The Mazda3 has been one of our top recommended compact cars for years and the latest generation continues to receive praise for being a stylish, premium alternative to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The Mazda3 not only rivals those two rivals, but if you step up to its upper trim levels with the turbocharged engine, it feels more like an entry-level compact.
Mazda hasn’t made it a secret that it’s trying to position itself as a premium brand, instead of just trying to compete with Honda and Toyota. This can be seen across its lineup, where all of its models are wrapped in stylish sheetmetal and their interiors feel far more luxurious than you’d likely expect. On the outside, the Mazda3 hatchback has a stylish and sleek exterior that exudes a premium feel, rather than a typical compact. It looks more upscale than the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
Inside is where you’ll definitely feel the difference between the Mazda3 and its main rivals. The minimalistic interior is wrapped in high quality materials with a soft, simple layout without too many overstyled bits. The Mazda3 doesn’t have a fully digital gauge cluster, like what’s available on the Civic, but it still looks nice. The infotainment system also has a more modern and sleek look to it, but the only downside is that it is operated via a dial on the center console. This is a pain point for every Mazda, since they all have a similar system, which is more frustrating to use than a simple touchscreen.
Moving past the tech features, the front seats are incredibly comfortable and the its easy to find the perfect position in the driver’s seat. There is a price to pay for that nicely sculpted exterior – interior space. The Mazda3 hatchback’s passenger volume is rated at 92.7 cubic feet compared to up to 99.0 cubic feet in the Civic hatchback. If you did deeper into the stats you’ll see that there’s slightly less front headroom in the Mazda and it only has up to 35.1-inches of rear legroom compared to 37.4-inches in the Civic. Cargo space is also tighter at 20.1 cubic feet vs 24.5 cubic feet in the Civic. What does this all translate to? The Mazda3 can feel a bit cramped with four passengers on board, especially when you sit in the back seat of the Civic.
Just like before, the Mazda3 is a more lively compact with more power on tap than its rivals. The 2023 Mazda3 comes 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 mated to a six-speed automatic in most trim levels, but the highest S Premium trim level is available with a six-speed manual transmission. Unlike all of its rivals, except the Subaru Impreza, the Mazda3 is available 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 specs drop to 26/33/29 mpg. To compare, the base Civic is rated at 29/37/32 and the Corolla hatchback gets up to 31/41/35 mpg.
Now if you want to have more fun, there’s the Mazda3 Turbo that has more power than you can get in the Honda Civic Si or Volkswagen Jetta GLI. It’s powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 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 only available with the six-speed automatic (boo) and all-wheel drive. The Mazda3 Turbo is rated at 23/31/26 mpg.
The Mazda3 will easily get you to notice it in the showroom, but once you get behind the wheel you’ll love it even more. The Mazda3 is an incredibly fun to drive compact, especially with the turbo. The chassis keeps body roll under control and the steering weight is nearly perfect. Its firm ride makes it a joy to carve up a twisty mountain, while around town it feels more refined than its rivals. The cabin is also quiet, adding more to the premium feel.
The turbocharged engine has a nice soundtrack and can get you moving from a stop much faster than you’d expect. The only downside is the engine is a little slow to react if you’re wanting to push it hard and the six-speed automatic could shift a bit faster. That means that although the Mazda3 Turbo has more power on tap than say the Civic Si or VW GTI, it’s not quite as fun to drive as those more driver focused models.
On the safety front, the Mazda3 comes standard with some of the driver assistance features you expect, like automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert, and lane keep assist. You have to step up to higher trim levels to get features like blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
The pricing for the 2023 Mazda3 hatchback starts 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.
At the end of the day, the 2023 Mazda3 continues to stand out in the compact segment thanks to its stylish exterior, premium interior and fun to drive nature. The Mazda3 is so good that it can easily rival entry-level luxury models, like the Acura Integra, Audi A3 and BMW 2-Series.
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