Superb & affordable compact car among best in class
Roseville, Calif.- Sales of the once popular compact sedan/hatchback have plummeted the past six years in the U.S and look depressing again in 2022. And the why is a mystery from our perspective, because the Mazda3 should be on the short list of anyone considering a compact car.
When it comes to compact cars, the Mazda3 is superb. According to most auto reviewers, the Mazda3 is one of the best vehicles one can buy in its class. It’s fun to drive, has an upscale cabin, and features an easy-to-use infotainment system. And the starting price remains very affordable at $20,800
From 2007 to 2015, Mazda3 sales exceeded 100,000 or more eight of nine years. But sales sank to an all-time low of 33,608 in 2020 and only increased to 37,653 a year ago. That’s a major decline since an all-time high 123,361 in 2012.
Looking for an answer to give it a bounce in sales, last year the Mazda3 added two additional engines – a new standard one and a turbocharged option with standard all-wheel drive. Yet the new engine options were not enough to create much of a rebound in sales, but give Mazda credit for adding something new and appealing.
Mazda had already been searching for new answers with its 2020 version of the 3. It added AWD as an option and did an overhaul – inside and out. The Mazda3’s length increased and it added a long aerodynamic hood and a wider body. Note that the sedan is nearly 8 inches longer than the hatchback. For 2022, the only thing new is the upscale Carbon edition that has gray metallic paint and red leather upholstery.
For anyone seeking performance, the turbo engine is the choice. Borrowed from the Mazda CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs, it’s a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that produces 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. It’s no surprise that the turbo model is the fastest of the three – 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. It has quick acceleration and gets solid fuel economy (23-31 mpg) as well.
The standard Mazda3 engine remains a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder that produces 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. It’s the best of the three in fuel economy (28-36 mpg).
Moving from the standard engine to the middle version is the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that delivers 186 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. It’s quick, smooth and has good acceleration, clocked at 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds. Fuel economy is fine at 23-35 mpg.
The Mazda3 also receives solid marks for how it performs. It handles 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 did not overwhelm the front-wheel drive Mazda3.
AT A GLANCE – 2022 MAZDA3
- Performance: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 155 horsepower; 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 186 horsepower; turbocharged 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 250 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 28-36 mpg; 23-35 mpg; 23-31 mpg
- Estimated price: $20,800 to $34,800
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 3 years/36,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/36,000 miles; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
The interior has an 8.8-inch display that’s not a touchscreen. It’s controlled solely by console-mounted rotary knobs, a preference here. Yet many other drivers prefer more advanced technology. Even though it’s old school, 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. A drawback is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are not standard in the base model.
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 abundant 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.
The addition of the two new engines a year ago gave the Mazda3 even more appeal. Despite being a sophisticated and upscale sedan/hatchback, sales aren’t rebounding for the 2022 Mazda3.