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The Latest Mazda 3 Hatchback Overview: Elegant Yet Robust

The 2023 Mazda 3 is an attractive compact car that looks and performs better than its competitors. The Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback are compact entry-level vehicles surpassing other cars in their class such as Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Hyundai Elantra. Enjoyable driving dynamics, refined design, and strong safety features make the Mazda 3 Hatchback exceptional.

The 2023 Mazda 3 hatchback features a striking and controversial silhouette. The 3 hatchback displays the sleek sophistication of other Mazda crossovers, but the solid rear pillars on the hatchback and the integrated roof spoiler over the raked windshield make it a distinctive and innovative vehicle. A wide, shield-shaped grille leans forward, leading the long nose and short overhangs into a sporty profile. Smooth lines alleviate some of the anxiety often found in other small cars with creases and cuts, giving the 3 a welcomed maturity. Compared to the sedan’s more traditional shape, the shorter hatchback extends gracefully at the rear, with a substantial pillar that gives it an overall shape that’s a delightful retro throwback while still maintaining a current and fresh look; it’s one of our favorites.

Precise handling and optional turbo power make the Mazda 3 an exciting ride. Mazda has refined and softened the Mazda 3 over the years to enhance its appeal as a daily driver, but it still retains its distinctive handling and the turbo-4 gives it an edge. The Mazda 3 is front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available on Carbon Fiber and Premium grades for $1,400 more, while it comes standard on turbo-4 editions.

The Mazda 3 is offered with two engine options this year, featuring a 2.5-liter inline-4 that delivers 191 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed automatic transmission allows it to reach high revs, but the cabin noise can be noticeable and it’s a few gears short of being efficient. The superior performance option is the Turbo model. Its 2.5-liter turbo-4 generates 227 hp and 310 lb-ft (250 hp and 320 lb-ft with 93 octane) allowing it to go from 0-60 mph in less than six seconds, but it falls slightly short of the performance of past Mazdaspeed turbos. A 6-speed manual transmission can be equipped with the 2.5 S Premium, but it’s unusual as it only comes with front-wheel drive, and a manual cannot be combined with the turbo-4.

The 3 utilizes a front strut setup and a torsion beam rear suspension that is designed to be more durable than a multi-link setup, while also saving space and cost. Along with a rigid structure, the suspension doesn’t compromise much on handling either, providing a planted feel that allows the hatch to elegantly navigate the curves of the road. Meanwhile, the pleasant ride quality is not compromised. The nicely weighted steering leans towards Mazda’s sporty reputation and distinguishes it from the numerous crossovers still in existence.

The 2023 Mazda 3 hatchback provides good fuel efficiency considering there’s no hybrid model. The base models are more efficient, partly due to cylinder deactivation that shuts down two of the four cylinders when it’s not required, such as during highway cruising. The EPA rates those non-turbo models with front-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, which are the most popular in the lineup, at 27 mpg city, 36 highway, 30 combined. The hatch in Premium trim with the manual transmission rates at 26/36/30 mpg, which falls within the same range as the Mazda 3 with the automatic and all-wheel drive. Surprisingly, turbo models are the least efficient, but they only come with all-wheel drive. The turbo-4 hatch comes in at 23/31/26 mpg.

The 2023 Mazda 3 excels in crash tests for a smaller car. The small hatch achieved a five-star NHTSA crash-test rating and a Top Safety Pick+ recognition from the IIHS, thanks in part to its standard driver-assist technology that helps mitigate or avoid a crash. Mazda equips it with automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. The emphasis on safety can be overwhelming for some aspects, such as needing to unlock the doors to open the fuel door or hatch. Safety options include blind-spot monitors, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive headlights, and a surround-view camera system.

Internally, Mazda extends the low dashboard horizontally, adorning it with slender strips of bright metallic trim, available leather upholstery, and a layered upper dashboard that flows over a line of vents and climate controls. It’s simple yet refined, with a well-integrated 8.8-inch display and a console dial that isn’t cluttered with functions. We just wish there was simpler functionality with that interface. The available red-on-black or white-on-black leather stands out like a luxurious car.

A minimalist but high-quality interior enhances the limited interior space in the 2023 Mazda 3 hatchback. The top trims of the Mazda 3 could be confused for premium cars with the way Mazda finishes the interior. The base trim has manual seats covered in black cloth, but they fit most body types well. Preferred and higher trims have synthetic leather with power front seats that are heated, but with just 5.5 inches of ground clearance and a low roofline, the hatch sits fairly low to the ground.

The rear seats offer about 35 inches of rear legroom, but it doesn’t feel spacious. Four adults could fit, but only college students getting a ride home would appreciate the longer ride at the back. The 60/40-split rear seats fold down in either model, but the hatchback offers much more cargo room at 20.1 cubic feet compared to 13.2 cubic feet in the sedan. Storage space is limited, but side door pockets can accommodate larger water bottles and the shallow console can store phones and other smaller items.

The 2023 Mazda 3 ventures into premium territory with top Turbo models, but its infotainment system needs a complete overhaul.

The base Mazda 3 S hatch starts at $23,550. The Mazda 3 gains praise for its value and good standard features, but its 8.8-inch display screen for infotainment poses difficulty in executing the simplest functions. The voice commands are effective, but changing the radio station to anything other than presets requires several button presses or twists of the controller dial in the console. That dial makes navigation easy with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The $26,550 Mazda 3 2.5 S Preferred offers the best value with its heated front seats, power sunroof, and power driver seat. But if all-wheel drive is necessary, the cheapest model with it is the $29,600 Carbon Edition sedan. It adds red leather upholstery and a 12-speaker Bose audio system. The $35,300 Mazda 3 Turbo Premium Plus hatch tops the lineup with standard AWD, leather upholstery, navigation, a surround-view camera system with parking sensors, and a 12-speaker Bose audio system.

The 2023 Mazda 3 impresses on various levels, and the Turbo model only enhances it further. For a reasonable price, you get spirited driving dynamics, a comfortable and refined interior, and with the hatchback, stunning styling. Combine that with Mazda’s reliability, and the 3 becomes exceptional. Small-car buyers would be wise to add the Mazda 3 to their shopping lists because the spirit of zoom zoom is still very much alive.

Image Source: Yauhen_D / Shutterstock


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