Crossovers and SUVs are definitely the most popular vehicles on the road right now, but passenger cars are far from dead. In fact, if you’re in the market for a small car, now is probably the best time ever! The Mazda3 has been a performance leader in the compact segment, and the introduction of the all-new 2019 Mazda3 promises to be a more complete package with improved handling and performance thanks to this car’s first-ever use of all-wheel drive. Mazda also heaped on more style and luxury on this car than ever before, so to see how this new compact stacks up against the competition, we spent a week in a top-of-the-line 2019 Mazda3 AWD Premium for this test drive review.
2019 Mazda3 Exterior
When Mazda unveiled its all-new 2019 Mazda3 lineup last year at the L.A. Auto Show, most of the attention was focused on the unusual styling of the hatchback model, but there isn’t an ill word that could be said about this sedan model. Mazda’s KODO design language has gotten more elegant and emotional with this redesign, and the sedan is an absolutely stunning with refined styling elements that include a flatter beltline and lower decklid. Compared to the previous model, the 2019 Mazda3’s wheelbase has been stretched by a full inch, and the sedan is lower and longer than its predecessor adding to its sporty style. As is Mazda’s modus operandi right now, the front end is still the most expressive view of this car with a grille that has gotten wider and sits lower and headlights that are narrower and more horizontal.
Mazda’s signature color, Soul Red Crystal Metallic, is a $595 option on the Mazda3, and it definitely adds to this car’s eye-catching looks. Like its name suggests, the range-topping 2019 Mazda3 AWD Premium adds even more upscale style to this sedan with standard LED headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting and LED taillights.
2019 Mazda3 Interior
Mazda definitely benchmarked luxury compacts when crafting the interior of this entry-level compact sedan, and that’s especially obvious on this loaded 2019 Mazda3 optioned up with the Premium Package. In addition to the design of the new Mazda3, Mazda has completely revised its trim level organization for this compact ditching the age-old Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels for Select, Preferred and Premium trim packages; this interior is as nice as the Signature trim level found on the Mazda6 and CX-5. Like the exterior, the cabins of the new Mazda3 sedan and hatchback get their own attitude as the Premium trim offers a sporty red leather interior in the hatchback and an elegant white leather interior in the sedan. This sedan’s white leather seats are accented by stitched white accents on the dash and door panels.
The look of the instrument panel is much cleaner with fewer buttons to clutter the view and HVAC vents that are cleverly sculpted into the design. All trim levels feature the same 8.8-inch display screen that is now operated solely through the central rotary controller – no more touchscreen function, but this previously only worked when the car was at a stop anyway. Along with the larger standard screen, all Mazda3 trim levels come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the Premium package upgrades to a 12-speaker Bose audio system. This top trim level also adds paddle shifters, a power moonroof and a redesigned Active Driving Display (aka, head-up display). The Active Driving Display has been redesigned so it projects the image onto the windshield rather than the previous 3’s small, retractable screen; it’s now even more of a remarkable option on a mainstream compact car. The only downside is that even though the Mazda3 Premium is the top trim, you still have to pay extra for navigation and wireless smartphone charging, but these options are surprisingly affordable priced at $450 and $275, respectively.
Despite the longer wheelbase, the passenger volume of the new Mazda3 is down slightly from the previous car including marginally less space for the rear seat, but there is still plenty of room for passengers. Being a compact, you’re not going to be able to fit three adults in that back seat for long hauls, but the good news is there is decent legroom and headroom for taller passengers to sit in the back without feeling cramped. Although the cabin got incrementally smaller, the trunk got larger, and it can now swallow 13.2 cubic feet of cargo.
2019 Mazda3 Powertrain
Mazda has simplified the engine lineup of the 2019 Mazda3 ditching the previous base engine and sticking with the 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder. This engine is now rated at 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque representing a minimal power increase over this same engine from the 2018 model year, and in front-wheel drive form, the 2019 carries over the same EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway*; opting for the all-new i-Activ all-wheel drive drops fuel economy to 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. The cool part about this engine is that it now comes standard with cylinder deactivation on all cars equipped with Premium Package or AWD.
The 2019 Mazda3 comes standard with G-Vectoring Control Plus, which automatically uses the car’s brakes to enhance vehicle stability, and for even more stability, Mazda’s optional i-Activ all-wheel drive is practically undetectable. When pushed hard in some freshly rained-on Florida roads, the 3 handles perfectly with no hint of any nannies at work. The only bad news in terms of driving enjoyment on the new Mazda3 is that you can no longer get the sedan with a manual transmission; this transmission is still standard on the hatchback body, though. There was a lot of fuss about the 3 switching from a multi-link rear suspension to a torsion-beam axle, but this car feels just as fun and sporty as the 2018 model. Apples to apples, the base 2019 Mazda3 sedan is about 30 pounds lighter than its predecessor with front-wheel drive and the automatic transmission, but the new AWD sedan weighs about 180 pounds more than its FWD counterpart.
2019 Mazda3 Safety
The all-new 2019 Mazda3 has yet to be tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. On all but the base model, the Mazda3 now comes standard with high-tech safety features such as blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, Driver Attention Alert, Lane Departure Warning System, Lane Keep Assist, rain-sensing wipers, radar cruise control and Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support with pedestrian detection.
2019 Mazda3 Overall
Since it was first introduced in 2003, the Mazda3 has always been the sportiest compact in its entry-level class, but the all-new 2019 Mazda3 proves that this mainstream sedan is fully capable of taking on next-level sport compacts. For years, the Mazda3 stood as the most enjoyable sedan under $30,000, but factoring in the new Premium package, all-wheel drive and improved styling, this entry-level compact is easily playing in the same ballpark as higher-priced luxury compacts.
In base form, you can get a 2019 Mazda3 sedan for just $21,000** ($2,600 more will get you the hatchback), but if you want the most bang for your buck, the fully loaded Premium Package is the way to go. And checking the boxes for all-wheel drive and most of the available option features, this fully loaded 2019 Mazda3 Premium Sedan AWD had an as-tested price of $30,840. You’re just not going to find a car that looks, drives or feels better than this $31,000 Mazda3 in the compact world.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Mazda3 dealership and test drive the 2019 Mazda3 today!
* Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.
** MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.