L/100km (35.6mpg/highway).
the new 3’s steering is well weighted, self-centers in a predictable way and has reasonable feel for an electrically assisted system. There’s definitely a feeling of connection with the road, but we feel that it doesn’t quite match the best of the Volkswagens in this area.
Interestingly, the official fuel economy figures don’t show a benefit to having the cylinder deactivation system vs the regular 2.5 Skyactiv-G engine. There is one, but it’s offset by the bigger wheels (18in vs 16in) and a difference in the final drive ratio.
Prefer a manual stick shift?
We were big fans of the 6-speed automatic gearbox, which matches gears nicely to the situation, and shifts with a crispness and smoothness that makes you feel like you want to use the paddle-shift override now and again.
Fans of a manual ’box are catered for, too, but only with the 2-liter engine (Canada) or in the 2.5 Premium package hatchback (US).
Driving conditions were poor for most of our time with the 2019 Mazda3, but it still made a strong impression. Here again, Mazda has gone back to basics to find solutions that will feel natural and comfortable to the driver.
These include the lack of pitching under hard braking and the goal of translating the motion of a wheel over a bump from separate horizontal and vertical movements, to a single motion that feels more comfortable to the human.
Even after just a few hundred kilometers with the car, there’s no doubt that the 3 rides, handles, steers and brakes better than many vehicles in its class. Its posture and stability under hard braking is first-rate, even if the firm pedal takes a little getting used to.
The ride is firm, too, with a European feel, but still comfortable enough on the 18in rims fitted here. That’s despite a switch to a simpler, twist-beam rear suspension in place of the old independent setup.
Also read – Old Review: 2015 Mazda3 Sport GT Review
To Mazda’s credit, there’s no sign of the game-of-two-halves ride performance that can result from the independently suspended front axle dealing better with bumps and holes than the twist-beam rear. There’s certainly no harshness, and new measures to reduce noise and vibration appear to have done their job.
Finally, the new 3’s steering is well weighted, self-centers in a predictable way and has reasonable feel for an electrically assisted system. There’s definitely a feeling of connection with the road, but we feel that it doesn’t quite match the best of the Volkswagens in this area.
Takeaway: Should you buy a 2019 Mazda3?
Good looks alone will help to keep the new Mazda3 selling strongly, but there’s much more to this thoughtfully conceived car than exterior style. It’s a good-to-drive, comfortable and practical addition to the compact car market.
The overall attention to ergonomic detail is one of the 3’s standout features. It may seem a minor point, but the handle on the inside of the trunk lid, for example, so often a cheap afterthought, is the most comfortable to use that we’ve seen on any compact sedan. Like the intuitive HMI or comfortable seats, these are the little touches that people notice every day and will keep them loyal to their 3.
The availability of AWD for the first time will surely help draw in new buyers in Canada and in other areas where winter driving is a concern. It’s a great addition to an already impressive powertrain, even if the road conditions during our test drive failed to bring out the best it has to offer, economy-wise.
For anyone who wants to spend a little more on the very latest fuel-saving tech, the upcoming Skyactiv-X engine, which boasts multiple combustion modes to achieve major cuts in fuel consumption, will be an attractive option.
Buying a new sedan? Check out our Sedan Buyer’s Guide here.
- Stylish outside, well thought out inside
- Driver-first approach to chassis tuning, ADAS
- AWD available for the first time
- Over-enthusiastic TPMS
- Rear-seat accommodation a little tight for adults
- All-black interior option could use some lighter touches