The next time you’re going to buy a car, sit in the driver’s seat, close your eyes and use your hands to learn the vehicle.
Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- How does the steering wheel feel?
- Can you reach the center stack?
- Is the placement of all controls intuitive?
- Are the buttons and knobs easy to reach?
- How do you feel sitting in the seat?
- Does it create joy?
That last question might have given you pause, but this is exactly the feeling Mazda is trying to create with the 2019 Mazda3.
And if you think the close-your-eyes drill is weird, it’s standard operating procedure for Mazda. To determine whether things are logically placed and feel good, the automaker actually placed a blind-folded engineer in a prototype driver’s seat to test all his motions and movements to ensure that everything is ergonomically correct and makes sense.
In fact, I’d argue that every single detail in the all-new Mazda3 receives similar thoughtful consideration.
Ponder the fact that Mazda even measured the amount of pressure it takes for your fingers to press a single button and then ensured that the exact same pressure was applied to every single button in the vehicle to create a harmonious interaction with all buttons.
Or think about how Mazda moved the audio speakers out of the doors to reduce squeaks and rattles and create better sound quality.
Plus, all this design direction began with an honest-to-goodness clay model.
Frankly, the thought and detail that went into every single piece of the Mazda3 is a little OCD.
But, the result is a thing of beauty.
The 2019 Mazda3 is not only all-new, but it also launches a new direction for the brand. And that direction is decidedly upscale.
This is something we haven’t quite seen in any previous Mazda, thus rendering comparisons with the Toyotas and Hondas of the world moot.
Instead, this Mazda3 is more like a Lexus or an Acura. And the future models are intended to follow suit.
So, it should be no surprise that the price tag goes up as well.
The base price of the 2019 sedan is $21,000 – and that’s almost $3K more than the 2018 model. If that makes you do a double take – and it should – we’ll also point out that this is almost the same starting price for the current Mazda 6.
Mazda execs made no excuses for this steep price increase, and simply stated that this is the new normal.
My takeaway: Every new Mazda will have a similar increase in price and status.
In addition to the incredible attention to detail, I’d like to say that the new Mazda3 is just all around better.
I love the design on both the sedan and the hatchback, and the interior materials are downright decadent. The soft-touch leather on the dash and the beveled ridges on the dials create a tactile delight.
I will point out that we were driving top-tier premium models, and I can only assume that the base models will follow suit with up-level materials.
At launch the Mazda3 comes equipped with a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. While this isn’t heart-flipping fast, it does a really nice job of merging on the highway and making fast turns into traffic – exactly what you want in a daily driver.
It handles well on twisty bits of road, and it’s just generally solid in all around driving.
What really stuck out, however, was the interior quietness.
At one point, we stopped next to a small waterfall, and I could hear a gentle shoosh of white noise in the background, but when I opened my car door, it was a virtual roar of rapids.
This was yet another stunning display of how much this vehicle has improved and how much attention went into the planning. I had to open and close my door a few times for this simple experience to sink in.
However, as mentioned previously, all this comes with a price. And the trim nomenclature has also been tweaked to reflect the more upscale direction of the brand.
The breakdown is as follows, and pricing includes destination and will be sedan/hatchback unless otherwise stated:
Mazda3 ($21,895/$24,495): Standard equipment on the base sedan includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, cruise control, push-button start, cloth seats, an 8.8-inch center display and 2 USB ports.
The base hatchback adds 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, passive entry, leatherette seats, leather shift knob and steering wheel, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, city brake support with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, driver attention alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and high beam control.
Select ($23,495): The interesting thing to note here is the hatchback skips this trim. However, the “base” Mazda3 hatch is the Select model. And the Select model for the sedan adds all the trappings of the hatch from the base including 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, passive entry, leatherette seats, leather shift knob and steering wheel, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, city brake support with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, driver attention alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and high beam control.
Preferred ($25,095/$26,095): This trim adds the same features to both sedan and hatchback, including 8-way power driver’s seat, Bose premium audio, driver’s seat memory, heated front seats and Sirius XM radio.
Premium ($28,795/$29,795): This top-tier trim adds mostly the same content to both body styles with one exception, the hatchback has an available no-cost-added manual transmission. Features on both vehicles include a head-up display, adaptive front lighting, leather seats, power sliding glass moonroof and paddle shifters.
Pricing above is for the front-wheel-drive models; AWD adds $1,400 and is available on every trim and every model, except the Premium hatchback with the manual transmission.
The FWD sedan is already in dealers, and the hatchback and AWD models will be there within a couple weeks.
The Bottom Line:
The Mazda3 Mazda3 is an amazing vehicle, and I’m having a hard time finding the flaws.
While this is no longer a super affordable vehicle, it is a reasonably priced one that (IMHO) looks better than an Audi and costs more than $10K less.
But I don’t think this is the end of the up-market journey for Mazda. They’re slowly and steadily chipping away at the luxury market, and soon – very soon – I think Mazda will no longer be considered near luxury. They will be luxury. With a much higher price tag that follows.
BMW: I have it on good authority that Mazda is coming for you. If the all-new Mazda3 is a mere taste of what’s to come, I’d be sweating if I were you.
Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Mazda covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.