2019 Mazda MAZDA3 | A Bumpy Road to Premium | TestDriveNow


Mazda has a vision for its future that looks
and feels more premium even when it comes to their entry level sedan. This is the all new Mazda3. From Zoom-Zoom to Feel Alive, the small Japanese
automaker embarked on the road to premium a few years ago; a journey Mazda hopes puts
them in the same shopping group as Infiniti and Acura. Their lineup currently consists of 3 cars
and 3 SUVs, 2 of which do all the heavy lifting: the CX-5 and this, the Mazda3 available as
a hatchback or like here, a 4-door with a trunk. Since its debut in 2003, this compact has
been known, like most Mazdas, as the driver’s alternative. Never the most up to date or lavish but with
driving chops that put the segment leaders to shame, for example the dearly departed
Mazdaspeeed3, this new generation is flipping the script. The exquisite Kodo design language, the radiant
Soul Red paint, the Volvo-level cabin aesthetics – the Mazda3 with Premium Package makes
a divine introduction. But it doesn’t take long before its many
flaws are revealed, emblematic of a brand in transition, toiling with its race-inspired
drive and how to blend that with premium car attributes at a palatable price. As it sits, this front-wheel drive tester
with the upcharge paint and on-board navigation stickers for $28,465…so Mazda’s got the
premium pricing down. And with features like a slightly out-of-focus
though in-depth, color head-up display, memory settings, real leather seats, an uplevel Bose
12 speaker audio system, modern safety tech, and signature LED lighting with adaptive headlights
that swivel in the turns, this buries the memory of Mazda3s with hard plastics and outdated
design. But this car and I have failed to develop
camaraderie. I just don’t understand what Mazda’s doing
here. The ergonomics are poor so very few interactions
work intuitively – like the car and I aren’t on the same page. The part-time touchscreen has been replaced
by an even more frustrating interface, there’s an annoying rattle somewhere in the cabin,
but worst of all – and it’s something we almost never criticize Mazda for – the drive
is disjointed, artificial and dare I say boring? The cabin looks every bit the part with real
aluminum speaker grilles and high quality touchpoints but otherwise this is a bit of
a swing and a miss. (Infotainment stand-up) All 3s come with
a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and all but one comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission
– if you want a manual you’ve got to choose the hatchback with Premium Package. Generating 186 horsepower this Skyactiv motor
is held back by the auto’s software mapping that feels overdone…like it’s trying too
hard to be perfect and instead produces the opposite result. The sad part is that the engine feels spunky
and my gas mileage has been excellent but the electronic controls sully the drive…it’s
not smooth, it’s as if there’s someone holding the car back, moving ahead and then
being interrupted as if you were driving it in a low gear. And the ride lacks polish, clearly evident
when you hit a bump and the rear end hops. It’s also loud on the highway. The torsion beam rear suspension lacks the
very sophistication Mazda is targeting. But the cabin’s appearance is where the
Mazda3 excels. It feels as though you’ve just entered a
car from one of those premium brands Mazda covets. It’s authentic and chock full of features. The auto hold function is a favorite of mine
when I’m sitting in traffic and want to give my brake leg a rest, the heads-up display
alerts me to cars in my blind spots a la Hyundai and the gauges look cool. But when your smartphone is connected the
system voice commands no longer operate for the car…just for your phone. So for instance you can’t ask the car to
change radio stations while CarPlay is running and that’s a mistake because channel surfing
is next to impossible with this setup. I also hate that the parking brake automatically
engages so just as you’re ready to pull away and forget that you end up going nowhere. I’ve seen this before in other cars but
I can’t find an off setting in here…I’ve searched all over. The adaptive cruise control feels lacking
in the AI department with overly abrupt stops and really slow restarts in stop and go mode. There’s no height adjustment for the passenger
seat and the rear seats feel a little tight on legroom. Averaging over 31mpg has been nice but the
less than 400 mile driving range puts it at a disadvantage with most of its competitive
set. That being said its stylish design may just
win your heart and render you accepting of its faults.

53 comments

I have watched and read at least 10 reviews of this car and I have concluded that this car is either number 1 or number 2 in this category but according to you this car is catastrophic weird.🤔🤔

I love my 2017 Mazda3, but the infotainment is sincerely frustrating. I know infotainment is frivolous, and not necessary for driving, but good god, why can’t I turn it off? Why do I have to scroll through the entire list of artists? Why does the back button never truly go BACK? And forget just swapping in a Pioneer or whatever. I’m really enjoying the new Mazda3’s looks and luxurious cabin, and the availability of AWD (although I’m sure it’s more for assistance than performance), but it sucks to see the infotainment and other assistive features remain potential deal killers. Thank you for the review; I hope Mazda is listening. Mazda?

I’m sure we all have cars that the big publications like that we never warmed up to (and on the flip side we’ve certainly all liked cars they didn’t find too hot). Appreciate the honest review and difference of opinion

It's easy to use the infotainment system, in my opinion it's better than touchscreen.

At the beginning a bit more complicated, after a few days intuitive and better while driving…

One thing you forgot to mention was the endless recalls this car has had already. Rocker arm recall, head restraint recall, rearview mirrors falling off, lug nuts not torqued tight enough from the factory… The previous Mazda3 was excellent. This car is a dud. What the heck happened, Mazda?

Steve, When doing your roll call don't forget the Mazda Yaris. This 'near luxury' compact is answering a question almost nobody is asking. Thanks for countering the wave of propaganda about Mazda's magic new torsion beam rear suspension.

I appreciate Steve for not following the herd… This car is way overrated by most journalists. I test drove one awhile ago. It felt really claustrophobic than the last generation.

Good review here… kinda reminds me of Volvo a lil back… stylish yet missing the mark.. they went for premium.. swing and a miss..

As shown almost 32K. chad haire also complained about the HUD, the electronic parking brake & the AC shuts off during hard acceleration. Others complained about poorly placed front AC vents, no rear AC vents & no rear USB ports. chad tester had a headlight failure. Plus the common complaints of the Hunchback. Except for the new tech the last gen was a better car.

Thanks for speaking the truth about Mazda. "Premium" needs to be more than nice touch points and quality materials. Power, intuitive controls, and poise over the road would be qualities I would consider truly "premium."

Best review on youtube💯. Yeh…every review I’ve seen on a Mazda3 makes it seem like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t see premium as down grading the suspension. Thanks man for keeping it real👍🏾. You were honest with viewers and showed flaws I had not heard mentioned. Again Thank you.. thank u for keeping it real with us.👍🏾

You the first to tell the whole story about the Mazda to hear everyone else review this car it's the best driving most luxurious car one the planet all you did hear about was the infotainment system if that so good looking out 👍

Well they tried to get ppl everything they want in a new car these days … And couldn't quite figure it out or strengthen out … I'm sure they will smooth things out in the coming years . But I also blame the ppl.. you want so much out of a car these days and Mazda is just tryin to play catch up and them being under Ford did help either back in the day.
I'm rambling but what I'm saying is Mazda is jumping in too the premium side of things and they need time to get it right

I'm a little confused here. I drove the prior generation Mazda 3 and it has a similar setup, right? It's annoying at first but you get used to it. In other words, the annoyances Steve is talking about are really nothing new to the Mazda brand and almost a rite of passage. [Much like Lexus has piss poor infotainment systems with their trackpads.]

This press tester made it more miles than my grandparents new Mazda3! They hated it and traded after 1700 miles for a Volvo S60.

Ouch! Truth hurts, I guess. I'll take the Corolla SE sedan with the 6 speed manual. Great looking car that is getting some pretty dang good reviews.

90% of consumers won't know it's a torsion beam rear suspension. My problem is that Mazda is charging a premium price

In defense of the infotainment, the idea is to minimize the amount of roadway distraction with the all the controls together which can used without taking your eyes off the road. After a couple of weeks, the infotainment became second nature. I don't why the touchscreen is off in park, and yes, the radio changing is only achievable via steering wheel control. I believe you should be able to do a voice command along the lines of "Tune to FM XXX.X". Personally, I only stick to a 2-3 radio stations, so it's not that big a deal for someone like me.

People want touch screens. Automakers need to stop thinking they are smarter than what the customer wants. And yes, most Mazdas feel claustrophobic in a day and age where people value space.

Thank you for the frank review of the user interface on the infotainment system. I'm very attracted to this car but on my long commute I constantly interact with the radio and Apply CarPlay, and the Mazda could be a big annoyance if what you're saying is true. In my Chevy, it's no problem at all–I'd expect no less in my next car, and this is a great call-out re. the Mazda.

I’ve financed a Mazda3 Select, have driven it since April 8, and everyone compliments the exterior and interior looks. However, once they ride in it, they complain about the tight rear quarters and lack of rear air vents. A/C definitely isn’t the best. When driven over rough roads, the interior rattles and makes the car sound like a ten year old Chevy Cobalt. For anyone considering this car, I would wait until the next model year, and really test drive the car and look over the decent styling. My car is very quirky, I don’t regret it, but I think I’ll go to Toyota next. As soon as I can…😏

I actually drove the car last week. I own a BMW 3 series and found this car enjoyable to drive. The interiors are spectacular, i do not miss the touch screen as I found it safer to use the button commands. As I respect Steve for his frank and good reviews I don’t agree with him on this one. He had one point right. Changing radio stations is messy.

I drove the car and found it to be wonderful. It is fun to drive, very compliant, comfortable, and easily the best looking in its class. Sorry you could not figure out the entertainment system, but I found it to be just fine–figured it out on the lot before the test drive. I don't know why you would complain about the engine and lack of polish??? Yours is not a fair review of this car and I hope anyone interested in the 3 will drive it and make up their own mind.

I just came out of a 2017 Subaru Legacy 2.5 lease and bought a premium hatch (auto, FWD) and I love it. Your review has some gems that are true-ish, it depends on the what the person wants in a car. 

Infotainment I have figured out in a week, it is far superior to the Subaru version I left behind, which isn't saying much, however since I now only use Apple CarPlay and Spotify I never have an issue navigating the screens (I don't use the radio, not even the free Satellite radio trial, just not what I like). Using Waze (which integrates with Spotify) is simple to navigate with the rotary knob. 

The car does have some low speed stutter (for lack of a better term — probably the cylinder deactivation switching on and off), yet it does not seem to effect acceleration at all (this car is very peppy at the right moments, off the line or passing at higher speeds on the highway). 

I had a 2015 WRX and I feel like the Mazda3 holds up well to that standard as far as road handling for a daily driver, steering is weighted and the car holds a curve extremely well, so I haven't found a flaw in the suspension, high speed sweeping on ramps are handled without much drama. I have not experienced any wheel hop from the rear, nor do I find it loud at all on the highway (maybe that is because I have that infotainment feature enabled to match audio volume automatically to exterior noise?). In any case, if there is more noise than the Legacy, which was pretty quiet, I don't notice that.

The ACC is much more aggressive in braking and slower in acceleration than it needs to be, but so was the Eyesight system I had in my last car. They both are easily managed, making it more a driver assistant than robopilot situation in stop and go traffic. On the highway, it works very well.

I know a lot of people hate on the hatch, but to each his own, I think this car is beautiful and drives great, I like it better every day (maybe that's because I keep the infotainment parked in one spot, haha). 

Oh, and comfortable, 30mpg in mixed driving, peppy when needed, coasts well when you don't need the acceleration, great brakes, great stereo, and the adaptive headlights are amazing at night (auto high beam also works seamlessly, I had to disable the Eyesight version as it was so slow to respond to oncoming traffic).

I test drove the AWD sedan also, and it feels much more solid, though less fun to drive imho. Other drivers who did buy the AWD version seem disappointed by the lower mpg's.

Not a car if you want to tote a lot of people around in, but awesome daily for me (95% I am the only person in the car, 4% wife joins me, 1% or less I have a passenger).

So I don't think your review is off base, it just depends on what you are looking for in a car, this one has personality and I don't regret choosing it.

Never seen one of your reviews before but I found this to be moronic and will not watch any more. As a car reviewer have some common sense…auto parking brakes get AUTOMATICALLY disengaged when you hit the gas. Also, who uses the radio 😂

I have just taken delivery of a top of the line model and I don’t agree with any of your comments , if you had bothered to read the owners manual you would of found out how to disengage the auto park brake your do some research before you criticise

Skip the upcharge paint (chips easily), nix the Bose w/nav, choose touring trim and enjoy. If the 3 isn't right, the 6 touring/gt trims for about the same price give you a similar car to go about your daily chores. I'd chose the hatch for the manual, but there are things about the car that have it falling short of my expectations, keeping it out of my garage despite us having a '16 cx-5.

Mazda needs to find a way to blend luxury and speed (read zoom zoom) to be successful and continue with their mission. I really want a (manual) '6 wagon, but we all know that's not happening.

I have a cx9. I programmed all my favs for stations. So easy to flip through from the steering wheel and you can mix with FM and satellite. What I don’t like is when apple car play is up and you change the station. It doesn’t show you what you flipped to.

The only sore spot that sticks out to me is the engine and its disturbing lack of power. Mazda needs to bring back the Mazdaspeed.

The sedan must drive different from the hatch which must drive different with the manual. I have the manual premium hatchback and it is a pleasure to drive. Very smooth, and when you select the gears you always have enough power. It’s also one of the quietest cars I’ve ever owned. I agree that the infotainment media selection sucks. What was Mazda thinking. I wouldn’t mind a complete overhaul of its way to select channels. But that’s a small quirk for me since I always play media through my phone. And like you mentioned the interior is amazing. It definitely out classes even Acuras models.

Hi Steve, I appreciate the frankness of the review.

One comment I wanted to address, however — changing radio stations. I've seen this a few places, but yours was the most recent and therefore the only one I could remember to comment on 😀

There is a quick way to change stations: you can press & hold left or right on the volume joystick until it beeps to jump to the next broadcasting station. It's effectively "scan" but tuning one station at a time.

Just pressing once to the left or right toggles between the tuning mode of the joystick and the favorites list. By pressing & holding left / right in the favorites mode, you'll move between favorites (if you have them set up).

So… not intuitive, but there is a way to change channels quickly. And without even looking at any buttons 🙂

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