2018 Mazda 3

2018 Mazda 3 Review

The Mazda 3 is a prime example of how a car can be greater than the sum of its parts.
4 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Mark Takahashi
Edmunds Editor

The 2018 Mazda 3 isn't the quickest car in its class, but it is the best to drive. The Mazda 3 doesn't have the biggest cargo capacity in its class either, but it will certainly hold a whole lot of stuff. This is a clear case of the raw numbers not telling the entire story.

Inside and out, the Mazda 3 is attractive, and plenty of elements give it a more upmarket appeal. On the road, it's not just competent; it's actually entertaining and sporty to drive. Even if you're not into performance, this translates to a feeling that the car will respond to emergency maneuvers with confidence and ease.

In the competitive budget-conscious compact sedan and hatchback class, the 2018 Mazda 3 is a rarity for exceeding expectations and delivering far more than its price would suggest. We bore this out in a yearlong test of this car's current generation as well as subsequent evaluation of newer variants. You'd be remiss not to have it on your short list.



what's new

For 2018, the Mazda 3 remains mostly the same, with only a shuffling of features and option packages. The Touring 2.5 trim has been discontinued as the 2.5-liter engine is now standard with the Touring trim, along with a rear spoiler and overhead console. The Sport trim now includes a forward collision warning and mitigation system, and the Grand Touring gets LED headlights as standard. Elsewhere, some option packages have been renamed, combined or dropped.

we recommend

We're partial to the hatchback for its cargo-carrying flexibility as well as its aesthetic appeal. Among the different trim level choices, the Touring trim presents a good balance of features for the price, plus it gets the more powerful engine. If your budget can stretch, the Grand Touring is a great pick that is eligible for a host of advanced safety features.




trim levels & features

The five-passenger 2018 Mazda 3 is available as either a sedan or four-door hatchback. Both body styles are offered in either Sport, Touring or Grand Touring trims.

The Sport trim is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (155 horsepower, 150 pound-feet of torque). The Touring and Grand Touring models get a 2.5-liter engine (184 hp, 185 lb-ft). A six-speed manual transmission is standard for all Mazda 3s, with a six-speed automatic available as an option.

Standard Sport trim features for the sedan include 16-inch steel wheels, remote keyless entry, keyless ignition, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, the Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, low-speed forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, emergency telematics, and a six-speaker stereo with two USB ports. The hatchback adds the upgrades of alloy wheels and a rear spoiler.

The sedan is eligible for the optional Preferred Equipment package that adds alloy wheels, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, upgraded upholstery and a rear-seat armrest with cupholders.

The Touring trim includes all of the above, along with 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat and heated front seats.

At the top of the range, the Grand Touring model gains LED exterior lights (headlights, foglights and taillights); a sunroof; a digital speedometer; an upgraded display in the instrument panel; leather upholstery; a nine-speaker Bose surround-sound system; and satellite radio. To this, the Premium Equipment package adds adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, a heated steering wheel, paddle shifters (for the automatic transmission), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a navigation system, lane departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and braking for higher speeds, and a traffic sign reader.



trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2017 Mazda 3 Hatchback Grand Touring (2.5L inline-4 | 6-speed manual | FWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall4.0 / 5.0

Driving

3.5 / 5.0

Acceleration3.5 / 5.0
Braking3.0 / 5.0
Steering3.5 / 5.0
Handling4.0 / 5.0
Drivability3.5 / 5.0

Comfort

3.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.0 / 5.0
Ride comfort4.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.0 / 5.0
Climate control3.5 / 5.0

Interior

4.0 / 5.0

Ease of use4.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Driving position3.5 / 5.0
Roominess3.5 / 5.0
Visibility3.5 / 5.0
Quality4.5 / 5.0

Utility

3.0 / 5.0

Small-item storage3.0 / 5.0
Cargo space3.0 / 5.0

Technology

3.5 / 5.0

Audio & navigation4.0 / 5.0
Smartphone integration4.0 / 5.0
Driver aids3.0 / 5.0
Voice control4.0 / 5.0

Driving

edmunds rating
The Mazda 3 isn't the quickest car in its class, but it does deliver a bright and engaging experience that will be appreciated by drivers who enjoy cars beyond the transportation aspect.

Acceleration

edmunds rating
The 3's 2.5-liter is one of the nicer small displacement inline-fours that isn't turbocharged. It's not a high-revving engine but makes a decent amount of power and torque from a relatively low rpm and will get you to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds. There isn't much aural character, but it isn't unpleasant.

Braking

edmunds rating
This Mazda has smooth brake feel during casual driving. The effort is light, the brakes aren't grabby, and there's no unnecessary play in the pedal. They work exactly how you'd expect. Our tester needed 122 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is a bit longer than average for the class.

Steering

edmunds rating
The steering delivers excellent on-center feel at highway speed, and your inputs feel direct and precise. Road feedback isn't exceptional in any way, but you still have some sense of how well your front tires are gripping the road surface.

Handling

edmunds rating
The Mazda 3 is playful even if it isn't all that quick. The front tires will squeal around turns without much effort. Overall grip is modest. But the suspension does a nice job of keeping the body in control. The 3 maintains composure and gives the driver confidence.

Drivability

edmunds rating
The clutch pedal is light and easy to push in, but its engagement can be a little tricky to predict. Thankfully, the engine's power delivery is linear and smooth. The gearbox has a light and relatively precise throw, but it's not nearly quite as nice as the Mazda Miata's direction shift gearbox.

Comfort

edmunds rating
The Mazda 3 is appealingly comfortable, from its surprisingly smooth ride quality to its climate control that provides plenty of cooling capacity. However, the cabin does let in more noise than other cabins in the class. The seats are decently supportive but not perfect.

Seat comfort

edmunds rating
There's good lateral support from the front sport seats, but we could've used a little more front tilt adjustment. More breathable leather upholstery would be appreciated, too; you might feel a bit swampy after a long drive. The armrest padding is excellent.

Ride comfort

edmunds rating
For a compact hatchback, the Mazda 3 achieves a nice balance between ride comfort and composure. The ride isn't floaty, yet the 3 handles bumps and undulations without issue. This is a compact car you won't mind driving long distances.

Noise & vibration

edmunds rating
Over a lot of road surfaces, and not necessarily rough surfaces, there is a moderate amount of road noise that comes through the cabin. A little wind noise is also ever present but is less intrusive. The level of noise isn't unpleasant, but there are quieter compact options.

Climate control

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We found the controls easy to access and clearly labeled. On the auto setting, the system does a good job of maintaining your desired cabin temperature. The seat heaters take a few extra moments to warm up but are fairly toasty once up to temp.

Interior

edmunds rating
The best part of the Mazda 3 could very well be its interior. Controls are easy to use and allow you to focus on driving, and there's ample room up front for people of all sizes. Rear passenger space isn't great for taller passengers, but overall this cabin has been well designed.

Ease of use

edmunds rating
We found nothing in the cabin difficult to use or figure out thanks to nice redundancy of controls and clear and simple labeling. The infotainment interface has an efficient menu structure, and it's easy enough to figure out on the fly. And it becomes a touchscreen when you're at a stop.

Getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
Front entry is a cinch, with wide door openings that offer plenty of clearance for the head and knees. The 3's roofline also doesn't drop down right at the rear doors, which helps preserve head clearance for rear passengers. Rear leg clearance is roughly on par with other compacts.

Driving position

edmunds rating
The steering column has a fairly wide adjustment range for most drivers to get comfortable with the pedals and situate the steering wheel where they want it. There's enough spacing between the brake and throttle pedals for easy heel-toe downshifting if you're into that sort of thing.

Roominess

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There's ample room up front, with leg-, headroom and shoulder room to spare. Rear headroom isn't as generous and might be insufficient for taller passengers. A good amount of foot space underneath the front seats helps maximize available legroom in back.

Visibility

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You get an expansive view out the front and to the sides in the 3. However, the sloping rear hatch window is a little short and cuts down your view out the back. Chunky rear roof pillars create a small blind spot when backing up, but this is addressed by the rearview camera.

Quality

edmunds rating
Mazda has stepped up its game and really pays attention to the look and feel of materials. The build quality at this price level is strong and is a cut above most of its competition. The only thing that looks kind of chintzy is the flip-up head-up display, though functionally it's brilliant.

Utility

edmunds rating
It's hard to fault a hatchback for utility, but compared to other hatchbacks in its class, the Mazda 3 offers slightly less cargo room and isn't as clever when it comes to maximizing small-item storage in the cabin. LATCH anchors are easy to access despite being tucked away between the cushions.

Small-item storage

edmunds rating
There's a decent-size door pocket that will fit a slightly oversized water bottle and a few other items, a front tray for your smartphone or wallet, two front anti-tip cupholders, and a small armrest bin with a 12-volt outlet. The rear door pockets will fit a standard bottle each.

Cargo space

edmunds rating
The 3's 20.2 cubic feet of luggage room is small for the class, even if it looks pretty spacious in back. There's no additional underfloor storage because the spare is there, but the rear seats are split 60/40 and essentially fold flat. Maximum cargo space in the hatchback is 47.1 cubic feet.

Child safety seat accommodation

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LATCH anchors are tucked away in between the cushions, but the cushions are soft enough to push away for access. There are two sets of anchors for the outboard seats and three overhead tethers. Unfortunately, larger rear-facing car seats will impose on front passenger space.

Technology

edmunds rating
Mazda's got one of the best infotainment setups out right now, and the optional Bose audio system produces some fantastic sound for a car of this size and class. We applaud Mazda for offering a fairly comprehensive list of driver's aids but are unimpressed by how most of them function.

Audio & navigation

edmunds rating
The navigation doesn't have fancy graphics but is easy to operate on the fly, and becomes responsive to touch at a stop for easy map panning using your fingers. The GT trim Bose audio system sounds great, the bass hits strong, and the audio stays clean regardless of how high you crank it up.

Smartphone integration

edmunds rating
Mazda's device integration is quite good despite the lack of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. When connected to the USB you can access all media, including podcasts, and there are even controls to fast-forward, pause and rewind. You can also stream music through Pandora, Aha and Stitcher through the system as well.

Driver aids

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Mazda's active driving aids aren't all that great. The lane departure warning and keeping system isn't very effective, and the adaptive cruise control quits below 15 mph. The blind-spot monitoring system suffers from mild paranoia.

Voice control

edmunds rating
Voice controls work well and provide guidance for available commands. We were able to navigate to our office and route to the nearest gas station on the first try. Nothing exceptional, but it works well with the functions that it does have, which doesn't include voice access to Siri or Google.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.