With some of the revelations from last month’s LA auto show still making their way around current auto news, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about one of our personal favorites (at least in terms of accessibly priced reveals). And that favorite comes in the form of the restyled Mazda 3, bolstered with all-wheel drive swagger and a wealth of updated features and capabilities.
Taking a step back, it’s worth pointing out that Mazda made an unexpected fan of us the moment it embraced the ‘soul of motion’ with its KODO design philosophy. With little more than a minimalist, organic styling, Mazda managed to create one of the most visually compelling lineup of crossover SUVs we had ever seen. Distinctive, yet entirely on-brand, the CX series remains some of the most tasteful offerings on the market. With a clear sense of intent, they manage to avoid much of the thirstiness exhibited by other lineups desperate to distinguish themselves from other equally uninspired offerings in the segment.
And while we never held such passionate a position when it came to Mazda’s diminutive sedan & hatchback, their decision to align the Mazda3 with the aesthetic and abilities of its stablemates might just be exactly what it took to change our minds.
Visually, one could argue that the exterior styling of the Mazda 3 is largely indifferent from its predecessor. However, Mazda’s brilliance (especially in recent years) lies in their unapologetic subtlety, and the nuanced redesign of the 3 is no exception. In both sedan and hatchback styling, it carries over the same sinewy-athleticism which grants is athletic feel. That said, it provides a strong lesson in the power of a restyled front and rear fascia, with a distinctive grille and lamp design ensuring that its overall appearance feels fresh and new. And when we turn to the hatchback version, the girth-ey nature of the rearmost pillar combined with the sloped roofline lends it even more visual impact.
Under the hood, comes any one of three inline-four cylinder engines, including a 2.0 and 2.5-liter paired to either a 6-speed manual or automatic. And while exact specification for the U.S. market have yet to be released, it’s widely believed that a horsepower rating in the high 180’s is a logical expectation. This is based on the ratings of the outgoing models, and the numbers achieved by preliminary testing of Mazda’s Skyactiv-X ignition system. Which provides another incentive to consider the new Mazda 3 because it boasts even greater fuel economy than the 36 mpg highway rating already on the books. Granted, some might find issue with a modest 184 hp and 155 lb-ft torque rating but, in all fairness, those critics were probably unlikely to get behind the wheel of a Mazda 3 anyway. We might include ourselves in the same list, but the combination of thoughtful engineering and appealing styling is successful in getting us to take an extended look at the Mazda 3 for the first time. And, if we’re being completely honestly, it’s definitely the first time I’ve ever looked at a hatchback and thought,”Damn that looks good”.
Step inside the 3, and you get a reminder of what makes the Mazda 6 so appealing. Not to be mistaken for an accusation of redundancy, the simple fact is that it echoes much of its sibling’s strengths. A strong driving position with a low dash, a refined ‘less is more’ mindset in terms of controls and control placement; all characteristics that carried over due to their individual strengths. All this combined with a sleek aesthetic and strong material choices help the Mazda 3 to offer an impressive cabin experience.
An 8.8-inch touchscreen interface anchors the dash, and is expected to be paired with an 8-speaker soundsystem (with the option of a BOSE speaker upgrade). It is also expected that that Mazda 3 will offer full smartphone integration with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
And of course, there’s the every-increasing array of safety and driver-assistive technologies. Automatic emergency braking comes standard, along with forward cross-traffic alerts. The new adaptive cruise control has been upgraded to include high-traffic driving aids, and an infrared system designed to monitor driver attention works to alert the driver of any issues, or loss of focus. All in all, what more could you ask for.
And, as mentioned before, the Mazda 3 now gains the reliability of all-wheel drive, further sweetening what is already a pretty sweet deal. So, I’ll say it again. I’ve never really thought much about a Mazda 3, let alone a hatchback, and yet…here I am (in the midst of a New England winter) giving it some serious props. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s got to be worth something, right?