While it’s not as sporty as the Mazda3 of a few years back, the upscale interior, good handling, and overall package help it stand out.
You can buy the Mazda3 as a sedan, as I tested, or as a hatchback. If you’re looking for added space to haul cargo, be sure to take a look at the hatch.
I spent a week testing the 2020 Mazda3 Premium with AWD and came away impressed with the driving characteristics and the upscale interior on this compact car.
Mazda offers the sedan in base, Select, Preferred and Premium, and the hatchback in all but Select. New for 2020 is standard collision avoidance on all trim levels. You can add AWD as an option on Select and higher trims. You’ll find a six-speed automatic transmission in most trims, but the Mazda3 hatchback premium includes a manual six-speed.
Driving the Mazda3
The 2020 Mazda3 is fun to drive with a nice mix of sporty feel, pep, and good handling. Mazda opted for a more refined ride when they switched to this generation of the Mazda3 in 2019. The Mazda3 still delivers fun on curvy roads and the handling is good, but it’s not the same experience. Steering is weighted nicely and it’s easy to feel in control while zipping along a winding river road.
There is no manual option on the sedan, but I found the six-speed automatic was quick and competent at finding gears. There is a sport mode that holds the gears a little longer and you can choose to shift if you prefer. Sport mode doesn’t adjust the handling or steering, but those are already good.
The same change that took away a bit of the playful nature does deliver a more composed ride and this ultimately means a little more comfort while you are cruising around town.
With AWD the Mazda3 Premium is rated at 28mpg combined, with 25mpg city and 33mpg on the highway. This is in line with my experience driving the sedan.
Mazda3 Interior & Style
Part of the switch to this new generation of Mazda3 is an upscale swing that works out really well for Mazda. The cabin materials and style are more luxurious on the Premium trim than you’d expect, though the price of the Mazda3 can quickly increase.
The front of the cabin is spacious and the materials look and feel more like a luxury car in the Premium trim tested. I found the front seats quite comfortable and the driving position good.
In the backseat, things are significantly more cramped. If you haul adults, plan on moving both front seats up significantly. This is a compact car, so that is understandable, but ultimately I wish there was a little more room in the back seat.
The trunk isn’t massive but it does offer enough room for groceries, supplies for a day hike, and the random items that we all keep rolling around in our trunks.
Mazda3 Tech and Safety
A larger 8.8-inch display is perfect for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which are standard in 2020. The display is tucked back into the dash since you aren’t meant to touch it. There is a dial on the center console that you use to control the Mazda software and either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The screen is bright and easy to see. The Mazda software is updated and better than a few years ago, but there are still some clunky interface moments. When you plug your phone in, you can skip past most of that and choose to use CarPlay or Android Auto for access to messages, calls, music, and navigation.
It’s an adaptation to switch from touchscreens to the dial on the center console, but it is something that you can pick up on in a week.
The 12-speaker Bose system sounds very good, fills the cabin nicely, and is loud enough to cruise with the windows down and really enjoy the music. There are two USB ports for charging and my loaner came equipped with a wireless charging pad.
On the Premium trim, a head up display allows you to see important driving information without taking your eyes off the road. This trim also includes an adaptive lighting system that adjusts the headlights as you drive to help provide light where you need it, such as into a turn instead of straight ahead.
This model also came equipped with blind-spot monitoring that helps add driver confidence while changing lanes and radar cruise control with stop and go support. The radar cruise system works nicely and with stop and go support, you can use it when you’re stuck in traffic, not just while cruising down the highway. The Radar Cruise control is standard along with Smart Brake support, Lane-keep Assist, and Lane Departure Warning. Smart Brake is automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
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