The Mazda3 has been among our top recommended small cars for quite some time and the latest iteration continues to earn praise for being a fashionable, high-end option to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The Mazda3 not only competes with those two opponents, but when you upgrade to its uppermost trim levels with the turbocharged engine, it gives off the vibe of an entry-level small car.
Mazda has not been concealing its intention of positioning itself as a high-end brand, instead of just trying to vie with Honda and Toyota. This can be observed across its range, where all of its models are enveloped in stylish sheetmetal and their interiors exude a far more lavish feel than you’d likely anticipate. On the exterior, the Mazda3 hatchback boasts an elegant and streamlined look that radiates a premium feel, rather than the typical small car. It presents a more sophisticated appearance compared to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
Inside is where you will sense a clear disparity between the Mazda3 and its primary rivals. The unembellished interior is clad in high-quality materials with a soft, simple arrangement devoid of excessive stylized elements. The Mazda3 lacks a completely digital gauge cluster, like what’s accessible on the Civic, but it still looks pleasant. The infotainment system also possesses a more contemporary and sleek appearance, but the only drawback is that it is managed via a dial on the center console. This is a sore point for every Mazda, since they all have a similar system, which is more exasperating to use than a simple touchscreen.
Beyond the technological features, the front seats are extremely comfortable and it’s easy to find the perfect position in the driver’s seat. There is a trade-off for that finely sculpted exterior – interior space. The Mazda3 hatchback’s passenger volume is measured at 92.7 cubic feet, compared to up to 99.0 cubic feet in the Civic hatchback. Going into the details, you’ll notice that there’s marginally less front headroom in the Mazda and it only offers up to 35.1-inches of rear legroom compared to 37.4-inches in the Civic. Cargo space is also more restricted at 20.1 cubic feet as opposed to 24.5 cubic feet in the Civic. What does this all mean? The Mazda3 can feel quite confined with four passengers on board, particularly when you take a seat in the back of the Civic.
Similar to before, the Mazda3 is a more spirited compact with more power on hand than its rivals. The 2023 Mazda3 comes as standard with a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 191 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. That’s definitely more power than you’ll get in the standard versions of the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, or Toyota Corolla. The engine is linked to a six-speed automatic in most trim levels, but the top S Premium trim level is obtainable with a six-speed manual transmission. Unlike all of its competitors, with the exception of the Subaru Impreza, the Mazda3 is offered with all-wheel drive.
The base engine is rated at 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined, with all-wheel drive those specifications drop to 26/33/29 mpg. In comparison, the base Civic is rated at 29/37/32 and the Corolla hatchback achieves up to 31/41/35 mpg.
If you desire more excitement, there’s the Mazda3 Turbo that offers more power than you can obtain in the Honda Civic Si or Volkswagen Jetta GLI. It’s powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on 87 octane or 250 hp and 310 lb-ft. on 93 octane fuel. The turbo is solely offered with the six-speed automatic (boo) and all-wheel drive. The Mazda3 Turbo is rated at 23/31/26 mpg.
The Mazda3 will easily capture your attention in the showroom, but once you get behind the wheel you’ll adore it even more. The Mazda3 is an incredibly enjoyable compact to drive, especially with the turbo. The chassis effectively controls body roll and the steering weight is practically flawless. Its firm ride makes it a delight to navigate through winding roads, while around town it feels more refined than its rivals. The cabin is also tranquil, adding more to the luxury feel.
The turbocharged engine produces a pleasing sound and can propel you from a standstill much faster than you’d expect. The only downside is the engine is slightly slow to respond if you’re looking to push it hard and the six-speed automatic could shift a bit faster. This means that although the Mazda3 Turbo has more power on hand than, say, the Civic Si or VW GTI, it’s not quite as enjoyable to drive as those more driver-focused models.
On the safety front, the Mazda3 comes as standard with some of the driver assistance features you anticipate, such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert, and lane keep assist. You need to upgrade to higher trim levels to acquire features like blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.
The pricing for the 2023 Mazda3 hatchback commences at $24,615, including destination. It’s available in several trim levels: S, S Select, S Preferred, S Carbon Edition, S Premium, Turbo, and Turbo Premium Plus. The Mazda3 Turbo starts at $33,315.
In conclusion, the 2023 Mazda3 continues to distinguish itself in the small car segment owing to its fashionable exterior, luxurious interior, and entertaining driving nature. The Mazda3 is so impressive that it can easily rival entry-level luxury models, such as the Acura Integra, Audi A3, and BMW 2-Series.
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