2020 Mazda 3: What's It Like To Live With?
20,000 miles in a luxurious compact without the luxury price tag
|Miles Driven||Average MPG|
Latest Highlights (updated 03/18/21)
- One of our team members takes the Mazda 3 on its longest road trip yet
- How's the Mazda 3 after driving for 15 hours straight? Read our road trip impressions to find out
- Questions? Comments? Check out our Long-Term Mazda 3 Discussion Board (link below)
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2020 Mazda 3: Real-World Fuel Economy
One of our team members took the Mazda 3 on a cross-country road trip at the end of last year and added a few thousand miles to the odometer in the process. The highway travel boosted the 3's overall fuel economy, which is now hovering above the EPA-combined estimate at 29.1 mpg.
Average lifetime mpg: 28.3
EPA mpg rating: 28 combined (25 City/33 Highway)
Best fill mpg: 69.6
Best range (miles):: 412.2
Current odometer: 15,940
- 6 Colors
- 7 Trims
- $20,650starting MSRP
2020 Mazda 3: Comfort
"I've got a counterpoint to Travis' commentary about our Mazda 3's ride quality. To start out, I do agree with Travis that its ride quality is fairly stiff by small sedan standards. Consequently, you end up feeling a lot of bumps and road texture. But where I differ is how significant it is. It's a deal breaker for Travis, but this particular quality wouldn't stop me from purchasing a 3." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"The ride quality on this trim of the 3 is a deal-breaker. Even on a slightly bumpy highway, it feels like it's going to shatter my bones. The seats make up some of the difference, and they're fine from a static perspective, but the big wheels and stiff suspension make for a surprisingly brittle ride." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
"I drove our Mazda 3 for about four hours yesterday, with one stop in between for gas. Overall, I was pretty comfortable in the driver's seat. I was able to use the seat's adjustments to get a seating position I liked, and I didn't get any pain points or aches from the seat's cushioning and contouring. (For what it's worth, I'm 5-foot-10 and about 150 pounds. So, yeah, I'm kinda of skinny.)" — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
2020 Mazda 3: Technology
"The adaptive cruise control on our long-term Mazda 3 has two major problems. First, it's way too conservative overall. Even in its "closest" setting, it maintains a considerable distance between you and the car in front. It's also slow to accelerate back to your set speed once the car in front of you has changed lanes. Second, the system doesn't remember your preferences. I set the closest distance possible for following, activated the system a few times while driving, then turned the car off. On restart, it defaults to the furthest distance again. It's not an option I'd pay for on this car." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
"Ever have to drive up a foggy mountain road in the dark? It's no fun, and it can be downright harrowing when you don't have fog lights. Try as I might, I couldn't find the controls for the Mazda 3's foglights. I thought, "it's the all-wheel-drive Preferred, it'll have fog lights." Nope. None to be found. When I got home, I pulled up Mazda's website and the order guide for the 3. No fog lights there, either. You just can't get 'em. If this were my car, I'd quickly go looking for some aftermarket solutions, but it's really unfortunate that you can't get fogs from the factory." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
"The beeps and chimes and sound notifications in this Mazda 3 are driving me crazy. I can't figure out what half of them are and the other half I can't turn off. I've been struggling for three days to figure out why it beeps at me when I get out of the car. At first, I thought it might be the doors automatically locking, but that's not the case. I'm going to need to take a deep dive into the owner's manual to get used to this car." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
"I use Apple CarPlay a lot in vehicles to interface with my iPhone's apps, whether it be for music, podcasts or maps. But I'm a little annoyed on how it works in the Mazda 3. The 3's display screen isn't a touchscreen. Yet CarPlay is kind of meant to work via touch. So to make it work, you have to use the car's rotary dial controller to move a cursor around the screen interface to select different apps or activate stuff. Doing so often requires a fair amount of attention. Probably too much, really, from a driver distraction standpoint." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content.
"With 13.2 cubic feet of capacity, the Mazda 3's trunk is decently sized for the small sedan class. On a road trip with my family for the 4th of July weekend I was able to fit three carry-on suitcases, a duffel bag and an assortment of other small backpacks and bags. The trunklid hinges take up some space — you have to watch for that when you're loading luggage." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"Carrying big items in the Mazda 3 requires folding down the rear seats, but that doesn't make things much easier. The opening between the cabin and trunk is relatively narrow and short. Several class competitors do this better, particularly the Civic." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
2020 Mazda 3: Miscellaneous
"Everyone loves the color on this Mazda. It is Mazda's very-specific red (Soul Red Crystal Metallic) and it really does class up the car quite a bit. I get comments on it at the grocery store, at the drive-thru and pretty much wherever I park it. It's a rare thing for a sub-$30,000 compact sedan to get compliments in Los Angeles." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
"I like our Mazda 3's premium look. It starts with its styling, which has a kind of classic European luxury sport sedan look because of the 3's long hood and short rear trunk area. The fenders and doors have interesting contouring, too. I actually like taking pictures of our car, which isn't something I'd say about a lot of other small sedans. Our test car's Soul Red Crystal paint really pops and sparkles in sunlight, too." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"The sedan is the more popular of the Mazda 3 body styles, but choosing a four-door for our long-term fleet meant we had to give up some benefits afforded by the hatchback. While the hatchback's increased storage is certainly practical, we were more interested to see how the manual transmission performed (it isn't available on the sedan at all). We reached out to Mazda for a short-term loaner with three pedals.
At our test track, the manual-equipped 3 hatch accelerated from 0-60 mph in 8.0 seconds, or 0.2 seconds quicker than our long-term sedan. Looking at the numbers, though, I don't think the manual transmission is inherently quicker. Every other Mazda 3 of this generation that we've tested has been all-wheel drive, and all weigh roughly 200 pounds more than the front-drive manual hatchback. Without all the extra weight, I surmise that a front-drive automatic would run neck and neck with a similarly equipped manual Mazda 3.
The Mazda 3's manual is satisfying to use in real-world driving. The clutch pedal has the right amount of heft to make it feel solid but not too stiff, and the engagement point is right off the floor. It took no time at all to get used to the clutch-accelerator action, and I think it would be pretty easy to learn how to drive a manual in the 3. It's a shame that it's single-trim availability (hatchback with the Premium trim) will ultimately limit the number of people who can drive it." — Cameron Rogers, news and reviews editor
"Editor Brent Romans asserted a while back that the new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder 'will be the engine to get in 2021, budget permitting.' Now that we've tested a 2021 Mazda 3 hatchback with the turbo motor, I can confirm that he wasn't wrong. Consider that the turbo hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds at our test track, compared to 8.2 seconds for our long-term 2020 sedan with the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four. That's a massive difference, and as you'd expect, the turbo delivers its punch right off the line — or right away at, say, 2,500 rpm on the highway — whereas the non-turbo engine needs to work a lot harder to get anything done.
"It all adds up to a more civilized and confidence-inspiring drive. The turbo even sounds better than the regular engine, singing in a warbly baritone that reminded me of a Subaru WRX. Speaking of which, the turbocharged Mazda comes standard with all-wheel drive and demonstrates the refinement that the WRX lacks, so Subaru has surely taken note of this new arrival. Ditto Volkswagen, which sells the front-wheel-drive GTI for a bit less coin and the awesome all-wheel-drive Golf R (if you can find one) for a bit more. The Mazda's advantages over the GTI are less clear, as the VW has long been an uncommonly refined sport compact and offers sharper handling and a significantly more spacious interior to boot. But I dig the Mazda's relaxed power delivery — it feels less caffeinated — and I appreciate that Mazda has quelled the vibrations that plagued earlier applications of the 2.5-liter turbo mill. If I were sold on the current 3 as my next car, there's no doubt the turbo powertrain would be a must-have." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy
Edmunds usually aims to put 20,000 miles on a long-term test car to understand the maintenance and wear a customer would experience, but the pandemic had other plans. Instead, our 2020 Mazda 3 long-term test car spent a good amount of time on the sunny streets of Southern California. In this video, we cover what we liked, and what we didn't, during our year of ownership.