By Peter Perrotta
When it comes to Japanese imports in the automotive world, most consumers immediately think of Toyota, Honda and Nissan. These are Japan’s Big Three.
But, the real diamond in the rough, though, is Mazda.
While Mazda doesn’t sell anywhere near the amount of vehicles that the Big Three pump out, it doesn’t take a back seat to any one of them when it comes to producing quality cars at a reasonable price.
I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback – with Premium Package – for one week to see if this under rated Japanese auto maker still has the mojo.
Guess what? It sure does.
Overall, after a week of putting this compact hatchback through its paces, I would say it checks off most of the boxes that would lead to an impressive review by this car reviewer.
The only caveat I would have – and this probably would have to do more with me than the car itself – is that at a creaky 64 years of age, on a lanky six-foot frame, I found that bending down to get into and out of this model car was sometimes a chore – depending upon how creaky my bones were that particular day.
So maybe this isn’t the car for the senior citizen crowd, but that doesn’t take anything away from the fine product it is.
This Mazda 3 Hatchback competes with the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic in its segment and I would say it stacks up better than the Corolla and on par with the Civic.
For the most part, buyers who are considering compact cars – especially hatchbacks – are generally of the younger crowd anyway.
Case in point, my 21-year-old son thought the Mazda 3 Hatchback was “pretty cool”.
For the record, the 2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback I tested for one week was the top of the line Premium Package edition with a base price of $28,900.
The Premium Package edition comes standard with: active driving heads up display; adaptive front lighting system; leather seats; black finish alloy wheels; front and rear signature illumination; power sliding glass moonroof and paddle shifters.
Additional options on my tester vehicle included: cargo mat ($100); illuminated door sill trim plates ($425); Soul Crystal Red Paint ($595); frameless auto dimming mirror ($275); Navigation SD card ($450); rear bumper guard ($125) and wireless charging pad ($275).
When you add in the $920 for destination and delivery, the MSRP sticker price of my tester vehicle was $32,065.
Mazda offers the Mazda 3 Hatchback in seven different models, both front wheel and all wheel drive. The base model, front wheel drive hatchback has a base price of $23,700. My top of the line all wheel drive, premium package model is considerably more at a base price of $28,900.
Mazda redesigned the 3 Hatchback last year – giving it a sleeker, more sculpted and modern look. That look carries over to the 2020 Mazda 3. The outside and inside of this model is quite attractive, lending itself to a more expensive look and feel.
Powering both the sedan and hatchback models of the Mazda 3 is only one engine choice, a 2.5 liter, four cylinder “sky active” engine that produces 186 horsepower, at 186 pound feet of torque.
This engine is coupled with a six-speed sport mode automatic transmission.
I found the engine and transmission combination in this vehicle to be adequate. When in the “sport” gear selector mode, there was ample power to accelerate or pass aggressively. The all wheel drive, drive train and suspension were well meshed. This vehicle holds its own in any type of inclement weather.
Besides, my issues with hopping into and out of the car, once I was settled into the front seat, there is ample room upfront. The back seat configuration on the hatchback is a bit snug.
Moreover, many car critics have pointed out that the rear window visibility is not the greatest on the hatchback design for this model. I would have to agree.
The interior design and ergonomics are solid on the Mazda 3. It lends itself to a generally good quality feel.
However, I was not overly thrilled with the center console infotainment system, featuring a 8.8-inch, non-touch screen, color display. The system is controlled by a center console master switch. While the phone, music system and navigation sync up rather easily, I found the system to be cumbersome to use for what should be some easy tasks.
The AM/FM Bose premium audio system – which comes standard on this model – with 12 speakers put out some impressive surround sound music, though.
The EPA fuel economy ratings for this vehicle come in at 27 miles per gallon overall – 32 mpg in highway driving and 24 in city driving.
The EPA estimates that the annual fuel cost for driving this vehicle comes in at about $1,500, as it uses 3.7 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
This model Mazda 3 has not been rated yet for the government’s five star safety rating.
If you choose the more expensive premium package model it comes loaded with a ton of neat standard features including: 18-inch alloy wheels; power driver seat with lumbar; heated front seats; leather seats with a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; rearview camera; rain sensing wipers; blue tooth; dual zone climate control and more.
Many other car review critics have raved about the recently redesigned Mazda 3. The editors at Car and Driver give it high marks. And, U.S. News and World Report says: “The 2020 Mazda 3 sits near the top of our compact car rankings. Its engaging performance and upscale interior help it stand out in a highly competitive segment.”
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Readers’ comments and suggestions are more than welcome. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org