Review: Mazda 3 (2019)
Looks great. Premium interior with excellent standard specification. Fun to drive with excellent manual and automatic gearboxes.
Rear seats a bit claustrophobic. Poor rear visibility. Entry-level 2.0-litre petrol feels slow compared to turbocharged rivals. Diesel axed in 2019.
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Mazda 3 (2019): At A Glance
The Mazda 3 has always been an underrated alternative to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. That's especially true of the 2019 model with its eye-catching looks, premium interior and generous amount of standard equipment.
The 3's interior is just as easy on the eye as its exterior, with lots of well-finished materials and a simplistic layout. Refreshingly, the (relatively small and thin) infotainment screen sits on top of the dash and is controlled via a rotary controller positioned between the front seats. There's no touchscreen as Mazda says it's too distracting - something many of our readers agree with.
With seats positioned low down, there's loads of room for even the tallest of adults in the front of the Mazda 3. There's a reasonable amount of room in the back, too, but the 3's sloping roofline hinders headroom, while the small rear windows also make things feel slightly claustrophobic. The rear bench is wide enough for three adults, though.
Continuing the driver-focussed theme, the Mazda 3 is as good to drive as the new Ford Focus - and that's saying something. Its communicative steering provides lots of confidence, whether you're tackling city traffic or negotiating winding roads - while the snickety MX-5-like manual gearchange is a delight to use.
Buyers looking for a smooth ride are better opting for the 16-inch alloy wheels which are fitted as standard to the SE and SE-L models, as the 3's slightly unsettled ride around town is emphasised by the 18-inch wheels fitted in Sport guise. The bigger wheels don't make things too uncomfortable, but the difference is noticeable.
The Mazda 3 was initially offered with a 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces a lowly 122PS, or a 1.8-litre turbodiesel with 116PS. The diesel was dropped late in 2019, replaced by a clever Skyactiv-X petrol engine which is said to provide diesel-like economy.
To overlook the latest Mazda 3 in your search for a sensible family hatchback would be a huge oversight. Its interior is up there with the best - with lots of soft-touch materials and buttons in favour of a huge touchscreen display. It's also fairly practical and represents very good value for money.
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Mazda 3 (2019): What's It Like Inside?
The Mazda 3's interior feels uncluttered and modern, taking an almost premium approach - even on lower-spec models.
Navigation is standard across the range, accessed via an 8.8-inch screen positioned on top of the dash and further away from the driver than usual. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard, allowing you to access your phone's features through the cars.
It seems to work better in the Mazda 3 than other models we've used it with - the buttons work seamlessly to allow you to skip tracks, for example, and hitting the navigation button take you to your phone's default navigation app (rather than the car's sat nav system).
There's a logic to positioning the infotainment screen where it is. It's easier to glance at during driving than an oversized display positioned in the centre of the dashboard, while a windscreen-projected head-up display provides information such as navigation directions, vehicle speed and traffic sign recognition. Again, this is standard on even entry-level models - and it's surprisingly clear for a 'mainstream' car.
Rather than reaching forward to access the menus of the infotainment system, Mazda has snubbed a touchscreen system in favour of a rotary controller positioned between the front seats. This is something that's very easy to get used to - and it's easy to see why Mazda claims it's safer to operate while driving than a touchscreen system.
The seats are very comfortable, with manual height and lumbar adjustment standard on entry-level models. Positioning the front seats low down not only adds to the MX-5 feel of the Mazda 3, but also means there's plenty of space for taller adults.
That's the case in the front, anyway - space in the rear is a little on the tight side, especially in terms of legroom, but those looking to carry four adults regularly would be better looking for a bigger car.
Although the Mazda 3's 358-litre boot isn't class-leading and there is quite a lip to hoist heavy items over, it's usefully square in shape. There are indentations behind the arches to carry a lengthy item like a golf bag, while the rear seats drop easily enough to provide a relatively flat load deck.
Specifications (from launch):
SE-L features power-folding door mirrors, LED headlights with auto headlight levelling and high beam control, LED rear lights, rear fog light, rear parking sensors, 16-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing front wipers, windscreen projected colour head-up display, electronic parking brake, colour seven-inch TFT driver information display, front seats with manual slide, recline and height adjusment, black cloth seats, 60:40 split fold down rear seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and height adjustment, Bluetooth, DAB radio with eight speakers, 8.8-inch infotainment display, steering wheel audio controls, USB charging port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation with European mapping, manual air conditioning, electric windows, radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, hill launch assist, intelligent speed assist, Isofix child seat anchorage (outer rear seats), plus lane-keep assist with lane departure warning.
SE-L Lux adds auto-dimming door mirrors, front parking sensors, reversing camera, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, CD player, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry.
Sport Lux comes with adaptive front lights, signature LED lights, signature LED rear lights, privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels, frameless auto-dimming rear-view mirror plus paddle shift for automatic transmission.
GT Sport features adjustable memory door mirrors with tilt-down function when reversing, vinyl leather door trim, power adjustable driver's seat, black leather trim with heated front seats, heated steering wheel and a Bose sound system.
GT Sport Tech models come with a 360-degree surround view monitor (front, rear and side cameras), front cross traffic alert and a driver monitor.
Child seats that fit a Mazda 3 (2019)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Mazda 3 (2019) like to drive?
- Engines range from 1.8d to 2.0 180 Automatic AWD
We're so used to cars being offered with small capacity, turbocharged units that 122PS from the Mazda 3's 2.0-litre petrol engine sounds pretty lacklustre. Mazda favours naturally-aspirated engines for their real-world economy and long-term reliability, and understandably so.
If you jump from a 1.0-litre Ford Focus to the 2.0-litre Mazda3 expecting impressive performance, you'll be disappointed. Regular gear changes and a willingness to cling onto revs is required to get the best out of the petrol engine. And doing so does impact refinement (and fuel economy). For some drivers it will be fine, though - if you're not regularly tackling steep hills or seeking effortless overtakes, the 2.0-litre is up to the job.
The diesel is better, with lots of grunt available from low down in the rev range. It actually isn't very diesel-like to drive, happy to rev surprisingly highly and without too much noise. Unfortunately, the Mazda 3 was only offered with a diesel engine for a short amount of time before it was dropped in favour of the new Skyactiv-X petrol.
Buyers can choose from an excellent six-speed manual gearbox or an equally good six-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox. The manual transmission is a delight to use (Mazda has form for some of the slickest gear changes in the business), but if you prefer to let the car take the strain, the automatic is quick to select the correct gear with little hesitation.
In terms of handling, Mazda could justifiably get away with marketing the new 3 as an MX-5 hatchback. Despite a bit of lean, the 3 remains composed in the bends and you'll have to be pushing it fairly hard before your passengers start to feel uncomfortable.
In town, the steering is light and it's an easy car to slot in and out of traffic - although rear visibility is slightly disappointing. Rear parking sensors are standard across the range, though, as is a reversing camera on all but the entry-level SE-L model.
No matter which spec or engine you opt for, you may be surprised at just how quiet and refined the Mazda 3 is. Even at high speeds, the 3's cabin is extremely hushed, with little in the way of road, engine or wind noise making its way inside.
|1.8d Automatic||-||-||121–128 g/km|
|2.0 122||-||-||117–119 g/km|
|2.0 122 Automatic||-||-||126 g/km|
|2.0 180||-||-||100–103 g/km|
|2.0 180 Automatic||-||-||119–120 g/km|
|2.0 180 Automatic AWD||-||-||125 g/km|
|2.0 180 AWD||-||-||109 g/km|
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