We recently tested the all-new Mazda 3 sedan, and with its premium feel and refined road manners, called it the best Euro sedan for the money right now.
Not bad for a Japanese brand, eh?
Well, Mazda seems to always serve up a hatchback on the 3 as well, to give those who want more practicality with a larger cargo bay, but the vehicles are usually pretty similar. (If you wanted a high-performance Mazda 3, the MazdaSpeed 3’s were built on the hatchback, but they haven’t done that in a while.)
So, we were excited to test the all-new Mazda 3 hatchback – one look at it tells you, Mazda has separated the siblings, and it has a distinctly different vibe.
If A Car Ever Deserved a Tattoo, this would be it.
While the 3 sedan is tasteful, handsome and reserved, the hatchback looks like the sibling from the other side of the tracks. While it still shares Mazda’s Kodo design language, it looks much more aggressive.
The large black front grille looks like a shark’s mouth opening wide while the circular LED headlamps give it heavily lidded eyes. Yeah, I’m looking at you…
The profile embraces the hatchiness of the design, the sleek lines of the hood carry across the sides, and where other hatches would have a tall vertical C-pillar to give that added space, the 3 kicks up a kinked C-pillar that looks like the thick trapezius (neck, to those of you who don’t go to the gym) of a wrestler. Unique to the hatch, black 18” wheels are the Converse All Star of the wheel world. Stylish and tough.
Swing around back and the high haunches wipe around a small rear window, and the slim LED taillights with afterburner cues. The finishing touch, a lower fascia with twin exhaust pipes give it a tight, squat look.
There’s also very little chrome or flourishes. It almost looks like a custom design house got a hold of the car and cleaned it up. Simple, muscular, ready to pounce. This is one dramatic design. We love it.
The Badge Says Mazda. The Interior Says Audi.
Inside, much is like the Mazda 3 sedan we recently tested. The feeling is noticeably more upscale, with quality materials, and tasteful design that says premium European – even if the badge does not.
The front seats have been redesigned, and they’re notably comfortable and supportive, even for taller drivers. Those in the rear will not be so happy – the hatchback design creates a dark, high-shouldered area which doesn’t get much light.
You’ll want to be up front anyway. The new gauges are beautiful, with a center speedometer that’s actually a neat digital display, flanked by a traditional tachometer and fuel/temp gauges. Clear and accurate.
The entire design is just so tasteful, with sweeping dash layers, and handsome aluminum and piano black trim. Our Premium’s stitched leather seats and soft touch materials surround you in premium elegance. While we liked the Germanic black leather in our tester, the hatchback’s available exclusive red leather would seriously tempt us.
Equally elegant, the 8.8-inch infotainment screen is integrated into the design in a Lexus-like way, and Mazda’s updated large circular controller is larger and easier to use.
Interestingly, if you want the manual transmission, you’ll need to opt for the top of the line Premium trim. Other manufacturers tend to offer a stick on the basic trims – going for those who want to squeeze the last drop of fuel economy. Mazda thinks enthusiast deserve more, so the Premium loads you up with Leather trimmed sport seats, a power moonroof, windshield-project Heads-up Display. Thank you!
In the middle of the interior is the reason we are gathered here today – a 6-speed manual transmission. Mazda has long been the enthusiasts’ affordable brand, and they’re keeping the fires burning with the hatchback-exclusive 3-pedal version.
Up front is a 2.5-liter, normally aspirated 4-cylinder, punching out 186 hp and 186 ft.-lbs. of torque. While many competitors are going for smaller turbo motors, we love this powerplant, with loads of bottom-end torque, it pulls away smoothly and has that nice linear push as it sweeps across the rpm rev range.
A mellow burble tells you the engine is happy going about its work. Go easy on it, and you’ll even get upper 35+ mpg on the freeway. You’ll like being on the freeway – noise level is very low, and the clutch take up is light, so even the eventual stop and go traffic isn’t a bother.
The 6-speed manual – available only with front-wheel-drive – is smooth and direct, and features that well-oiled machinery feel you get in the European brands.
The ride and handling also whisper sweet European nothings in your ear. The ride is supple, the steering light and precise, and perfectly balanced controls mean steering, braking, accelerating are fluid and seamless.
The 3 Hatch feels all grown up. Uh, maybe too grown up? While this is a lovely, lovely vehicle to drive, with the aggressive looks, and 6-speed stick, we were hoping more for a Miata for five.
What we have here is the perfect replacement for people who miss the Audi A3 hatchback that’s no longer available. Rumor has it a MazdaSpeed 3 may be coming. But if Mazda doesn’t create a high-performance version, we’re sure the aftermarket will. This would be an awesome base for something truly radical.
Premium at a Premium?
Going for the hatchback version of the Mazda 3 starts you at just $23,600 and that’s a great value, with the 186 hp engine, 6-speed automatic, 18” alloy wheels, 8.8-inch info-tainment display, Apple CarPlay, Rear cross traffic alert, Blind spot monitoring. Lane keep assist, Radar cruise control and more. Step up to all wheel drive, and you’re still only looking at $25,100.
The 3 Preferred Package starts at $25,200 ($26,600 for AWD) and gives added goodness with power driver’s seat with memory, heated front seats, and 12-speaker Bose premium audio system.
If you want the manual transmission, you’ll be getting the Premium Package trim, which starts at $27,500, and includes leather, heads-up display, power glass moonroof and adaptive front lighting system. The automatic is no-cost on the Premium, but AWD is not available. Our tester had the Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint as its only option ($595), plus $920 for Destination. Grand total: $29,015.
The closest competitor come for the Mazda 3 hatch, comes from…Mazda. If you didn’t want the manual transmission, we’d go with the handsome Premium Sedan with AWD for just $29,120.
If it’s a hatch with stick that calls to you, a comparable GTI SE is a big step up at $32,690.
You do get 228 hp, and a more practical, upright design, but you’ll pay $3500 for the privilege.
The Civic Hatchback Sport Touring 6MT comparably equipped comes in at $30,580. With 180 hp it’s a close contender – but you won’t get the same premium interior, and Euro-feel the Mazda has.
We love the all-new Mazda 3’s. The smooth sedan is a wonderful all-rounder.
For attitude, quality, performance, and value, the 2019 Mazda 3 hatchback is a stunner!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.