Mazda has a tradition of building zippy, entertaining small cars, something that's evident in the Mazda 3, which always has been known for its sharp handling and engaging nature. Of course, the Mazda 3 still provides suitable levels of economy and practicality, too. That's because even the base Mazda 3 comes with a refined engine and a surprisingly sophisticated suspension and interior, while higher trims offer more power and plenty of useful convenience and luxury-oriented features.
There have now been three generations of the Mazda 3. Whether you're shopping for a new or used small sedan or hatchback, we highly recommend the Mazda 3.
Current Mazda 3
The Mazda 3 has been fully redesigned for 2014. Compared to the previous (second) generation car, this latest Mazda 3 is sleeker looking and boasts notable improvements in terms of fuel economy, interior quality and feature content.
While some small cars do little more than meet the basic requirements of economic transportation, the Mazda 3 is an overachiever. You'll first notice this in the way the car drives, as it's quick to accelerate and fun around turns. Inside, you'll find a modern, grown-up look and generally high-quality materials. Plus, there are plenty of standard features on the higher trim levels, so your passengers are bound to think you paid more than you actually did.
Two body styles are offered, a sedan and a hatchback. Both are available in 3i and 3s trim levels that are broken into sub-trims. The base 3i SV (a sedan-only trim) gets you the basics, while the 3i Sport adds a few extras like a folding rear seat and Bluetooth. The 3i Touring features alloy wheels, keyless/ignition entry and blind-spot monitoring. On the 3i Grand Touring, you'll get a sunroof, leatherette upholstery, a navigation system and a premium sound system. The upgraded 3s trim level comes in just the Touring and Grand Touring sub-trims. You'll find a similar mix of features, though these 3s versions have a few exclusive features. Extra safety features, including a frontal collision warning system, are also optional on the 3s Grand Touring.
Equipped on 3i models is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. The 3s gets a more powerful 2.5-liter engine good for 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission are offered for the 3i, while the 3s comes standard with the automatic. Either way, fuel economy is impressive for a small car, with combined EPA averages hovering around 32-34 mpg.
On the road, most drivers should be happy with either engine; the 2.0-liter engine provides quicker-than-average acceleration, although it does sound a bit noisy under hard acceleration. The larger 2.5, meanwhile, is quicker still, with only a minimal drop in fuel economy. Also notable is the Mazda 3's nimble handling, a result of its quick steering and nicely tuned suspension that still provides a comfortable ride. Inside, the seating is roomy, even for 6-footers in back, and both the sedan and hatchback offer above-average amounts of cargo space. As a whole, we think the latest Mazda 3 is a top choice for a small car.
Read the most recent 2015 Mazda Mazda3 review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Mazda Mazda3 page.