The 2020 Mazda Mazda3 returns largely unchanged after last year's redesign. The only major update is that the base trim now includes Mazda's suite of active safety features that includes, among other things, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
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2020 Mazda Mazda3 Overview
Choosing Your Mazda Mazda3
The Mazda3 is available in four trims: Mazda3, Select, Preferred, and Premium. The available five-door hatchback is only available in Mazda3, Preferred, and Premium guise. Pricing starts at $22,420 including destination for the Mazda3 and climbs to $28,420 for the Premium hatchback.
Every Mazda3 model uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. The only available transmission in the sedan is a six-speed automatic. Hatchbacks are almost exclusively found with two pedals as well, but the Premium trim does offer a six-speed manual for traditionalists.
Unlike most compacts, all-wheel drive is available with either body style on all hatchbacks, and the Select, Preferred, and Premium sedan. It's a $1,400 upcharge and is strictly limited to the automatic transmission.
The Mazda3 sedan achieves an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway, and 30 combined, or 25/33/28 mpg (city/highway/combined) with AWD. The hatcback earns 26/35/30 mpg with the automatic, 25/35/29 mpg with the manual, or 24/32/27 mpg with AWD.
Passenger and Cargo Capacity
Both sedans and hatches will seat up to five people. Compared with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, and the Mazda3 gives up nothing in front-seat space. In back, things are a little more decisive, with the Mazda's 35 inches of leg room a full 2 inches shy of what the Honda offers. The Corolla's rear seat is the least roomiest of the three.
As for cargo-toting ability, the hatchback's 20 cubic feet with the rear seats up is plenty spacious, but the sedan's 13 cubes trails the competition. In both four- and five-door form, the Civic handily trumps these numbers, and a number of other compact sedans match or exceed the Mazda3 sedan's meager trunk space.
One thing worth noting: the cargo space offered by the five-door isn't only competitive with other compact hatches but also subcompact SUVs. It's in fact more roomy than Mazda's own CX-3, as well as the Chevrolet Trax and Toyota C-HR.
For 2020, all Mazda3 models now come standard with Mazda's i-Activsense suite of active safety features. Some of the notable technology grouped into this safety bundle include automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and a driver attention monitor. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also standard.
This comprehensive list of standard features is more than what's offered by the Civic and Corolla, both of which charge extra for blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Other compacts, like the Nissan Sentra, Volkswagen Jetta, and Hyundai Elantra, are also not quite as generous with their standard safety features. All of these models have a significantly lower starting price than the Mazda3, however.
Every Mazda3 gets a standard 8.8-inch touchscreen with the brand's latest Mazda Connect infotainment software. Embedded within this system is Bluetooth, HD radio, voice command, and Pandora radio integration. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard, as are two USB ports.
Base audio systems are eight speakers, though higher-trim models use a 12-speaker Bose system and also include SiriusXM. The Premium trim comes standard with a head-up display.
Navigation ($450) and a wireless charging pad ($275) are standalone options on every trim.
The cheapest Mazda3 is the base four-door sedan; the equivalent hatchback runs another $2,200. Among the standard features are split-folding rear seats, cloth upholstery, keyless entry, and rain-sensing wipers.
The hatchback gets additional niceties such as dual-zone climate control, keyless start, and leatherette upholstery. Both models come with full LED lighting and body-colored mirrors and trim. The sedan comes standard with 16-inch wheels, while the hatch is rolling on 18-inch aluminium-alloy rims.
The Select trim essentially equips the sedan with all the base hatchback's extra standard features. It's not available on the hatchback and there are no further options outside of paint selections.
Both body styles are available in the Preferred, though the hatch costs another $1,000. Standard features include memory-equipped heated side mirrors, illuminated vanity mirrors, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver's seat, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift. This is also the cheapest trim to offer the SiriusXM and the 12-speaker Bose audio system as standard.
The fanciest Mazda3 is the Premium. As with the Preferred, the hatchback is another $1,000 over the sedan. Both models come standard with leather upholstery, a memory-equipped driver's seat, paddle shifters for automatic-equipped cars, and a head-up display. A power-sliding moonroof with a one-touch open feature and interior sunshade is also standard.
We're most smitten by the 2020 Mazda Mazda3 Preferred, which is plenty luxurious for the class. Of course, the hatchback would be our choice – there's too much inherent practicality in the five-door to not splurge for it.
2020 Mazda Mazda3 Review
Unlike other websites and magazines, our ratings are not based solely on a singular road test, but rather a more encompassing batch of criteria: quality, safety, comfort, performance, fuel economy, reliability history and value. When comparing vehicles using our Rating System, it's important to note that the rating earned by each vehicle correlates only to the models within its class. For example, a compact car cannot be compared to a SUV—They are different vehicles altogether.
You can interpret our ratings in the following way:
5-Star: Outstanding vehicle. Only the most exceptional vehicles achieve this rating.
4-Star: Very Good vehicle. Very good and close to being the best vehicle in its class.
3-Star: Good vehicle. Decent, but not quite the best. Often affordable, but lacking key features found in vehicles of the same class.
2-Star: Below average vehicle. Not recommended, and lacking attributes a car buyer would come to expect for the price.
1-Star: Poor vehicle. Simply does not deserve to be on the road.
- Beautiful styling
- Thoughtful interior
- Fun and comfortable
- Less attractive hatchback
- Not as roomy as some
- Menu-laden infotainment
Budget luxe. If there’s a story to be told about the 2020 Mazda Mazda3, it’s that of a car grown up. This is a racy adolescent that put on a suit and tie – though there’s still a gleam in the eye.
It’s a good-looking suit. The Mazda3’s exterior is deceptively simple, but a long hood and cohesive design lend a presence that compact cars usually lack. It’s dressed up without feeling overly formal.
The inside is just as nicely laid out. A low beltline adds to the sense of space, and bright trim accents add flair without being distracting.
The misfit of the bunch is the hatchback. The design isn’t bad, but the shortened body and wide rear pillar don’t have the same elegance as its sedan sibling. We’re generally hatchback fans, but we’d be hard-pressed to pass up the sedan this time.
Fun grown up. The maturation continues with the driving experience. Mazda has a history of spunky economy cars, and the previous Mazda3 was a blast to toss around. This version remains entertaining, but it tones down the enthusiasm.
The suspension is more refined, the cabin quieter. The steering is still well-weighted and accurate, but the ride is compliant enough to absorb bumps in the road. It’s a nice balance between comfort and agility.
The engine is balanced as well. Its 186 horsepower is more than many rivals, and natural aspiration means a linear and predictable delivery of power. The six-speed automatic transmission that comes on most trims is quick and predictable, and the six-speed manual is as precise as a Miata. The available all-wheel drive doesn’t spoil the handling, and it’s quick to compensate in slippery conditions.
Compact who? The Mazda3 doesn’t just look like a larger car – it feels like one on the inside. Seats are supportive, and the driver gets a perfect seating position and a pleasantly chunky wheel.
In general, interior fit and finish help the Mazda3 punch above its weight class. Low-sheen surfaces cover the dash and doors, with tasteful accents throughout the cabin. In many trims, the Mazda3 compares favorably to some entry-level luxury cars.
Space in the second row isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s adequate for a compact car. Ingress and egress are easy, at least.
With 13 cubic feet of cargo space, the sedan trails the hatchback – but not by as much as you might think. The hatch is designed for European markets, so it’s nearly 8 inches shorter than the sedan, and it therefore only offers 20 cubic feet of cargo capacity, which is only average for the class.
Asking a premium. With a starting price of over $22,000, the Mazda3 asks more than rivals like the Honda Civic. In addition to the car’s premium feel, Mazda adds extra features to make up the difference. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen is generous, and Mazda’s standard suite of safety tech includes advanced features like adaptive cruise control.
The base trim is likable enough, but our favorite trim is the Select. For a price increase of $1,200 over the base Mazda3, the Select gains smartphone compatibility, synthetic leather upholstery, and dual-zone automatic climate control. It feels premium enough to justify the price.
Our biggest complaint is the infotainment system. The display is crisp, but the interface has a series of menus that takes getting used to. It’s not the worst system we’ve used, but others from competitors are more intuitive.
Final thoughts. Transitioning into adulthood is always bittersweet, and never trouble-free. We’ll miss the zest of previous Mazda3 generations, and we wish that Mazda would update their infotainment system (and their hatchback design).
Overall, however, the 2020 Mazda3 benefits from maturity. It’s now a small car that’s as refined as it is fun and as polished as it is stylish. It’s not without flaws, but it deserves a place on the shortlist of best-in-class compact cars.
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