2020 Mazda 3 Sedan

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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:

8.6
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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

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2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Sedan
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$21,500
Select
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$22,700
Preferred
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$24,200
Premium
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$26,500
See All 2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Trims and Specs

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Exterior

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Dimensions

  • 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
  • Curb Weight 3,071.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

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

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Performance

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Engine and Transmission

  • Engine
    2.5L 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.

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Interior

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Seating and Interior Space

  • 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

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Trunk and Cargo Space

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

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Safety and Reliability

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

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

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.

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2020 Mazda 3 Sedan Comparisons

Honda Civic Sedan Honda
Mazda 6 Sedan Mazda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Mazda 3 Sedan155 hp28/36 mpg$21,150
Honda Civic Sedan 158 hp30/37 mpg$22,550
Mazda 6 Sedan 187 hp26/35 mpg$24,475

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

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