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I test drove the new Mazda3 (loaded sedan)

ablueSI

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As car enthusiasts, many of us have thoughts on the new Mazda3. As a previous owner of a marvelous 2003 Mazda6 V6, and a less-marvelous but better overall car 2011 Mazda3 2.5 (6-speed), I test drove the latest 3 sedan ($29k sticker) out of curiosity. Down the line, should Mazda decide to bring the Speed3 back -- which the company recently said will likely happen -- I would potentially be interested. Right now I have a stock 2018 Si.

First-off, Mazda is a master of interiors and most people know this by now. From a materials quality perspective, the 3 handily surpasses the Civic. The chrome trim looks and feels real, the new infotainment system and 8.8 inch screen is a breeze to use, the leather feels nice and there are soft-touch materials throughout.

BUT....

I've come to appreciate the extraordinary driving position the Civic offers. I felt like I was sitting on top of the Mazda3, not inside of it. I could not get my seat nearly as low as in the Si and overall the car felt raised. This is a post-2010 Mazda thing -- my friends sometimes joked my old 3 felt like a crossover. I'm a stickler for a good interior, but the materials quality did not, IMO, make up for the less-special feeling driving position. Coming from an Si, the Mazda's seats just weren't the same. It felt a lot smaller inside, too. A negative for me, but that might be a plus for some folks.

Onto the driving experience: for the most part, it still drives like a Mazda. The ride, even with the torsion beam, is incredible. It has that slight bounce characteristic of all Mazdas, like the suspension is under constant tension (think of a rubber band just before it snaps) but in a good way. It's not stiff, but it's not soft, either. On tight corners, a few on which I had a chance to push the car, it rotates beautifully. Obviously, it's not nearly as sporty a drive as the Si -- the steering (as many have reported) is SLOW -- that part wasn't fun. The feel is okay. It felt a little loose. Not great. Such is the modern world of cars, but they could have done better for enthusiasts.

Acceleration was simply "whatever" but adequate for the class. I'm seeing 7 seconds to 60 from most publications -- not bad. But the Skyactiv engines do not make power in an exciting way. Second gear is still way too long for fuel economy purposes and it takes some fun out of the drive. The noise from the intake is still economy car-ish. It's not bad but the 1.5 turbo is a lot better.

Mazda is going for a mature market and with this latest model, it shows. Personally, even as a prior Mazda fanboy, I'd get an Si or a Civic Sport Touring and call it a day.



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aighead

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I thought the Mazda3 was little and low until I got my Si Coupe and pulled it up next to my buddy's Mazda3. It seemed enormous compared to the Si... to your point about it seeming like a crossover.
 

xbbnx

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I thought the Mazda3 was little and low until I got my Si Coupe and pulled it up next to my buddy's Mazda3. It seemed enormous compared to the Si... to your point about it seeming like a crossover.
It's actually more spacious than the CX3 in both cargo and interior room.
 

SichuanHot

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The CX3 is based off the Mazda2/Demio I believe so it makes sense why the Mazda3 is a larger car.
 

Brakes88

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I thought the Mazda3 was little and low until I got my Si Coupe and pulled it up next to my buddy's Mazda3. It seemed enormous compared to the Si... to your point about it seeming like a crossover.
How are you liking it? I love mine!
 

aighead

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How are you liking it? I love mine!
You talking (U2) to me? The Si is sweet! I see you are rocking a new one. After break-in period (and the obligatory Ktuner) it gets to be a lot of fun. I need to reflash after taking mine to the dealer, but I also got a speeding ticket a week ago, so that's kept my lead foot a but less lead-y.
 

McDavid

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Apparently some of the new 3s are struggling to keep their tires from falling off and engines from stalling, at least according to the latest recalls by Mazda
 
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jtrader

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Am I the only one who finds the Mazda3 to be ugly as sin? I was shocked when the Throttle House guys heaped praise upon the mazda3's styling when they were comparing it to the civic. Not a fan of its interior either. I love how the Civic has an elevated center console which makes you feel like you're nicely surrounded. I just don't understand the love for the mazda. And I'm not a mazda hater. I've owned a Mazdaspeed Protege and a Forzda Probe GT.
 

mjchristian

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Drove my brother's 2018 Mazda3 a couple months back and can confirm regarding steering speed. Even my lowly LX feels a lot quicker, better weighted and more precise. I also found something highly disconcerting about how you have to push the 3's shift lever DOWN to get past the reverse lockout. Maybe I'm just sensitive, but I feel like the elevation of one's shift knob should be as constant as Planck's.

I also had a weird feeling of deja vu, taking me back to my old 2005 Volvo S40 (which actually shared its platform with the original iteration of the 3, since both companies were owned by Ford at the time). By this, I mean that the space in the driver's foot well was so cramped that my right foot brushed the brake while accelerating. Maybe it's great for heel-toe but, with my admittedly clown-like size 15 feet, I was quickly reminded of the relief I felt when i first test drove a Civic, realizing that it's actually possible for front wheel drive cars to manage not to rob you of all your interior space (go figure).

When I was shopping around in 2017, I tested both the 3 and CX-3, but they just didn't have anything special enough to compete with how hard Honda has been trying with the 10th. Not to say the Civics are perfect - the interiors are a tad busy, and the cloth trim is not great - but for the money they are just so much more connected and fun to drive.
 

MorrisGray

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Am I the only one who finds the Mazda3 to be ugly as sin? I was shocked when the Throttle House guys heaped praise upon the mazda3's styling when they were comparing it to the civic. Not a fan of its interior either. I love how the Civic has an elevated center console which makes you feel like you're nicely surrounded. I just don't understand the love for the mazda. And I'm not a mazda hater. I've owned a Mazdaspeed Protege and a Forzda Probe GT.
I am currently still driving my 2006 Mazda3 2.0L 5speed sedan I purchased new. I have been wanting to replace it with another but Mazda doesn't offer the manual in a sedan any longer, 3 or 6. Due to the styling and price, I am not interested in the new style hatchback. I did consider a 2018 hatchback but didn't really like it, neither did my wife. We wanted another sedan manual but could not find one any where near us at the time. The new hatchback from Mazda looks even worse to me so I am now shopping other brands. I have enjoyed my little 2.0L Mazda3 5sp sedan for a long time though and simply would have just bought another. I just trust naturally aspirated motors over the newer turbo assisted motors, but mainly because I haven't ever owned a turbo and don't know about reliability.
 
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Civics4Ever

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I currently drive my 2006 Mazda3 5sp sedan and have been reluctant to buy another due to the styling. I did consider a 2018 hatchback but didn't really like it, neither did my wife. We wanted another sedan manual but could not find one any where near us. The new hatchback from Mazda looks even worse to me so I am now shopping other brands. I have enjoyed my little 2.0L Mazda3 5sp sedan for a long time though and simply would have just bought another. I just trust naturally aspirated motors over the newer turbo assisted motors, but mainly because I haven't ever owned a turbo and don't know about reliability.
There are 1.5T engines out there with well over 200k miles. Reliability is not an issue.
 

VarmintCong

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Sat in a 2020 Mazda3 hatch Premium today, what a great interior. I kind of regret not testing driving a 6MT before signing on an Si sedan (yesterday). The hatch doesn't look as weird up close.

I doubt I'd like the way it drives as much as my Sport much less an Si, and I've learned that interior quality matters most in the first year or ownership, while driving feel you enjoy for the life of the car.
 

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