In the compact sedan world, one might think Mazda has neglected the category. However, those in the know are happy to realize nothing could be further from the truth. The folks at Mazda have taken the category very seriously and have turned the Mazda3 into a contender worthy of plenty of attention.
While the 2020 Mazda3 sees few changes following a major redo in 2019, it is a vehicle that is both practical and stimulating. Powered by a tried and true 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 186 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. of torque, this compact can excite. The Mazda3 will also keep you on the road with an EPA fuel economy rating of 26 city and 35 highway with front-wheel drive. Our AWD test Mazda3 only suffered a slight drop to 25 mpg city and 33 highway. Frankly, we were happy to trade the slight drop in fuel economy to have all-wheel drive stability.
Power is transferred to the road via a six-speed automatic transmission. We are a bit disappointed that Mazda has offered the manual transmission on only one model, premium hatchbacks with front-wheel drive. Though the automatic transmissions are so good and have a manual mode, we do long for more manual gearboxes.
The 2020 Mazda3 personifies what Mazda seems to hold dear to its development of its vehicles: Study the market, build a vehicle that exceeds expectations, going just a bit over what is expected. We know many critics say you just can’t say a car is fun to drive. We never could get any of those folks to tell us their take on this claim because for us we know when a vehicle fits into our “fun to drive” criteria.
The Mazda3 is fun to drive. It puts a smile on our faces as we experience this car’s abilities to scoot from stops, hold the road firmly around country road corners and brake true when needed. OK, we know that the Mazda3 is categorized as an economy compact but nothing says it must be boring.
The 2020 Mazda3 is available in three trim levels, although there are several ways you can outfit those trim levels depending on your wants and needs. Moving up through the models are the Select, Preferred and Premium.
Most buyers have an emotional reaction to the vehicles they are drawn toward, and we think the 2020 Mazda3 draws us under its spell with the aggressive front-end design. Sloping hood and front fenders highlight the large, intimidating grille that brings a European luxury car look. The styling continues through the higher belt line to the rear flip of the trunk lid that gives a slight spoiler look. The rear view is not quite as captivating as the front, yet it is attractive none the less.
Mazda has taken the Mazda3 upscale with the interior, adding more attractive trim along with dash and side panels that look and feel much more at home in a luxury vehicle. Mazda is smart in taking that tack, as owners are wanting more accommodating interiors. After all, that is where most of us spend the majority of time with our vehicles. The front bucket seats are firm without being stiff and the side bolsters hold driver and passenger firmly in place even during sporty driving.
Though rear seat legroom is compromised, we were able to find a reasonably comfortable driver position while giving our rear seat passenger increased legroom. One must remember this is a compact automobile, not a large sedan.
All Mazda3 models are equipped with Mazda’s i-Activsense driver-assist and active safety features, including lane departure with lane assist rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. Along with the long list of safety features, all 2020 Mazda3 models also get an 8.8-inch infotainment display that thankfully is controlled by an easily manipulated rotary dial located on the center console. Also, interior features include two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that are included on all but the entry level. Every Mazda3 also has a 7-inch LCD display in the gauge cluster that is reconfigurable to show speed, vehicle data or driver-assist system status.
We seem to always come away from our test drives of the 2020 Mazda3 with the feeling of appreciation for the comfort, ability and performance we experience with this compact. That is why it is on our list of recommendations when asked about compact vehicles.
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