2019 Mazda3 First Drive Review: Setting A New Standard In Style And Substance


The all-new, all-wheel drive 2019 Mazda3 makes an even grander attempt to stand out from the competition on driving prowess. Here in the United States, there are precious few compact sedans that actually feature AWD. At the moment, only Subaru competes in this class with the Impreza.

The 2019 Mazda3 kicks off a new generation of the company’s design language.

However, Mazda does not consider the Subaru Impreza as a direct competitor. While it is true that the Mazda3 is much more powerful and sporty, the Impreza is less expensive and more efficient. Mazda also offers a version of the 2019 Mazda3 with front-wheel drive, for those who don’t necessarily need power going to all four wheels.

Of the two, the 2019 Mazda3 is the better performer. With its new suspension setup, it’s also the best-riding car in its class – by far. It also has class-leading interior design, outstanding ergonomics and sensual exterior lines.

Interior design

Like the exterior of the 2019 Mazda3, the interior has a distinctively European bent. It looks like a cross between Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-Benz, and that’s a good thing. Tactile feel is superb, from the buttons to the leathers and plastics.

Controls, screens and the command dial have all moved up and forward to assist sight and feel. The plastic HUD flip screen is gone in favor of a proper HUD beamed onto the windshield. The available Bose stereo system has 12 speakers in new locations, creating luxury-level sound.

2019 Mazda3
The 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G carries over from the last generation model.


Apart from the way it looks, driving is what the 2019 Mazda3 is all about. They managed to keep the signature Mazda driving pleasure, despite making the ride considerably more sophisticated. Much of that has to do with their version of twisting beam rear suspension. It’s an unusual choice for a rear suspension for an AWD vehicle, but somehow it works.

When pushed, the rear never flexes, never lifts and stays planted. It sorts out all road irregularities like a European performance sedan, and somehow it rides creamy smooth. There’s serious suspension wizardry going on.

Brakes are strong and dive is minimal. Thanks to their dynamic electronic and suspension tuning, turning is rewarding and there seems to be some genuine feel at your fingertips.

As I’ve said with many other Mazdas, the power is good. But a turbocharger would be excellent. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder, SKYACTIV-G engine makes 186 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 186 lbs-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. It’s more or less a carryover from the last generation, as is the six-speed automatic and manual transmission. We did not get a chance to test Mazda’s new SkyActiv-X engine here.

The i-ACTIV all-wheel drive system can split torque up to 50/50 between the front and rear when needed. It also helps maintain its directional and dynamic control on slippery surfaces. Mazda had a technician toggle the system on and off while I drove on a snow-covered course. The difference was remarkable.

But here’s a sour note for enthusiasts: you can only get the six-speed manual transmission in the 2019 Mazda3 hatchback with the Premium Package. Nope, it’s not available in the base model, in the sedan or with AWD. Odd choice.

2019 Mazda3 Fuel Economy (EPA)

Fuel EconomySedan (City/Hwy/Comb.)Hatchback (City/Hwy/Comb.)
6-speed Manual FWD 25/35/29
6-speed Auto FWD26/35/30
27/36/30 (Premium Package)
6-speed Auto AWD25/33/2824/32/27
The 2019 Mazda3 has an 8.8-inch infotainment display with an updated infotainment system.

Comfort and Convenience

If feeling unique, modern and comfortable are priorities, the 2019 Mazda3 interior is the way to go. It looks better than most and is comparable to many higher end vehicles. Buttons and switches have been consolidated too. This helps clean up the look as well.

The new 8.8-inch infotainment display is a vast improvement over the size, shape and location of the old display.

That said, the latest Mazda3 is also missing some features. You can only get optional front heated seats. There is no cooling option, nor is there a heated steering wheel. These are items available in much lower priced vehicles. The back seat is still tight and, in the hatchback, the cargo space is marginal.

Despite tons of tech, the Mazda 3 is missing out on a surround view/bird’s-eye view parking assist system too.


Even for front-wheel drive 2019 Mazda3 models, the price has risen significantly over the outgoing version. Mazda laid out pricing for each model below (excluding destination charges):

Mazda3 FWD 6AT$23,600$21,000
Mazda3 Select package FWD (Automatic)$22,600
Mazda3 Preferred package FWD (Automatic)$25,200$24,200
Mazda3 Premium package FWD (Manual)$27,500
Mazda3 Premium package FWD (Automatic)$27,500$26,500
Mazda3 AWD 6AT$25,000
Mazda3 Select package AWD 6AT$24,000
Mazda3 Preferred package AWD 6AT$26,600$25,600
Mazda3 Premium package AWD 6AT$28,900$27,900


Soul Red Crystal $595
Machine Gray Metallic $300
Snowflake White Pearl Mica $200

Check back to TFLcar.com for more news, views, and real-world reviews of the 2019 Mazda3!