2020 Mazda3 Hatchback Premium Package AWD Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Great value vs. much higher priced competitors
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
It's easy to get confused when sorting out the shopping choices available in Mazda world. For example, there are two entirely different models carrying the numeral 3 in their designation. The Mazda CX-3 is a mini-utility vehicle with four doors and a hatchback, AWD, and a 4 cylinder inline motor. The Mazda3 we tested is a sedan derivative that also has four doors and a hatchback, AWD, and an inline 4 cylinder engine. The main differences between them are size, price and finish level. The sports utility based CX-3 costs about $22,000 while the sedan based, top model Mazda3 we drove carried a sticker price of $32,065.
The Mazda3 AWD's base price of $28,900 included no extra charge for the generous Premium Package which contributed sun roof, paddle shifters, leather seats, black finished alloy rims, head up driving display, and LED signature illumination front and rear. The only significant surcharge was $595 for the Red Crystal Metallic paint which graced the sedan's voluptuous contours. The hatchback version of the 3 adds a graceful arc to the side elevation of the 3 that is missing on the truncated sedan form. However, there is a price to pay for the convenience and added beauty of the hatchback: poor rear quarter vision. You will find yourself backing this Mazda out of parking spots and into traffic flow with unaccustomed care. Thankfully, standard rear cross traffic alert stands vigilant to assist you in reverse maneuvers.
Mazda's corporate philosophy stresses the importance of racing. For many years they have fielded a successful team of prototypes in the IMSA series, and their Miatas continue to compete winningly around the world. This race breeding instantly shows up in the design and driving feel of the Mazda3. The controls are precisely placed, the steering wheel is artfully designed, the seats contoured for good lateral support, and the floor shift lever and accompanying paddles are well crafted for instant usage. Moreover, the front MacPherson strut/rear torsion beam axle chassis design of the 3 responds to input with precision. Standard "G-Vectoring Control Plus" subtly adjusts power delivery and braking forces to ensure smooth transitions between acceleration and deceleration.
We found that the Mazda3 was able to keep up with a well driven BMW M2 on a sinuous stretch of two lane backroad without undue hassle. The only shortfall compared to the Bimmer came in the thrust department, where the Mazda3 could not keep up with the M2 in second gear acceleration. Otherwise, this rather inconspicuous looking, economically priced Mazda is up to the task of taking on backroad blazers from Germany that cost nearly twice as much. The 2.5 liter inline 4 makes 186hp and 186lb.-ft. of torque with the aid of dual variable valve timing, double overhead cams, and a Skyactive compression ratio of 13.0:1. This efficient motor, which carries an overall fuel consumption rating of 27MPG, drives all 4 wheels through a 6-speed automatic gearbox that would benefit from a slightly lower second gear ratio to help dig the Mazda out of low speed turns. The Toyo tires (215/45R18 Proxes A40 radials) performed flawlessly, with no loss of adhesion and plenty of sidebite from their TW 300 rated wear number. Pedal feedback from the 11.02 inch vented front discs and 10.43 inch solid rear discs was uniformly excellent. Steering control is immediate, thanks in part to the 37.3 ft. turning ratio which is quite tight for an all wheel drive vehicle.
The AWD version of the Mazda3, at 3,255lbs., is 173lbs. heavier than the base model 3, a 155hp version that carries a starting price of $21,500. The AWD's extra curb weight gives the Mazda3 a power-to-weight ratio of 17.5lb/hp. If you want to improve that number significantly, you can wait for the introduction of the 2021 Mazda3 AWD, which will be turbocharged to produce 250hp. That improvement alone, available only on the AWD version of the '21 Mazda3, will improve the power-to-weight ratio to a BMW-eating 13.03lb/hp. On the other hand, you now have some substantial bargaining power if you decide to make an offer on the 2020 Mazda3, which is a perfectly adequate performer that can probably be bought at a bargain price for the time being.
2020 MAZDA3 HATCHBACK PREMIUM PACKAGE AWD
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4, DOHC, dual VVT
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 24MPG City/32MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $32,065
HYPES: Responsive Handling, Upmarket Interior
GRIPES: Rear Vision Restricted, Jerky Cruise Control
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10