2020 Mazda 3 Sedan

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Test Drive Review: Compact Size, Premium Aspirations

Compact sedans were all the rage when the Mazda 3 was first introduced to the US in 2003. Back then, the Toyota Corolla (and Matrix) was the third-best-selling vehicle and the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cavalier, and Ford Focus were all in the top 10. The Mazda 3 hit its peak sales in 2012 with over 123,000 units but sales have since slipped to just over 50,000.

Even after a completely new generation was introduced in the 2019 model year, the fourth-generation Mazda 3 has struggled to compete with its more popular sibling, the CX-5. Mazda added all-wheel-drive for this new model, making it and the Subaru Impreza the only mainstream compact sedans available with this option. This latest Mazda 3 is also more upscale than any generation before it, in line with the rest of Mazda's more premium lineup. But are these changes enough to get buyers back in on the sedan? A week behind the wheel of the 2020 Mazda 3 sedan in its top Preferred trim should reveal the answer.

Read in this review:

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Mazda 3 Sedan?

Despite being introduced as an all-new model last year, Mazda has already given the 3 a couple of feature updates for 2020. Every trim level now gets the benefit of the brand's i-Activesense driver safety aids, features that were previously restricted to pricier models in the range. The features include lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, and Mazda's radar-based cruise control system. A driver attention alert function is also fitted, along with smart brake support, high beam control, rain-sensing wipers, and an auto on/off function for the LED headlights.

Pros and Cons

  • Cabin feels almost like a luxury model
  • Smooth, sophisticated exterior design
  • Standard safety specification is now more competitive
  • All-wheel-drive availability
  • Appealing blend of comfort and sporty handling
  • Impressive noise insulation
  • Absence of turbocharging blunts performance
  • Rear legroom isn't especially accommodating
  • Infotainment is just OK
  • You can't have the sedan with a manual 'box
  • Trunk capacity is below-average

Best Deals on Mazda 3 Sedan

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$21,500
with Select Package
2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$22,700
with Preferred Package
2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$24,200
with Premium Package
2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$26,500

Mazda 3 Sedan Exterior

Employing Mazda's Kodo "Soul of Motion" design language, the latest 3 Sedan exudes a classy and refined air. The uncluttered lines are also likely to age well. The base model rides on 16-inch alloys and comes with LED technology for the headlights, combination taillights, and daytime running lights. Higher up in the range, features like 18-inch alloy wheels, a memory function for the power side mirrors, a power glass moonroof, and an adaptive front-lighting system become available.

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Frontal Aspect CarBuzz
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Dimensions

Marginally longer than the Honda Civic sedan, the Mazda 3 measures 183.5 inches in length (just under an inch lengthier than the Civic). Key dimensions are noted at 56.9 inches in height, a width of 70.7 inches, and a 107.3-inch wheelbase; this is the same wheelbase as the Mazda 3 hatchback, although the hatch is 7.9 inches shorter. Curb weight varies between 3,071 pounds for the FWD versions to 3,248 lbs when equipped with AWD.

  • Length 183.5 in
  • Wheelbase 107.3 in
  • Height 56.9 in
  • Max Width 70.7 in
  • Front Width 61.7 in
  • Rear Width 62.2 in

Exterior Colors

The base model doesn't offer as much choice as the rest of the range and is available in one of four colors: Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue Mica, Sonic Silver Metallic, and Snowflake White Pearl Mica, the latter being a $200 option. The mid-range Select and Preferred trims add Machine Grey Metallic ($300) and Soul Red Crystal Metallic ($595). The Soul Red Crystal looks especially alluring with the 3's flowing lines and conjures images of opulence and class on the shapely sedan. The range-topping Premium model can be had in all of these colors besides Sonic Silver Metallic. Our tester wore the optional shade of Machine Grey Metallic, which looks nice but wouldn't be out of place in a black and white film. We'd opt for a more colorful option like Soul Red Crystal.

  • Jet Black Mica
  • Deep Crystal Blue Mica
  • Sonic Silver Metallic
  • Snowflake White Pearl Mica
  • Soul Red Crystal Metallic
  • Machine Gray Metallic

Mazda 3 Sedan Performance

If what you're after is the fastest sedan in this class, the 3 isn't that car. Mazda continues to shun turbocharging in many of its models and the 3 Sedan makes do with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. All models get a six-speed automatic transmission and, while the combination makes for fairly rapid progress (0 to 60 mph will take about seven seconds), the Mazda can't match the low-down torque output of some turbocharged competitors. Top speed is capped at around 130 mph. While the hatchback version of the Mazda 3 is available with a manual gearbox, this option, unfortunately, isn't offered on the sedan. Is the 3's performance a dealbreaker? Absolutely not. The 2.5-liter will be perfectly fine for most needs - it just isn't top-of-the-class.

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Aft View CarBuzz
2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Powerplant CarBuzz
2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Motor CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

Where the previous generation of the Mazda 3 had a combination of 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter engine options, the latest model only gets a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-pot with the brand's SkyActive-G technology and variable valve timing. The motor generates 186 hp and 186 lb-ft and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission - no matter which trim you go for, this is the only powertrain available. SkyActive-G sounds more soulful than other four-cylinder engines and in most circumstances, unwanted noise does not intrude into the cabin. The base model sends power to the front wheels only, but all-wheel-drive is an option on the upper three trims.

Our tester arrived sporting the AWD option, which eliminates any notion you might have of spinning the tires during a hard launch. AWD should come in handy should the weather be on the snowy side but it seemed unnecessary even during a few Florida downpours. Mazda's six-speed automatic gets the job done smoothly and without fuss, though we'd like to see the company release a transmission with two more cogs. In certain circumstances, the 3's lack of ratios becomes apparent - the transmission needs to drop down too far for a quick burst of acceleration. On the plus side, having fewer gears to shift through does allow for quicker access to the engine's grunt.

  • Engine
    2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Mazda has gained a reputation as the fun option amongst its Japanese rivals, though the company has since ditched its "Zoom-Zoom" slogan for "Driving Matters." Though both slogans emphasize driving enjoyment, the subtle differences between the two are clearly reflected in this new 3. Zoom-Zoom encompassed a sporty, youthful vibe with models like the turbocharged MazdaSpeed3, MazdaSpeed6, and MazdaSpeed Miata. 'Driving Matters' focuses instead on elements of driving such as steering feel and suspension tuning, shunning the immaturity of those old MazdaSpeed models.

What we are left with is a sedan that feels more fun than many of its competitors but lacks the edge found in dedicated sports models like the Honda Civic Si, Kia Forte GT, and Volkswagen Jetta GLI. The steering offers light, direct response with decent feedback and the suspension feels compliant without allowing too much body roll. Our biggest gripe (aside from the lack of a turbo) was the Toyo Proxes All-Season tires, which cried and ran home any time we asked them to grip around a tight bend carrying any sort of speed. We'd describe the Mazda 3 as a car average drivers will find highly enjoyable but it lacks the power and handling prowess an enthusiast might crave. The AWD system might be fun to play with on a snow-covered back road but we didn't have a chance to test drive the car in such conditions.

Mazda 3 Sedan Gas Mileage

With a larger-capacity engine than many rivals, the Mazda 3's economy figures are slightly below average in this segment. As expected, the lighter FWD models are the most efficient within the range, returning EPA-rated numbers of 27/36/30 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. When equipped with AWD, mileage drops to 25/33/28 mpg. FWD configurations have a 13.2-gallon gas tank (larger than the AWD versions' 12.7 gallons), so the former has a mixed cruising range of about 396 miles (around 41 miles greater than the AWD). By comparison, the thriftiest Honda Civic can achieve a combined 36 mpg with its available turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In our week of testing (which included a highway trip from Miami to Orlando) we saw an average of 29.4 mpg with around 32 on the highway.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    13.2 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 26/35 mpg
* 2020 Mazda Mazda 3 FWD

Mazda 3 Sedan Interior

For a compact sedan, the 3's upscale interior immediately impresses. There are swathes of soft-touch plastics and even a leather-stitched strip on the dashboard. Along with a simplistic layout and classic dials, it feels like something from Germany rather than Japan, and that's high praise for a vehicle in this segment. The seats are comfortable and supportive and, on the Premium trim, feature attractive perforated leather upholstery. The only real negative is limited legroom for passengers in the back. Otherwise, it's easy to get comfortable behind the wheel. Across the range, features like push-button start, a center console armrest, and an 8.8-inch color screen are standard. Dual-zone automatic climate control and a power-adjustable driver's seat are available as you work your way up through the various trims.

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Control Panel CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

The Mazda 3 is categorized as a compact sedan with competition in the form of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Like those cars, it offers seating for five (just) with an acceptable but not class-leading amount of space in the interior. Front seat occupants have 38 inches of headroom and 42.3 inches of legroom, while in the back seat, passengers get 37.3 inches of headroom and 35.1 inches of legroom. Sitting in the back seat is roomy enough, though there are more spacious alternatives in this segment like the Civic, which offers 37.4 inches. Overall, the Mazda 3 offers 92.8 cubic feet of interior volume, which is slightly below average in the segment.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.3 in
  • Front Head Room 38.0 in
  • Rear Leg Room 35.1 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.3 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The base Mazda 3 is only available with black cloth upholstery but even stepping up one trim level to the Select Package adds a selection of black or greige leatherette. This same choice of interior colors carries true for the Preferred Package but once you step up to the Premium Package, you get real leather in either black or white. We were sent a Premium Package car with white leather, which wouldn't look out of place in a luxury car. Leather covers most of the upper surfaces of the cabin and there are very few hard touch materials in the cabin. Metal Bose speaker grilles add to the luxurious feel of the 3's cabin.

Mazda 3 Sedan Trunk and Cargo Space

While its trunk opening is usefully broad, the Mazda 3 Sedan offers an only average 13.2 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the rear seats. This is down on both the Mazda 3 hatchback (20.1 cubes) and the Honda Civic Sedan (15.1 cubes). For daily needs, the Mazda's trunk will be fine, although extended family getaways will require some careful packing to ensure that everything fits. Fortunately, the rear seats do fold flat and feature a 60/40 split.

Interior storage space for smaller belongings is adequate but also not remarkable. The base model has a covered storage compartment beneath the central armrest, but it misses out on the rear seat's center armrest and integrated cupholders, a feature that's only available on upper trims. The Preferred and Premium trims also have an overhead console that can accommodate a pair of glasses.

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Cargo Room CarBuzz
2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Trunk Space with Seat Folded CarBuzz
2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Cargo Capacity CarBuzz
  • Trunk Volume
    13.2 ft³

Mazda 3 Sedan Infotainment and Features

Features

No matter which model you opt for, every Mazda 3 sedan gets push-button start, a 12V power outlet, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, LED headlights, and driver aids like radar-based cruise control, lane-keep assist, and high-beam control. The base model has air conditioning, but every trim above this gets dual-zone automatic climate control. The Select trim also adds advanced keyless entry, leatherette-trimmed seats (in place of the base model's cloth), and a rear-seat center armrest. The Preferred trims build on top of this with an eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, and illuminated vanity mirrors for the driver and front-seat passenger. Finally, the top-line Premium gets a full-color head-up display, leather-trimmed sport seats, and paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. This model also enjoys the addition of a power-sliding glass moonroof.

Infotainment

No matter which trim package you get, all the newest 3s will have Mazda's 8.8-inch vertically-oriented Mazda Connect infotainment system mounted on the dash. This new version of Mazda Connect, to our dismay, ditches the touchscreen functionality of the outgoing system in favor of a rotary control with surrounding buttons for radio, navigation, and other system functions. The controller is fairly simple but takes some getting used to, especially when controlling Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which were specifically designed to be touched. This new design is also devoid of any color, making the system feel dated even though it is just one year old.

An eight-speaker audio system comes on base and Select Package models while the Preferred and Premium Package cars get a 12-speaker Bose system with aluminum speaker grilles. The Bose system sounded ok to our ears but we wouldn't call it a class-leader. Even on the top Premium Package car, navigation is a $450 optional extra, so we'd just rely on Apple and Android for our map requirements.

Mazda 3 Sedan Problems and Reliability

The new Mazda 3 hasn't been around for too long, so it's a bit disappointing to find that the 2019 model has already been subject to six recalls, according to the NHTSA. The first of these was for incorrect airbag and seat belt indicators where the driver and/or passengers may not be alerted to an unfastened belt. Other issues pertaining to reliability included wheel lug nuts that could loosen and fall off (in a worst case scenario, a wheel could detach from the vehicle), a stall caused by a software error, loose head restraints that could detach in a crash, and rearview mirror glass that could detach from its housing. The first recall to affect 2020 Mazda 3 models (along with 2019 models) was for an emergency braking system that could unexpectedly activate. We can only hope that this is the last of the 3 sedan's teething troubles.

The sedan is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

Mazda 3 Sedan Safety

The Mazda 3 Sedan provides ample safety for the modern family, scoring an overall five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. In its reviews of the Mazda 3, the IIHS bestowed the sedan with a Top Safety Pick award in 2020. Overall, the sedan's results prove that it holds up well in an accident.

Key Safety Features

Mazda's updated safety spec is a welcome addition to the newest Mazda 3 Sedan. Even the base model now gets smart brake support, a driver attention alert system, Mazda's radar cruise control system with Stop & Go, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, and high-beam control. Standard across the range is also a rearview camera, eight airbags (including knee airbags for the driver and front passenger), tire pressure monitoring, and LED daytime running lights.

Moving up to the Select trim adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while the fully-loaded Premium model has the added advantage of a head-up display and an adaptive front-lighting system.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Mazda 3 Sedan a good car?

Mazda still carries a strong reputation as the fun option amongst its Japanese competitors but with the lack of any MazdaSpeed or performance models, that reputation is starting to wear a bit thin. The 2020 Mazda 3 car is still enjoyable to drive but with options like the Civic Si and Jetta GLI out there on the market, enthusiasts will likely turn elsewhere. For average consumers who enjoy the 3's elegant styling and upmarket interior, the driving experience should reward them with enough enjoyment to warrant consideration.

Without any new engines or transmissions, this new Mazda 3 feels more like a redressing of the old car rather than a ground-up redesign. In the future, we'd like to see Mazda introduce a sportier version with more power to fully take advantage of the 3's handsome looks and premium interior. The addition of AWD for this new model is an interesting choice but we think it came a few years too late. Most of the shoppers who want AWD have already resigned themselves to crossover. People who are still shopping for a sedan in 2020 want more than just AWD, they want a fun experience that can not be matched in a crossover. Sadly, we don't think the new Mazda 3 fits the bill and that's why the CX-5 vastly outsells it.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Mazda3 Sedan?

The price of the Mazda 3 is only slightly more than that of its main rival, the Civic Sedan. The range begins with a base price of $21,500 for entry-spec models, exclusive of tax, licensing, registration, and Mazda's new destination fee of $945 (previously $920). The destination fee applies to all regions in the USA besides Alaska, where it increases to $990. Next is the Select Package at an MSRP $22,700 and the Preferred Package at $24,200. Topping the range is the Premium Package we had on test at a cost of $26,500. The top three trims can be specified with all-wheel-drive for an extra $1,400.

New Mazda 3 Sedan Models

Unlike most other manufacturers, Mazda classifies the 3's trims as 'packages'. There are a total of four: Base, Select, Preferred, and Premium. Every model sends power to the front wheels by default, but AWD is optional on all but the base trim. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 186 hp is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The base model gets 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, push-button start, and cloth-upholstered seats. The Mazda Connect infotainment system features an 8.8-inch color screen with Bluetooth and HD Radio, along with an eight-speaker audio system. Standard driver aids on this model encompass lane-keep assist, smart brake support, radar cruise control, and a driver drowsiness alert system.

The Select Package gets 18-inch alloy wheels and integrated turn signals for the power side mirrors. Blind-spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic monitor bolster this trim's safety arsenal. Other upgrades over the base model include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, leatherette-trimmed seats, and dual-zone climate control.

Another step up is the Preferred Package. This model gains a 12-speaker Bose audio system, an eight-way power driver's seat, three-level heating for the front seats, and SiriusXM satellite radio.

The best-equipped model is the Premium Package with a full-color head-up display, smart leather-trimmed seats, paddle shifters, and a power glass moonroof. The 18-inch alloy wheels also get a unique bright finish, while this version is alone in getting standard cylinder deactivation.

See All 2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

With the standard trims - or packages - differentiating each model, Mazda hasn't provided too many optional packages to add to the Mazda 3's overall cost. On all models, you can opt for the Black Accent Package at $475 - the upgrades amount to little more than a black rear lip spoiler and black door mirror caps. A body-color rear lip spoiler goes for $375, a wireless charging pad is $275, and a navigation system is $450. A frameless auto-dimming interior rearview mirror with HomeLink goes for $375.

🚗What Mazda 3 Sedan Model Should I Buy?

If you are looking to buy a 2020 Mazda 3, our Premium Package tester with AWD was a bit too expensive for our tastes with an as-tested MSRP of $29,845 with destination. We loved the white leather interior but could easily live without the hassle of keeping it clean by opting for the Preferred Package. Cutting out AWD saves you $1,400 if you don't live in a cold weather climate and the only option we recommend as a must-have is the Soul Red Metallic paint for $595. As described, the Mazda 3 would cost $25,740.

Check out other Mazda Mazda 3 Styles

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Comparisons

Honda Civic Sedan Honda
Mazda 6 Sedan Mazda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Mazda 3 Sedan186 hp26/35 mpg$21,500
Honda Civic Sedan 158 hp25/36 mpg$20,000
Mazda 6 Sedan 187 hp26/35 mpg$24,100

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan vs Honda Civic Sedan

The Civic is one of the top choices in this class and for good reason, combining a competitive price with a high-quality cabin, impressive road manners, and an efficient and powerful turbocharged engine on the upper trims. With up to 15.1 cubic feet of space, the Civic's trunk is bigger than the Mazda's, and the Honda also provides more space for passengers in the back seat. As nice as the Civic's cabin is, though, the Mazda feels even more inviting and features interior appointments that wouldn't feel out of place in a segment above. Although the Mazda's engine is more powerful, the Civic offers better fuel-efficiency and low-speed drivability by virtue of its available turbocharged engine. Unlike the Honda, the Mazda 3 is available with AWD for extra security in slippery conditions, but only the Civic Sedan can be had with a sweet-shifting manual transmission. If you have a family and prioritize aspects like space utilization and economy, the Civic wins. But if you want a compact sedan that feels more upscale, the Mazda 3 will fit the bill.

See Honda Civic Sedan Review

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan vs Mazda 6 Sedan

The Mazda 3's move upmarket makes this a more viable comparison than before. At $24,100, the base Mazda 6 Sport undercuts the top two Mazda 3 trims, has a similarly powerful 2.5-liter engine, a strong safety specification, and all while providing more space for rear passengers and a bigger trunk. For more power, the Mazda 6 Grand Touring is still under $30k but uses a turbocharger to deliver a much more impressive 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Both of these Mazdas share stylish interiors that manage to feel more premium than those of many rivals, and the smaller 3 Sedan certainly doesn't feel like a step down in this department. They also each provide sparkling dynamics and are more fun to hustle than the average sedan. If you really need the extra space, then the midsize Mazda 6 will make more sense. If you don't, then a well-appointed Mazda 3 in one of its upper trims is a tempting proposition.

See Mazda 6 Sedan Review

Mazda 3 Sedan Popular Comparisons

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Video Review

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