The Mazda3 5-door hatchback features a roomy cargo area, tidy dimensions and a sporty driving experience. Along with its sedan sibling, it recently received with a host of updates that help boost fuel economy from worst to among the best in its class.
The most significant change to the Mazda3 hatchback was the addition of a midgrade 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor that represents the first application of the Mazda's curiously named but effective SKYACTIV technology. SKYACTIV comprises a host of power and efficiency aiding tactics including a new four-to-one exhaust header system, redesigned piston cavities, multiport fuel injectors, a sky-high 13:1 compression ratios and reduced-friction internals.
The result of all that tech is 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, but most buyers will likely be more interested in the impressive fuel economy figures: SKYACTIV-equipped cars return 39 highway miles per gallon (along with 28 mpg in the city) with an optional six-speed automatic transmission. Six-speed manual-equipped cars return slightly lower 27/38 mpg figures.
The automatic gearbox of the SKYACTIV-equipped car was also new, utilizing a torque converter for smooth launches and low-speed maneuvers along with a multi-plate clutch for speedy shifts at higher velocities while also providing perfectly rev-matched downshifts.
Other recent changes include a redesigned front fascia that mitigates (but doesn't eliminate) the oft-criticized grinning grille of the outgoing car. Skyactiv models get a subtle set of blue accent rings around the headlamps, engine cover and unique badging. Mazda also took the little sedan to the wind tunnel and trimed the drag coefficient down to a slippery 0.27.
The interior hasn't evolved much, meaning that it still utilizes a wrap-around dash top that contains radio and climate control information as well as a small optional navigation screen, while materials and fit and finish are in the top half of the class. With nearly 44 cubic feet of cargo volume with the split-folding rear seats in the down position, hauling space is ample.
Also unchanged is an optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that ups power to 167 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 168 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm but slurps fuel at the rate of 20/28 mpg for the standard six-speed manual or 22/29 mpg for the optional six-speed automatic.
The Mazda3 is based on the Ford C1 platform, which also serves as the basis for a number of Volvo models. All Mazda3s are built in Japan.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Mazda3 Hatchback is available in three trim levels: Mazda3 i Touring, Mazda3 i Grand Touring and Mazda3 s Grand Touring.
The entry-level Mazda3 i Touring comes well equipped with the SKYACTIV engine, power windows and locks, A/C, a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and iPod input jack, 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, steering-wheel mounted audio and cruise control buttons and Silver interior dash and door handle trim.
The mid-grade Mazda3 i Grand Touring comes standard with a six-speed automatic and also adds a moonroof, a Bose Surround Sound audio system, heated and leather-trimmed seats (power-adjustable in the driver's case) and leather door-panel inserts, a navigation system, a keyless entry and start system as well as heated side mirrors.
The top-spec Mazda3 s Grand Touring comes equipped with the 2.5-liter engine (with a 6-speed manual as standard) and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, halogen fog lamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual exhaust with chrome tips, a multi-information display and a rear spoiler.
Options are limited to dealer-installed items like a wing spoiler and, on the Grand Touring, a Technology package that includes self-leveling, adaptive bi-xenon headlights with an auto on/off feature, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a Blind Spot Monitoring system, Sirius XM Satellite Radio and an anti-theft system.
Regardless of trim level, the Mazda3 comes equipped with dual front, side and side curtain airbags to go with traction and stability control systems and, of course, ABS.
Car shoppers considering the Mazda3 hatchback would also be well served to look into the similarly sporty Ford Focus hatchback as well as the the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback and the Toyota Matrix, the latter of which can be spec'd with four season friendly all-wheel-drive.