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Peppy 2020 Mazda3 is an elegant, sporty compact car Featured

Posted On Tuesday, 25 August 2020 00:07 Written by
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Performance is the name of the game for the 2020 Mazda3. Performance is the name of the game for the 2020 Mazda3. Photo courtesy of Mazda

In the compact car segment, the Mazda3 fills a very specific role: Typically this sporty little ride will appeal mostly to driving enthusiasts, while the masses generally shy away and move toward more traditional best-sellers. But should they?

I recently spent some time in the 2020 Mazda3 hatchback, which carries over most of the 2019 version’s reinvention, and I’m back with a full report on whether it has the goods to try to move beyond its traditional role in the compact world.


Featuring Mazda’s unique front overhang and grille design, and extra-sharp side lines, the exterior of the Mazda3 features a striking design that will garner lots of positive feedback. The only downside of the design is that it allows for poor rear visibility.

When we start talking size, remember that this is a compact car. So by nature it’s small, and it has limited storage space compared to its rivals in the segment. The rear seats are tight for adults (but good for children). For families, I would recommend moving up to a larger sedan (within the brand, the Mazda6 is a strong option that’s more roomy than the Mazda3).

Where the Mazda3 does shine is in the quality of its materials. Especially compared to its competitors, you would think you’re in a luxury vehicle the way they’ve decked out the 3. For starters, you get extremely comfortable and attractive leather seating that you don't normally find in this segment. It also remembers driver seat settings and has heated front seats. 

The Mazda3 also features a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-wrapped shift knob, 

Other additions to the vehicle included: Illuminated door sill trim plates, frameless auto-dimming mirror, and a very helpful wireless charging pad for cell phones in the center console.

In addition, the Premium Package will get you an adaptive front-lighting system, black finish alloy wheels, LED signature illumination, and a power sliding glass moonroof.

To sum it up, the Mazda3 features one of the best interiors you will find in a small car, and may be best in class. You also get the choice between a sedan and a hatchback when purchasing a Mazda3, depending on your preferences. I prefer the hatchback, but it does run a bit more expensive than the sedan. 


The drive quality is why Mazda buyers love the brand’s offerings. From the Miata up to their largest SUV, Mazda wants you to have fun in their vehicles, not just get where you are going.

The 2020 Mazda3 features Mazda’s Skyactiv 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine; paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Numbers are an impressive 186 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. of torque.

The standard Mazda3 comes with FWD, but AWD is offered. Hatchback buyers can still opt for a manual transmission, but the sedan is only available in automatic. AWD versions of the vehicle only come in automatic, but paddle shifters are available for those who want some input into controlling the gears.

I truly had a great time driving the Mazda3. Handling was tremendous, it's responsive to driver input and takes turns with ease. When you need to get going, there is no delay and it's very punchy. Braking is excellent, even in situations where it's needed immediately.

Zero-to-60 takes under 7 seconds. And putting the vehicle in Sport mode is a great boost to the driving experience. The Mazda3 is one of those vehicles where you might choose to take the long way to where you’re going, just to enjoy the drive a bit longer. 

With smaller cars, the amount of safety features that will be included is often a question, as adding them can drive up prices of the vehicle. Thankfully, the Mazda3 features many advanced driver safety features as standard, including: Driver Attention Alert, Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist, and High Beam Control.

Other safety features on the Mazda3 include: Dynamic stability control, traction control system, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, advanced dual front airbags and front side impact airbags.

There’s also a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert system, tire pressure monitoring system, smart brake support, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

One very cool feature was the speed limit notification mark, on the speedometer, which clearly told you how fast you should be going. This could be especially helpful in areas where you do not normally drive.

The infotainment system in the 2020 Mazda3 is good, but not great. On the plus side, voice commands work very well in terms of changing radio stations, finding points of interest for navigation and then navigating to those places, and also making phone calls.

The tricky part is the physical controls. The center command dial does its job, but there's more steps involved to get where you need to be, compared to other systems. So you're better off relying on the use of voice commands and not fiddling around with the center command if you don't have to.

The Mazda3 features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility for phone mirroring, advanced keyless entry, and the rear-view camera is helpful for parking situations.

The Infotainment screen has an 8.8-inch color display.  Sound comes from a quality Bose premium audio system with 12 speakers. 

You have AM and FM radio, plus SiriusXM satellite radio free for 3 months. HD radio is included, and you get two USB inputs. Bluetooth connection allows for hands-free audio streaming and phone calls. It is easy to set up and increases safety.

Official fuel mileage numbers on the 2020 Mazda3 are 24 city/32 highway/27 combined; I averaged 26 mpg, but was not driving conservatively and often used Sport mode.

Fuel economy is one area where the Mazda3 is lacking compared to its competition, some of which can top 40 mpg on the highway. But it’s really a matter of choosing what’s important to you. 

Yes, a Civic or a Corolla will get you much better fuel mileage, but they are more Point-A to Point-B cars and much less fun to drive.

So are you buying for fuel mileage, or for performance? That will help you make your choice.

The 2020 Mazda3 hatchback I tested was priced at just over $31,000; and the base price starts about $24K. The sedan version starts at $22K, putting it mostly in line with the pricing on the competition (though some alternates do run closer to $20K for the base model).

The Mazda3 comes with a 60-month/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, a 36-month/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance. 


In the end, you have to decide what you want in a vehicle, and figure out if the Mazda3 will work for your lifestyle and expectations.

The 2020 Mazda3 is meant for people who don’t need a lot of cargo room, rarely have back seat passengers and want a small, sporty ride that they can truly enjoy driving each and every day. It’s a car designed for people who love to drive, period, and don’t want to accept the more practical, humdrum models that are sold by the boatload every day and offer little to no driving inspiration.

If this sounds like you, you owe it to yourself to at least test out a 2020 Mazda3 in your vehicle hunt.


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Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2020 Mazda3
  • Price as tested: $31,470
  • Best feature: Driving experience blows away most small-car competitors
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: People who rarely have back seat passengers and want a small, sporty, fun ride
Matt M. Myftiu

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

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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