Archived Road Beat Test
2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback AWD, Improving on the Best
Words and Pictures by Larry Weitzman
Mazda is clearly a leader in automotive design, externally and internally. On the outside the new 2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback continues with the signature “Kodo” design philosophy with the best-looking front end in the industry, with a blackout surround for the grille instead of chrome. However, for 2020, Mazda has gone from a crisper rear end design to a smoother, almost humpback look which I have trouble admiring as it makes the rear of the vehicle too heavy or massive. It appears almost balloon like. Maybe Mazda should install a Schrader valve so some air can be let out.
Interestingly, although the wheelbase was stretched in this new generation by a little over half an inch to 107.3 inches, length and with remain identical at 176 and 71 inches respectively. While it might look taller, it is actually a half in shorter. For those who loved the design of the last generation of the Mazda 3 Hatchback, not to worry as Mazda has launched an all new model, the Mazda CX-30, a ‘tweener vehicle that slots between the CX-3 and CX-5, and it is a real looker. It has a similar powertrain as the Mazda3, so I suggest a cross shop look at this new CX-30. It looks and sounds so good that cross shopping suggestion goes out to all subcompact and compact crossover buyers
OK, so I am not sold on the design and that may take some time, but the rest of the Mazda 3 is still at the top of its compact class. Power comes from any engine you want as long as its Mazda’s 2.5L DOHC, 16 valve Skyactiv inline four which includes direct injection and cylinder deactivation. It is an extremely smooth runner pumping out a solid 186 hp at 6,000 rpm and a commensurate 186 pounds of twist at 4,000 rpm. It drives all four wheels all the time via a six-speed torquer converter auto cog-swapper. It does have a front wheel bias but there is no torque steer.
Performance is excellent, with 0-60 mph arriving in a quick 7.29, a benchmark for compact cars. Passing performance are also benchmark with 50-70 mph arriving in 3.96 and 5.79 seconds respectively on a level highway and up a 6-7 percent grade. Performance is even slightly better than my new generation Mazda3 sedan test which recorded times of 7.43/3.95/6.23 seconds carrying a couple hundred pounds more weight. AWD does have its benefits. And this is with the standard engine, there are no downgrades or upgrades, although I expect to see a Mazdaspeed 3 soon with the 250 hp turbo motor. Mazda has recently released its Mazda3 Hatchback TCR supercar race car, a 350 hp version of this test vehicle, AWD and all. More Mazdas are raced worldwide than any other brand. Not bad for one of the World’s smaller car companies.
You will be hanging on to your hat and flattening your eyeballs if you ever get the chance to drive one. But if the 250 hp turbo motor is ever offered as I believe it will, it will give you a pretty good idea what the TCR will drive like.
Fuel economy are a no brainer for Mazdas and this AWD 3 hatchback is a great example of Mazda efficiency. Averaging about 27 mpg for several hundred miles of aggressive rural, hilly driving, the Mazda 3 equaled the EPA number of 27 mpg combined fuel economy. EPA full numbers are 24/32/27 mpg city/highway/combined. But on a level highway with the cruise control set at 70 mph, the Mazda3 averaged a very respectable 37.6 mpg with the engine spinning a low 2,100 rpm. Mazdas continue to be the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicles. Not bad for the most raced cars in the world.
Continuing that idea of racing, it will become obvious to any Mazda driver, they handle well, exceedingly well. This Mazda3 AWD would surprise most any driver with its neutral cornering power. Its quick steering telegraphs the feeling necessary to know exactly what the car is going to do before anything bad happens. It is a delight to drive. Of course, suspension is compact car state of the art. Wheels are 18-inch alloys shod with 2125/45 series rubber. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for a sporty compact car, but the tuning and design are out of the ordinary along with AWD. But handling with or without the AWD advantage is still spectacular.
Ride quality is excellent for a vehicle in this category. It is extremely quiet and absorbs bumps with aplomb and that wonderful Mazda 2.5L engine will surprise you with its smoothness.
Mazda is now loaded with safety. Besides some of the best brakes, it has every electronic intervention including lane keep assist. And then there are the Mazda auto high beam dimming LED headlights that reach out long and wide. Outstanding!
Inside continues the tradition of a premium leather interior. Seats are sublime and the instrumentation is outstanding with a big tach, speedo, trip computer and ancillary gauges. The center stack is topped with a big Nav/info/radio color screen with the climate controls just below.
The radio system is operated by a large round knob in the rear of the console and its operation is worse than ever. I don’t know what kind of tortuous system Mazda engineers were trying to devise (maybe they are trying to say pay more attention to your driving), but it is worse than the last system and that was bad to work with, too. Mazda get more conventional with the radio operation!
Pricing for the top of the class Mazda3 AWD hatchback starts at $26,000 plus $920 for the boat ride from Hiroshima, Japan. An FWD model starts at $23,700. The Premium edition, my tester, stickered for $28,900 plus the $920. Small addon items like Soul Red paint ($595) brought the total to $32,065. But acquiring a Mazda like this is stepping up to a premium motor vehicle. Maybe I’ll get use to the rear styling. It’s an otherwise near perfect automobile. And it comes from Mazda where they do things a little differently for your benefit.
DOHC, 16 valve, direct injected inline 2.5L four 186 hp @ 6,000 rpm
186 ft-lb of torque at 4,000 rpm
Six Speed torque converter automatic, with paddle shifters
Six Speed Manual
Transverse mounted front engine/front wheel drive
Wheelbase 107.3 inches
Length 183.5 inches
Width 70.7 inches
Height 56.9 inches
Track (f/r) 61.7/62.2 inches
Ground clearance 5.5 inches
Weight 3,248 pounds
Weight distribution (f/r) 58/42%
Fuel capacity 12.7 gallons
Cargo capacity 13.2 cubic feet
Steering lock to lock 2.57 turns
Turning circle (curb to curb) 34.76 feet
Turning circle (wall to wall) 37.30 feet
Wheels 18X7 inch alloys
Tires 215/45X18 all season radials
Co-efficient of drag (sedan/hatchback) 0.26/0.28
0-60 mph 7.29 seconds
50-70 mph 3.96 seconds
50-70 mph uphill 5.79 seconds
Top speed 130 mph electronically limited
Fuel economy 25/33/28 mpg city/highway/combined. Expect 31 mpg in rural country driving and over 41 mpg on a level highway at legal speeds.