The Mazda3 is all-new for the 2019 model year, and it will be built on Mazda’s new Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture. In addition to furthering the evolution of the Kodo design, it is also Mazda’s first foray into the near-luxury segment.
Mazda has been using words like “Mazda Premium” for the past few years, which meant you could expect up-level features and materials with a more economy-class pricing structure.
However, the new Mazda3 sets the bar for every vehicle that will follow both in terms of amenities and pricing.
Here are five things you need to know about this new vehicle.
There are still two body styles
Mazda maintains the two distinct body styles that the Mazda3 is known for: the sedan and the hatchback.
Interestingly, the interior of both vehicles will be virtually the same, but the exteriors of the two vehicles will share very few components. In fact, the only sheet metal in common will be the hood and the lower rocker panels.
The sedan will be the base level of the two vehicles, and the entry trim is equipped with cloth seats, 16-inch wheels, basic cruise control and no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Leveling up to the Select trim (or “package,” as Mazda likes to call it) adds the 18-inch wheels and all the amenities that come standard on the base hatch, such as CarPlay/Auto, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, passive entry and leatherette seats.
Note: Because the hatch comes so well-equipped at the base, it skips the Select trim, and moves straight to Preferred.
AWD is available
For the first time, all-wheel drive is available on Mazda’s compact car, but it comes with a $1,400 premium. It will be available on all trims.
The goal that Mazda strives for with its AWD system is a “natural driving feeling.” So, the i-Activ AWD system has a more intuitive feel, basically making you your best driving self.
It can react before you do, but responds as you would intend it to respond in the various inclement weather you might encounter.
What’s more, Mazda’s AWD system is incredibly efficient, and there will only be a 2 percent difference in fuel economy between front- and all-wheel drive. That should equate to about 1 mpg difference.
Skyactiv-X is TBD
The Mazda3 was launched in the U.S. with a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine. This is not a turbocharged engine, but it will deliver 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque.
Mazda has confirmed that the Skyactiv-X engine will eventually make it to the United States, but it hasn’t confirmed when. It will first be launched in the European markets sometime before the end of the year, and then finally make its way to the U.S.
So, what’s the big deal and why would we care about this engine? It’s purported to have the power bump and fuel efficiency of diesel, but is fueled by regular 87-octane gasoline.
There is a manual transmission
One of the things I’ve always loved about the Mazda lineup is it’s very generous with the manual transmission. Typically, a manual had been available in every trim. This changes with the new Mazda3. A manual is still available, but you can only get it in the hatchback at the top-tier Premium trim.
It’s a no-cost option, so it will cost exactly the same as the automatic transmission, but you have to go all in and will spend a minimum of about $28K to get it.
The price increase is steep
Just under $30K for a manual transmission, you ask? Yes. That’s approaching BMW territory. And that’s kind of on purpose.
Previous iterations of the Mazda3 could easily have been compared with the likes of the Toyota Corolla or the Honda Civic, but the 2019 Mazda3 is almost a party of one.
It has up-level materials and amenities, and the fit and finish is perfectly posh. So, the Mazda3 has completely left the entry-level market and has now entered near luxury.
The base price for the pared down sedan is $21,000, which is almost $3K more than the 2018 model. It’s also just a few hundred dollars less than the current Mazda6, which might be hard for current Mazda owners to swallow.
But it’s totally worth it. The attention to detail as well as overall fit and finish speaks to a much higher quality vehicle.
The Bottom Line:
You can’t really compare the current Mazda3 to the outgoing Mazda3. While it still has the “Zoom-Zoom” sensibility, the 2019 Mazda3 has entered a new class of vehicle.
I’d compare it more to an Acura or a Lexus than a Honda or a Toyota, and I have a feeling this is just the beginning of the lux-level climb.
For more information about the all-new 2019 Mazda3, be sure to read our full first-look review.