2020 Mazda3 in red

Perplexing drop for high quality car

Roseville, CA -So, what’s the issue with the Mazda3, formerly a darling among U.S. car buyers?

Sales of the once popular compact sedan/hatchback took a dramatic dip in 2019. And this year it will likely be worse. Last year, sales slid to 50,741 (a 21.5 percent decline), by far its lowest sales totals since its inception 16 years ago. Sales hit a high of 123,361 in 2012 and remained between 95,000 and nearly 108,000 the next four years.

The hypothesis here is there’s nothing wrong with the Mazda3. The problem lies with the increasing popularity of subcompact and compact sport utility vehicles. Seemingly everyone who is looking for a smaller vehicle that is fuel efficient is purchasing an SUV. Sedans and hatchbacks – not so much.

From this vantage point, the Mazda3 remains a great little vehicle; we especially like the 2020 Mazda3 hatchback. In our week with the Mazda3, the feeling was reminiscent of year’s past. It’s a fun car to drive thanks to its pep and engaging handling. And we got many nods of approval at the new “soul red crystal metallic” color and the appealing exterior makeup.

The Mazda3 was introduced in 2004 and quickly established a solid reputation as both a sedan and five-door hatchback. Over the years, the Mazda3 has went through modest and full redesigns, yet still maintained its status among competitors.

The compact class has a number of “stars” and the Mazda3 was certainly one of them for more than a decade. It shared the spotlight with some other notables like the Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. While sales of the stalwarts continue to thrive, the Mazda3 has taken a nose dive.

A year ago, the Mazda3 became even more appealing by adding AWD as an option, the most interesting aspect of the full redesign. The vehicle was given an overhaul – inside and out. The Mazda3’s length increased and it added a long aerodynamic hood and a wide body. Note that the sedan is nearly 8 inches longer than the hatchback.

Some car experts feel the Mazda3 needs more performance and should add a turbocharged engine as an option. While that might be true, we have no issues with the current Mazda3 engine.

The responsive performance is quite evident in the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that produces 186 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The engine is quick, smooth and delivers good acceleration. The Mazda3 goes 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds and has a maximum speed of 130 mph. Fuel economy is good at 27-35 mpg.

2020 Mazda3

  • Performance: 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 186 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 27-35 mpg
  • Estimated price: $21,600 to $30,500
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 5 years/unlimited; corrosion: 3 years/36,000

The Mazda3 also receives solid marks for how it performs. The engaging hatchback accelerated quickly and handled with great precision when navigating tight turns, providing the driver with a high level of confidence. A drive along mountain passes and some challenging roads near Lake Tahoe did not overwhelm the Mazda3.

Interior

Mazda3 interior

Last year’s new touchscreen has a huge rotary dial and several buttons on the center console that Mazda feels will be less of a distraction for the driver. Getting acquainted with the new system does require some time – not everything is intuitive. We found the audio system setup more confusing than it needs to be.

Yet the well-designed cockpit is better than most compacts. The front seats provide good support, comfort and adequate head and leg room, but the rear seats are not as gracious with space, especially leg room. The sedan has 13.2 cubic feet of cargo space and there’s 20.1 cubic feet in the hatchback.

We’re somewhat perplexed by the drop in sales and hope the end isn’t near for the Mazda3. It remains high quality, a sophisticated and upscale sedan/hatchback that hopefully regains an audience.