Sunday, 05 February 2023

Sporty, upscale 2023 Mazda3 will appeal to driving enthusiasts Featured

Posted On Saturday, 24 December 2022 21:47 Written by
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The 2023 Mazda3 comes in both sedan and hatchback styles. The 2023 Mazda3 comes in both sedan and hatchback styles. Photo courtesy of Mazda

Mazda has always aimed higher than its status.

While not officially a competitor in the luxury class, it has long designed its vehicles to look and perform at a level that will make people think of Mazda as a luxury-level purchase, even if the price is lower.

That applies to their smallest vehicles too, including the 2023 Mazda3, which is available as both a sedan and a hatchback.

There have been some updates to the engine lineup for 2023 to further improve drive quality, more tech features are standard, and there is an attractive new trim level offered called Carbon Edition — which I was recently able to test.

When you’re going against major players like the Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra and more, you have to come strong.

And to put it simply, Mazda’s compact sedan and hatchback options continue to deliver performance over and above their competition, while also maintaining a distinct looks advantage.

LOOKS

The 2023 Mazda3 is short in stature, but long on style.

It sits low to the ground, and features the trademark Mazda front overhang. From first glance, it’s one of the classier looking compact cars available.

The Mazda3 Carbon Edition hatchback I tested featured a Polymetal Gray Metallic exterior paint job, and red interior seating.

It was equipped with 18-inch black alloy wheels (lower trim levels will get 16-inch wheels), a black front grille, LED headlights and taillights, a power sliding-glass moonroof, automatic headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and power side mirrors with memory positioning.

The Carbon Edition package adds black-painted wheels, black heated mirrors, and upgraded exterior lighting with adaptive headlights that swivel as you turn for better illumination in curves.

Moving inside, you’ll see where Mazda truly outclasses the compact competition.

Its interior is easily the best you will find in the segment, rivaling luxury brands in terms of quality. Smooth and comfy red leather seating, and top quality stitching, are highlights. Nothing inside feels less than high-end. Even some of the widely beloved luxury brands could take a hint from Mazda on the quality of their interiors.

The Mazda3 features a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leather-wrapped shift knob, and rear armrest with cupholders. The only downside of the 3’s interior is the cramped amount of legroom in the back seat, and the 3’s overall limited cargo space.

The Mazda3 sedan features 13.2 cubic feet of cargo space, vs. 20.1 cubic feet for the hatchback. Both feature 47.1 cubic feet of space with the rear seats down.

All versions of the Mazda3 get folding 60/40 rear seats, which increase your options for cargo storage. And some versions will feature heated front seats and the sunroof.


HOW’S THE RIDE?

The 2023 Mazda3 I tested featured the base engine, a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder power plant offering 191 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. The Mazda3 features electric power assisted steering, and my vehicle featured a 6-speed automatic transmission.

If you’d like to shift gears their own gears, Mazda does offer a version of the 3 with a six-speed manual transmission.

I had all-wheel drive on my test vehicle, but some versions are only available in FWD. It’s worth noting that many competitors in the compact car segment do not offer any vehicles with AWD, so that’s a feather in Mazda’s cap. But please note that if you choose the manual transmission, AWD is not an option.

There is also a more powerful engine offered in the 3 lineup — a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine offering 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet with regular gas, or 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet with 93 octane fuel.

It’s not purely about numbers, though, as even with the base engine, the quality of the drive in a Mazda3 blows away its competitors, and is the main reason why you'll want to consider buying a Mazda3.

A truly enjoyable drive quality is the brand's calling card. Others may offer more utility and practicality, but Mazda offers better performance every time.

Whether you are in Sport mode or regular mode, driving on the highway or city streets, the driving experience behind the wheel of the Mazda3 is tremendous. All aspects of the ride — from getting up to speed, to cornering, braking, weaving through traffic and overall nimbleness and handling — fail to disappoint.

Zero-to-60 times in the Mazda3 run in the 6 to 7 second range. 

The only minor quibble is the driver has less rear visibility than I would have liked due to the design of the hatchback.

I also noticed that when driving at night, due to the 3’s low profile, headlights from larger cars make their way into the vehicle and can be bothersome. But this is a hazard of smaller cars in general, not exclusive to this one.


TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY

Technology in the 2023 Mazda3 is centered around an attractive 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen placed skillfully amid Mazda’s unique dashboard design.

Touch controls are executed mostly through a dial in the center console.  Sometimes they take longer than I would like to reach the proper menu, but overall it's an accessible system. The vehicle’s climate controls are operated separately from the dial and easy to master.

Voice commands also worked very well on the infotainment system. I was able to input addresses by voice and start new navigation routes without using any physical buttons, and the system understood me on the first try. Radio controls and phone controls are also straightforward by voice. 

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring capability are now standard features on the Mazda3, and you can upgrade from the standard eight-speaker audio setup to a 12-speaker Bose system.

Safety is another high point on the Mazda3.

Despite this being a small car, which people tend to assume is less safe, it earned five-star safety ratings for both rollover and frontal crashes. The vehicle features anti-lock brakes and dynamic stability control, plus a traction control system, air bags throughout the vehicle, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Other safety features on the Mazda3 include:
— Forward collision mitigation, including pedestrian detection (warns of impending collision and applies brakes)
— Adaptive cruise control (maintains distance to vehicle ahead)
— Lane keeping assist (pushed a veering vehicle back into proper lane)
— Drowsy driver monitor (warns if you appear to be too tired to drive)

Other safety options include
— Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert
— Head-up display (beams key information onto the windshield glass)
—  Front and rear parking sensors
— Surround-view camera system (offers a helpful all-around view of your surroundings)
— Traffic Jam Assist (partially automated hands-on driving system)
— Rear automatic braking

MPG

The Mazda3 I tested featured official fuel mileage numbers of 26 city/33 highway/29 combined. In real-world testing, I averaged 26 mpg.

Other small car offerings will have higher fuel mileage offerings, though the driving experience is lacking compared to the Mazda3. You’ll need to decide whether performance or fuel mileage is more important to you.

PRICE

The 2023 Mazda 3 Carbon Edition that I tested was priced at $31,115 and its base price starts about $24K.

Trim levels include Base, Select, Preferred, Carbon Edition, Premium, Turbo and Turbo Premium Plus. The top trim level starts at just over $35K.

Some other vehicles in the class will appeal more to your pocketbook, as they are more affordable than Mazda, but their ride isn’t nearly as impressive.

All Mazda3 sedans and hatchbacks get a limited warranty for three years or 36,000 miles, plus powertrain warranty for five years or 50,000 miles. This is not great coverage compared to some rivals, which offer up to 10 years/100,00 miles of coverage.

BOTTOM LINE

Much more than just an A-to-B car, the 2023 Mazda3 is an affordable compact car that looks and feels like a luxury ride, and is more enjoyable to drive than the direct competition in its price range. The luxurious interior is the cherry on top that makes it stand out even further. 

The Mazda3 is one of the best compact cars you can buy if you’re looking for a ride you’ll enjoy every single time you get behind the wheel. 

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AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page. Follow AutoTechReviews on Instagram at @Autotechreviews. Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu



Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2023 Mazda3
  • Price as tested: $31,115 (starts around $24K) 
  • Best feature: Sporty ride, upscale styling   
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars   
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Compact car buyers looking for the most enjoyable ride in the class
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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