2019 Mazda 3 debuts with conceptcar styling, all-wheel drive.
Mazda’s bread-and-butter compact now packs four-wheel traction and a trick four-cylinder engine
What is it? Arguably one of the more stylish and fun compact cars out there, the Mazda3 enters its fourth generation packing some trick powertrains, all-wheel drive and concept-car styling. It’s almost as though Mazda took the Kai concept and simply added street-legal lighting and smaller wheels.
Why does it matter? These days, most automakers find themselves in an awkward position. With the industry trending toward crossovers, pickup trucks and other utility vehicles, some are culling and outright abandoning cars.
But evidently, not Mazda. As the Japanese brand’s bread-and-butter compact, the Mazda3 plays a key role in Mazda’s lineup. Granted, the CX-5 dominates Mazda’s sales charts, but the Mazda3 is still big money. It’s among Canada’s top five best-selling cars so far this year and Mazda has sold about six million of them since its introduction 15 years ago as a 2004 model.
As part of Mazda’s push toward making its cars more upmarket, the 2019 Mazda3 most certainly delivers. Still available as a five-door hatchback or a four-door sedan, the Mazda3 is essentially a Kai with street-legal headlights and tail lights. Although the hatch appears a bit hunchbacked at first glance, it’s nonetheless cleanly styled and minimalistic, doing away with such frivolities as character lines and creases. This is one elegant-looking car.
Inside, minimalism is the name of the game. Materials are top notch and two new interior colours are available: Greige, which is exactly what you think it is, and a fetching Burgundy, exclusive to the hatch. An 8.8-inch display, controlled by a knob on the centre console, handles infotainment, and the system itself is easier to use. An eight-speaker sound system is standard, while a 12-speaker Bose system is available on higher-end trim levels. Mazda’s Active Driving Display — a.k.a. a head-up display — lives on for 2019.
As far as powertrains are concerned, the latest Mazda3 is pretty trick. Mazda’s all-new 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X powertrain makes its debut in the Mazda3. Essentially, the new engine uses both spark and compression ignition, resulting in a higher compression ratio; it’s kind of like a diesel engine, except it runs on regular gasoline, translating to better fuel economy with no sacrifice in power, torque, and response. The X puts out 178 horsepower and 164 pound-feet of torque. Official fuel economy figures are still under wraps, but Mazda says we can expect a 20 to 30 per cent improvement over the current, non-X engines, and equal to the current Skyactiv diesel, which is not sold in North American markets.
If you’re not willing to bet on new, cutting-edge technology — at least, initially — Mazda will offer updated versions of its 1.5-, 2.0-, and 2.5-L Skyactiv gasoline engines, as well as its 1.8-L Skyactiv diesel, which is available in other markets. Power numbers for the updated 2.0 L haven’t been detailed, but the 2.5 L is rated at 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions — and for the first time, all-wheel drive — will be available.
When is it coming? Official pricing hasn’t been announced just yet, but expect non-X cars to hit dealers in early 2019, followed by the Skyactiv-X later in the year.
Should you buy it? The outgoing Mazda3 was already a good car: stylish, relatively fun to drive and well equipped. The new model promises to be much the same, and even addresses the shortcomings of the outgoing car with its reworked infotainment. Mazda claims that ride and refinement are vastly improved, thanks to a handful of chassis tweaks.
In other words, it comes down to this: Car, or crossover? The latest Mazda3 is attractive, stylish, packs an impressive interior, and promises to be refined and efficient. The fact that all-wheel drive is now available is simply the icing on the cake. Really, unless ride height is an absolute requirement, who needs a crossover?