Little to criticize about 2019 Mazda3

2019 Mazda3 features refined new design.

2019 Mazda3 features refined new design.

Mazda Pressroom / Contributed photo

“Refined for every sense.” With that sentiment, Mazda introduces its website visitors to the 2019 Mazda3. Funny, the word “refined” popped into our heads while driving the redesigned Mazda3 Hatchback Premium with all-wheel drive. But what does it mean?

Reviewers use that word freely when writing about cars that bring together style, comfort and performance, as well as meticulous assembly and high-quality interior materials. For us, “refined” is a word that came to mind way back in the 1970s, describing our first ride in a new Mercedes-Benz. It even applies to an old Pontiac we used to have — how the car seemed quieter, smoother and tighter after we installed a carpet over the original rubber floor mats. And the word does, indeed, apply to Mazdas — even the smallest and lowest-priced model, the Mazda3.

Of course, all that refinement comes at a price. With the Premium Package and all-wheel drive, and a handful of medium-priced options, the Mazda3’s sticker price was $31,335. The base Mazda3 Select sedan, with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission, starts at $21,000. The base hatchback has a longer standard-equipment list than the sedan and starts at $23,600.

In terms of refinement — that word again — Mazda falls between the four popular Japanese brands, Honda, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota, and the premium brands: Acura, Infiniti and Lexus. That explains why Mazdas tend to be more expensive than comparable Japanese, Korean and American models. Mazdas also exhibit European traits in their handling qualities and overall performance, something few of their competitors can claim.

2019 Mazda3 Hatchback AWD Premium

Price: $31,335

Engine: 2.5-liter inline Four, 186 horsepower, 186 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Weight: 3,255 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion-beam rear

Wheels: 18x7-in. alloy

Tires: 215/45R18 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 20.2 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 47.1 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 13.2 gal.

Fuel economy: 24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded

The Mazda3 Hatchback struck us immediately as a very nice-looking car. Its elongated hood flows smoothly into a gracefully sculpted passenger compartment and hatch. Of course, looks aren’t everything. The hood is long enough to accommodate an inline-six engine, perhaps even a straight-eight, a configuration abandoned by U.S. automakers 64 years ago — but the Mazda3 is powered by a space-saving, transverse-mounted inline Four. From a functional point of view, the hood doesn’t need to be that long. The back seat, however, could stand a few more inches of knee room for passengers — and additional square footage for luggage and cargo wouldn’t hurt, either.

Aside from our function-over-form quibble, we found much to like and little to criticize in our Mazda3. Driving this car truly is a pleasurable experience, and no other subcompact hatchbacks or sedans, aside from crossover models like the Subaru Crosstrek, can be equipped with all-wheel drive. That wintertime advantage exacts a fuel-economy toll, however the Mazda3’s fuel economy dips to 24 mpg city, 32 highway, compared with 26/35 in front-wheel-drive versions. Nowadays, those aren’t big numbers in the subcompact game. Competitors from Kia, Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Chevrolet range from the high 30s to low 40s.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2019 Mazda3 a Top Safety Pick.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.