The original Mazda 3, which featured premium features like heated seats and a navigation system in an economy car, changed the way we look at compact cars. Now, the automaker will use the same innovative design to surpass its closest competitors.
Its fourth-generation Mazda 3 showcases clean lines and a luxurious interior that outclasses the Honda Civic or the Toyota Corolla and steers closer to an Audi A3 or a Mercedes-Benz A-class. The automaker clearly seems inspired by luxury compacts offering all-wheel drive. Now, Mazda 3 owners will be able to add an all-wheel-drive system for $1400 to the Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback.
The 2019 AWD hatchback, priced at $31,335, weighs only 117 pounds more than a comparably equipped front-drive 3 sedan. Though the extra weight may slow acceleration by 0.2 second, 7.2 seconds from zero to 60 mph and 15.6 seconds at 96 mph in the quarter-mile, the vehicle, available only in a paddle-shift six-speed automatic, is efficient and instinctive.
Perhaps the only downside of the new Mazda 3 is the 186-hp 2.5-liter inline-four engine, which doesn’t exactly compete with Honda or Volkswagen's turbo fours and offers an average 25 mpg. With a new torsion-beam rear axle, the Mazda 3 handles remarkably well, and the steering effectively apprises the driver of the tire/road connection. The all-wheel-drive system, though indiscernible in daily driving, allows the vehicle to pull 0.88 g on its Toyo tires, 0.01 g more than the front-drive sedan.
Mazda’s new all-wheel-drive control approach differs from that of its SUVs, which took into account outside temperature, steering input, and wiper activation when choosing an all-wheel-drive map to avoid wheelspin. The new system continually estimates vertical load at each wheel in terms of vehicle speed, steering input, and accelerometer and yaw-sensor data to enhance performance, which results in more torque to the rear axle when needed.
Though the Mazda 3 does display some weaknesses, such as its confined rear seating and its less than perceptive infotainment system, it does outshine rivals like Honda or Toyota in many key areas, therefore, making this affordable hatchback a cut above the rest.