Automakers may create beautifully successful cars, but more and more consumers are shying away from them and instead buy a crossover vehicle. That the 2020 Mazda3 loses sales to the new Mazda CX-30 , the Japanese marque shouldn’t be too worried about, but it’s a shame for these compact sedans and five-door hatchbacks that are more refined and attractive than never.
Redesigned for the 2019 vintage, the Mazda3 saw its sales fall by 20% from last year. Is it just the result of the SUV rush, or maybe the financial incentives offered on the previous generation were much more generous, boosting sales?
Whatever. The 2020 Mazda3 still competes with the Honda Civic , Hyundai Elantra , Toyota Corolla , Kia Forte , Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Jetta in the top 10 most popular cars in Canada, and its weapon of choice, as before, is its exterior design that could pass for a model marketed by a luxury brand. One can only admire the fine details in the headlights and taillights as well as the curvature of the doors giving the car a sculpted, even athletic silhouette.
Although the two types of bodywork are very similar, the sedan plays the card of elegance while the Mazda3 Sport hatchback uses sleek lines to display increased sportiness. Its curvaceous rear end catches the eye and breaks conventions in the design of compact cars. A little too much, perhaps? The very wide rear pillars and the smallness of the rear window obstruct visibility somewhat, while the glass surface of the doors is less than in the previous generation. In short, you have to get used to not seeing much around the car.
If we notice an amalgamation of textures and shapes in the interiors of some competitors, the stylists of the 2020 Mazda3 have created a modern, chic and cohesive environment. Buttons and switches have a rich tactile feel, while chrome and satin accents intersect the black dash sparingly. What we don’t like is the abundance of glossy black trim that seems to scratch easily, as seen in our test car, and the lack of headroom in the rear seats.
As for the multimedia system, it is always so user-friendly thanks to the multifunction knob housed on the center console, and the volume button placed just next to it is found perfectly at our fingertips. The 8.8-inch screen is large enough, but no longer tactile like the one in the older generation of the Mazda3. In fact, it was only when the car was stationary, so as not to distract the drivers. In the end, it’s not a big loss, but it complicates the use of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems which work more efficiently with a touchscreen.
Under the hood, you always get the choice between a 2.0-liter four-cylinder developing 155 horsepower, or a 2.5-liter unit with 186 horsepower in the GS and GT versions. A six-speed manual gearbox and always available, which handles extremely well. On the other hand, the six-speed automatic makes the engines slightly less fuel-consuming in town. Sadly, Skyactiv technology is almost ten years old, and Mazda has slipped back into the compact car category to come last in fuel economy. Our winter test averaged 9.2 L / 100 km, while the city / highway / mixed ratings for our test Mazda3 GT were 9.8 / 7.4 / 8.7 L / 100 km.
These figures are for the 2020 Mazda3 with all-wheel drive, available only with the 2.5-liter engine. A new feature offered since 2019, the all-wheel-drive works with the aplomb of the systems found in the brand’s SUVs, favoring the front wheels in normal driving and being able to send the available power to the rear wheels in the blink of an eye during losses of adhesion.
By the way, the 2021 vintage will feature the Mazda3 Turbo as well, enjoying 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque (250 and 320 using premium gasoline). Obviously, we can’t wait to try this new powertrain in the compact, but frankly, the naturally aspirated four-cylinder does more than the job for the daily commute. And so far, don’t expect the Mazda3 Turbo to be a direct replacement for the late Mazdaspeed3.
With its suspension tuned for drivability, perfectly balanced steering and a lightweight feel, the 2020 Mazda3 is a pleasure to drive, whether en route to the office or along a winding country lane. The only other compact cars that are so fun to drive are the Golfs and Jettas.
The Mazda3 retails from $ 18,000 before freight and delivery charges. That’s for a base GX sedan without the $ 2,300 Convenience Package that adds 16-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, heated front seats and cruise control. The GS version starts at $ 22,700 and is the best value-for-money equipment in the line. The more expensive GT version includes a 12-speaker Bose audio system, a sunroof (optional in the GS) and adaptive headlights, and it is the only one that can be fitted with a navigation system, the SiriusXM radio compatibility and fully leather covered seats. The equivalent five-door version costs around $ 1,000 more, and our all-wheel-drive GT hits the box at $ 31,700.
Beautiful, refined and fun to drive, the 2020 Mazda3 feels like a more expensive vehicle, and on the design side, it’s in a class of its own. However, it is not perfect with above-average consumption, a lack of visibility to the outside and the observation that certain equipment is only available in the GS version, but which is standard or at less cost in the competition – the heated steering wheel, for example.
The new reality is that the Mazda3 will never again sell in such large quantities as it was four or five years ago, given the current market trend. Too bad, because it is a competitive car in almost every way, but whose reputation does not yet live up to that of the Civic and Corolla.