Payne of The Detroit News offers up a review of the 2019 Mazda
In the middle of the
New York auto show floor each year sits the exotic car stand
featuring the latest from storied makes like Lamborghini, Bentley,
Bugatti and Koenigsegg. Itís hard to notice anything else nearby.
Yet Mazda, with its
stunning Kai Concept, managed to compete
candy-red hatchback was a show-stopper. I didnít know whether to
stare at it or lick it. Like the Cadillac Escala or Buick Avista
concepts, the Kai Concept design study signaled the Mazdaís
future. But it was hard to believe this work of art could become a
$25,000 production car.
The 2019 Mazda 3 is
now on dealer lots and is the Kai Concept incarnate save for larger
mirrors and smaller wheels. Wrapped in Soul Red, itís the most
stunning hatch the segment has seen. From its long hood to
curvaceous rump, it looks like a Mazda compact and a Mercedes GT
Coupe had a love child.
With a driver-focused
interior, all-wheel drive and manual-box option, the Mazda 3 hatch
is just an engine away from enthusiast nirvana.
Not that the
186-horsepower four-banger is a deal-breaker. Smooth and quiet, it
lacks the 200-plus horsepower turbo option of some segment
competitors. But passing up the Mazda 3 over a turbo is like
complaining that Carrie Underwood canít play a Wurlitzer organ.
It arrives at a time
when the sedan segment has fallen out of favor in SUV nation. Ford,
Chevy and Chrysler have all pulled out of the compact segment.
Mazda is all-in with
the new 3. Itís about the joy of driving. Itís a bright-yellow
detour sign off the road to autonomy.
fourth-generation compact, Mazda continues like fellow performance
brand Volkswagen to split its compact offerings between sedan and
hatch. V-dub badges its sedan (Jetta) and hatchback (Golf)
separately. Not Mazda. But the four-door and five-door invite
So different are
their exteriors that they only share a hood. The sedanís nice, but
ó as readers know ó Iím a hatchaholic.
Jumping into the 3
hatch (3 stands for the number of laps youíll make around this
lovely creature before getting in) in Californiaís Sierra Nevada
Mountains, I enjoyed the car as much inside as outside. The steering
wheel is planted, the body controlled, the six-speed tranny like
It begs to be pushed.
Pushed to the point that you ask if thereís more under the hood.
Itís a question Mazda wonít answer for now.
My favorite car in
the segment, the turbocharged 220-horse VW Golf GTI, is not
threatened here. Yet.
Though its minimalist
good looks, alluring interior and athletic handling appeal to the
same customer as the GTI, Mazda stops short of offering a GTI
challenger even though it has the tool in the toolbox to do it:
Mazdaís 2.5-liter turbo-four that produces 310 pound-feet of
torque and 250-horsepower.
But the 3 still has
plenty to tempt buyers.
For example, the
2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder that does come standard produces 186
horses and 185 pound-feet of torque. And it blows away every other
standard engine in the segment, including Golf ó all the while
getting good fuel economy (34.7 mpg under my lead foot). Its stylish
looks are for all Ford Fiesta and Focus refugees who are aching for
an aesthetically pleasing hatch.
Thereís not just
hatchback utility, but an all-wheel drive system that expands
Mazdaís demographic into all-season Middle America. The system is
good. Very good. I flogged it around a mountain snow course like a
Finnish rally driver, the 3 never putting a foot wrong.
The AWD play is a
bold challenge to Subaruís exclusivity in segment. But the Mazda
is a more premium animal than the Impreza while offering similar
sculpted interior is luxury-class. There is a strong whiff of Alfa
Romeo Giulia here, from sweeping horizontal dash lines to analog
gauges to remote-rotary-operated info screen. Thereís even a
delicious Alfa-red interior option.
The ergonomic detail
is obsessive. It comes from a development team that studied
Princeton psychologist George Millerís cognitive learning theories
about short-term memory in order to assist the 3ís ergonomics.
The 3 hatch is easy
to build. Starting at $24,495 (the sedan begins at $21,895) the car
comes standard with 8.8-inch screen, push-button start, 18-inch
wheels, leatherette seats, adaptive cruise-control and blind-spot
that last feature because the hatchís racy C-pillar could hide New
Hampshire. Itís huge.
Like its Mazda 6 and
CX-5 siblings about which Iíve raved, 3 comes with i-Activsense,
an instrument-display-based graphic that constantly informs you of
other vehicles around your car. Innovated by Tesla, Mazda has made
this tech its own.
Still, this is where
3 customers might depart from the hatch. Stunning outside, it might
not be comfortable for drivers who have to spend a lot of time in
traffic ó and rear-seat passengers might pine for more sunlight.
Add AWD to your hatch
for more grip and Soul Red paint for curb appeal and youíll be the
envy of the block for just $26,490 ó competitive with an Impreza
but with more everything. Heck, youíll wonder why people bother to
buy a similarly equipped $40,000 AWD Audi A3.
Forget adding a
navigation system ó phone apps are better. Mazdaís generous
center console allows plenty of room to stow your phone and hook in
to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto ó and the standard 8.8-inch
display offers good graphics.
That knee in your
back is your rear passengers again ó 6-footers cramped relative
to, say, a roomy Golf or Civic. But theyíll be reassured by the
3ís well-engineered ride dynamics and quieted cabin.
Credit more attention
to detail as the 3ís engineering team calked all the gaps from the
previous gen car. The four isnít buzzy at high revs, but makes a
nice warm growl under acceleration.
Dude, you ask, every
Mazda is spawn of the Miata sports car ó so whereís the manual
Smartly, Mazda has
packaged it with the 3ís premium trim, recognizing manuals are no
longer a value play but a feature craved by enthusiasts. Thus
equipped, a premium manual (available with FWD only) will set you
back $28,395 ó competitive with a manual GTI.
And if Mazda sells
enough of them ó and picks up sales from those suffering Cruze and
Focus hatchback customers ó the business case for an AWD manual
with 250-horsepower would be irresistible.
That would be a sight
next to the exotics at the New York show.
2019 Mazda 3
Front-engine, front- and all-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan and
Price: $21,895 base
sedan, $24,495 for hatchback, including $895 destination fee
($30,390 Premium, AWD hatchback as tested)
2.5-liter, inline-4 cylinder
horsepower; 185 pound-feet of torque
automatic, 6-speed manual
mph, 6.9 seconds (Car and Driver est., AWD); top speed: 130 mph
Weight: 3,255 pounds
(AWD hatchback as tested)
Fuel economy: EPA 26
city/35 highway/30 combined (FWD auto); 25 city/35 highway/29
combined (FWD manual); 24 city/32 highway/27 combined (AWD auto, as
Highs: The cure for
the common compact; premium interior
Lows: Blind spot the
size of New Hampshire; 250-horse turbo-4, please?
Overall: 4 stars