The current Mazda 3 is already a very impressive offering in the compact car segment. Combining seductive styling with impressive performance hardware and surprising levels of technology, the 3 has emerged as a very viable entry in a segment that is facing pressure from CUV entries. So how do you make an already good thing even better? By making changes and updates where it maters the most.
It all starts with the all new platform which allows the 2019 version to be slightly lower and longer than before, with the wheelbase being stretched by a full inch. In a curious move, Mazda engineers swapped out the old car’s more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension for a cruder but more compact torsion beam setup. Mazda claims that the new suspension works hand in hand with the additional sound deadening materials in the structure to enhance overall quietness, though we are curious to see how much of its poise was lost in the quest to reduce cabin noise by a few decibels. Perhaps anticipating this initial doubt, Mazda did equip the car with its all new G-Vectoring Control Plus, which is the latest version of this unique technology. The elaborate name hides the fact that the way it works is actually very simple, with the system slightly reducing engine torque to help enhance turn-in feel. We look forward to seeing for ourselves if there is indeed any major handling difference versus the old model in a future test drive.
The exterior styling of the new 3 aims to be even more upscale and premium than before, which is no small feat considering that the old model already did a good job of channeling that motif. The new model shares a lot of its DNA with last year’s Kai concept, with the front fascia adopting a lot of the shapely creases that graced the front end as well as slimmer headlights and a more prominent front grille. Futuristic taillights adorn the rear fascia, and even feature circular cutouts ala the Mx-5. Predictably, the sedan continues its role as being the more conservative (if ever so slightly) brother, but it has a more elegant profile with a nicely honed rear trunk lid, and an attractive greenhouse design to match. With many members of the compact segment still favoring function over form like the recently revamped and still stylishly awkward 2020 Toyota Corolla, the Mazda 3’s innate beauty should still win over loyalists and new comers alike.
The interior materials of the new 3 also appear to have undergone a significant upgrade in the quest to achieve a more premium feel. A stitched dashboard pad is the most obvious sign of this renewed focus on quality, but metal trim for the climate control knobs and infotainment control wheel, as well as an 8.8 inch infotainment screen further enhance the value for the dollar quotient. Dark red leather upholstery is available only on the hatchback, and buyers can opt for several pieces of compelling extra garnish including a Bose audio system, multiple active safety features, as well as the familiar heads up display system.
Performance for the newest 3 will be initially limited to the 2.5 liter SkyActiv four cylinder engine here in the U.S. with the four banger being mated to either a six speed automatic, or a six speed manual gearbox. Mazda is keeping quiet on power figures, but look for power and torque to perhaps carry over with the familiar 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque intact. All-wheel drive will be available for the first time ever, and this would put the 3 in a very unique position in the compact segment, with it perhaps being the only one in the compact car market to offer this slice of capability besides the spicier and more expensive Golf-R hatchback.
But the real magic won’t happen until later when the all new SkyActiv-X four cylinder makes its appearance. Featuring Mazda’s all new Compression ignition technology, the new engine aims to greatly improve fuel economy, while also enhancing overall performance at the same time. Like before, Mazda is currently keeping its cards close to hand in regards to the formal capabilities of this engine, but look for it to be a significant upgrade over the 2.5 liter that sees duty in the current model. Other markets are expected to get more engines (including a diesel) but chances are that the U.S. could eventually get the 2.0 liter four cylinder to try and bring the 3 closer to more budget minded buyers that might not be able to shoulder the Grand Touring model’s higher price tag.
Look for more details to emerge over the next few months, especially in regards to official performance and emissions data, as well as final pricing with some rumors suggesting that it would be somewhat more expensive that the $18,990 and $20,240 base prices that are out there for the current model. Regardless, the 2019 Mazda 3 is a very significant move towards making Mazda a bigger player in the compact car segment. The addition of all-wheel drive will naturally stir the rumor mill about a revival of the MazdaSpeed 3 variant to take on the Golf R in the hot hatch segment. But with Mazda currently running on a tight budget and focusing its resources on enhancing its utility business, we don’t expect a move like that to take place for a very long time.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.