Mazda’s Been Movin’ on Up

Mazda's New Mazda3 Car

A detailed look at the 2020 Mazad 3 Premium AWD

EPA Ratings: 24/32/27mpg

0-60mph: 7.2 sec (indep. test)

Price as tested: $32,190

Like the Jeffersons, Mazda’s been movin’ on up. While this is clearly evident in its newest machinery, there’s a bit of tension with the change. A great example is the new Mazda 3.

According to the company’s own internal tracking, the prior model was often cross-shopped with the Audi A3, so the new one is a full frontal assault on that gussied-up VW Golf. Its skin is sleek and the trim discreetly upscale; the hatchback a radical-looking thing with a uniquely radiused tail.

The 3’s interior is beautifully turned out; most everything is a giant leap above the quality of main- stream rivals, and some is indeed better than Audi’s. The aesthetic is very simple, with money spent on switches that give good satisfaction as you twist, prod or push. The Mazda infotainment interface is a step forward too, though the lack of a touch screen makes Android and Apple mirroring more cumber- some. The refinement of the driver aids (lane assist, adaptive cruise control) more than make up for it.

Front seat comfort is superb, but the sloping roofline makes entry to the supportive back bench tight, and the hatch is claustrophobic. Mazda put form ahead of function, knowing that customers wanting more room could opt for the mechanically twinned CX-30 crossover.

Mazda added AWD to the 3 for the first time, broadening the company’s appeal in lands with four real seasons. The only engine available (for now, as a turbo is rumored) is a quiet 2.5-liter four with outputs of 186hb/186lb-ft. Channeled through Mazda’s excellent 6-speed auto and the four wheels, 0-60 takes 7.2 seconds at sea level; the 3 feels torquey but never that fast at our altitude. The powertrain also lacks pizzazz.

The same motor sounds rortier and pulls for the redline harder in the Miata, so it seems a shame Mazda put refinement above passion in the 3. Likewise the handling, which lacks the sparkle that has made every prior vehicles from the small Hiroshima manufacturer so special.

The steering is accurate and is tied into what Mazda has labeled G-Vectoring; this tweaks individual brakes as the car is rotated into a corner so it better resists front-end push. Although a bit firm, its refined ride resists wind and road noise as well or better than most every mainstream rival.

Perhaps as Mazda’s aspirational place in the automotive firmament becomes more secure, its talented designers and engineers will feel confident to reintroduce their legacy of driver connectedness to this newfound polish.

Automotive Editor Isaac Bouchard owns Denver-based Bespoke Autos ([email protected]; 303-475-1462). Read his latest address on how COVID-19 is affecting the automotive industry: Click Here

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