Six months of impressions add up to this.
After living with the 2020 Mazda3 hatchback all-wheel drive for six months, it’s time for the car to leave our long-term test fleet. Thousands of miles behind the wheel and multiple tests confirm one thing: We love the Mazda and consider it one of the best five-doors on the market, even against solid competition from Toyota, Honda, and others.
The only thing holding us back from fully endorsing the 3 hatch is the availability of the Mazda CX-30 crossover, which is actually cheaper and features virtually identical dimensions. However, if you’re one of the few objectors to the crossover, this car is a phenomenal alternative. Here are our final thoughts on the Mazda3 hatchback AWD.
Clint Simone, Associate Editor, Video Producer
Favorite Thing: Best Interior South of $40,000
Least Favorite Thing: Missing Some Soul
As the primary caretaker of our long- term fleet, I spent the most time driving the Mazda3 during our extended loan. I like the Mazda3 hatchback’s interior better than a BWW 3 Series’. I like the cabin more than in an Audi A3, and much more than a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. I can’t tell you how many people hopped into the 3’s cabin for the first time and just said “woah.” When asked, most responded that they would expect to spend $45,000 for a car with such an impressive interior, not knowing that it actually costs $30,710.
And who could blame them? The seats are soft and durable. Everything above the legs is a pleasant, soft-touch material. Even the HVAC controls have a nice feel to them, along with the center console buttons. Oh, and the optional Bose sound system is pretty much the best out of anything in the class. Unfortunately, the backseat is down on space and lacks an air vent, but is otherwise comfortable. More than ever, compact car buyers are craving a premium feeling in their car, and the 3 delivers better than any other car for the money.
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After driving the Mazda3 for the first time, it became very clear that the car can absolutely handle more power. And although the Mazdaspeed3 hot hatch is likely a pipe dream, Mazda will be addressing the power problem (kinda) by adding a turbocharged engine. But for now, we’re left turbo-less, and the 3 is less engaging because of it.
That’s a shame because the rest of the car is lovely to interact with. Mazda tuned the steering perfectly, adding nice weighting plenty of driver feedback. Despite having an old-school torsion-beam rear suspension, the little 3 is sharp in the corners. Even with all-season tires, there is still adequate grip with the all-wheel-drive system. A torquier, more playful engine would really seal the deal. For that, we anxiously await next year’s model.
Brandon Turkus, Managing Editor
Favorite Thing: Comfy Cruiser
Least Favorite Thing: Tight Cabin
My time with our long-term Mazda3 was for just a week, so I’m not quite as attached to the stylish hatchback. Still, during that time, I zipped about Miami and then plotted a straight and boring course up Interstate 95 to Daytona Beach for the Rolex 24.
On that long, dull drive, the 3 proved itself a capable cruiser. The front seats are extremely comfortable with plenty of support on a long journey. Sight lines fore and aft are adequate, although it’s easy to criticize the Mazda’s big over-the-shoulder blind spots, which are capable of hiding very large vehicles from view. Blind-spot monitoring helps, although I’m definitely torn on whether the 3’s sexy hatchback shape is worth sacrificing so much visibility.
I found the powertrain quite good despite its simplicity – there’s just a big naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic. Considering the industry’s obsession with turbocharging and extra gears, that’s a positively mundane combo. But it works, with the 2.5-liter four and slushbox delivering smooth, predictable acceleration at highway speeds. Low-end shove is ample for zipping about town, but the lack of a turbo means the Mazda’s four-pot is most productive in the middle of the rev range rather than at the start. The ride is composed and quiet, too. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to repeat the drive to Daytona.
Mazda designed a very pretty exterior, but I’d happily give up some of the svelteness for more utility and better visibility.
What I would hesitate to do, though, is stuff too many people or things in the back. Because January in Florida means some wonky weather (it was so cold in Miami that iguanas were literally falling out of trees – it was on the news and everything) and because the Rolex 24 is no stranger to cold and wet weather, I overpacked for my one-week trip, with a huge Away suitcase that challenged the 3’s smallish cargo hold. Between the suitcase and my camera bag, there was virtually no room left in the trunk.
Mazda lists the cargo hold at 20.1 cubic feet, but my guess is that requires removing the tonneau cover. It seems like a large number, but it was suspiciously easy to consume all the available space. As for the backseats, while I didn’t shove anyone back there, I’d still hesitate to do so, considering the tight legroom and limited headspace. Mazda designed a very pretty exterior, but I’d happily give up some of the svelteness for more utility and better visibility.
Jeff Perez, Senior Editor
Favorite Thing: Sublime Styling
Least Favorite Thing: Cramped Cabin
Like my colleagues, I found the inside of our long-term Mazda3 to be extremely nice visually. Its cabin rivaled other luxury vehicles we'd driven in overall execution and form, and especially with our tester's red leather, it looked really good. But let's not overlook the exterior, too; the Mazda3 is a very handsome vehicle.
The 3 wears the brand's “Kodo” design language extremely well. The sharp LED headlights and large hexagonal grille pair to sleek taillights in the rear and simple but stylish wheels. People have knocked the oversized C-pillar – and it does create a bit of a blind spot– but it's easy to overlook all things considered.
The 3's cabin rivaled other luxury vehicles we'd driven in overall execution and form.
The only thing I had an issue with during my time in the Mazda3, much like Brandon, was the lack of interior space. The backseat of the Mazda3 hatchback is very cramped, and even the front compartment feels tighter than it should. The 3 has a relatively tiny 42.3 inches of legroom up front and just 35.8 inches of headroom. It also has one of the smaller cargo compartments in the class, too, at just 20.1 cubic feet.
There's a lot we liked about the Mazda3 hatchback, both in the way it looked and drove. And even though it felt unnecessarily tight comparatively, that wasn't a dealbreaker in our final assessment. The Mazda3 is still a great hatchback.
Gallery: 2020 Mazda3 Long Term Test
2020 Mazda3 Premium AWD