Pros: Gorgeous design; fun to drive; upscale interior; powerful engines; available all-wheel drive
Cons: Below-average fuel economy; tight rear seat; no high-performance variant; infotainment system won't be for everyone
Over the last decade, almost every type of vehicle has seen significant improvements across the board, and this applies to economy cars as much as it does to luxury SUVs. The Mazda3 is one such example that has raised expectations for its very competitive class. It benefits from attractive styling, a noticeably sportier feel from behind the wheel and an interior that is much nicer than its price suggests.
The 2024 Mazda3 is offered as either a sedan or a hatchback and can be had with a relatively potent base engine or a more inspiring turbocharged upgrade. Unlike many of its rivals, it's also available with all-wheel drive and a manual transmission, though the stick shift is only available in one non-turbo model. These make the Mazda3 a great pick for drivers seeking more engagement and performance, without stepping up to more specialized performance models such as the Honda Civic Type R or Toyota GR Corolla.
The Mazda3 was last redesigned in 2019, but updates over the years have kept it not just competitive, but desirable among newer competitors. This year, it gains a handful of upgrades, including a new infotainment system for the top Turbo models. Even without these improvements, the 2024 Mazda 3 would continue to be an excellent pick against the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Jetta and Toyota Corolla. Except for perhaps the Civic, the Mazda feels as though it over-delivers with its overall excellence.
What's new for 2024?
Blind-spot monitoring is now standard for all models. The Mazda3 Turbo models now come with a larger 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen and are eligible for the Carbon appearance trim package. The 2.5 S Carbon model also adds all-wheel drive as standard.
What are the Mazda3's interior and in-car technology like?
The interior quite simply makes you go "wow." A Toyota Corolla or Hyundai Elantra, which are actually quite nice, look and feel like they should cost substantially less – especially when comparing top trim levels. Whatever trim level of Mazda3 you’re considering, however, the key to its wow factor is how Mazda’s design removes visual clutter by reducing switchgear and effectively hiding air vents and door handles. It just looks special. Honda gets close with the new Civic, but the Mazda3’s interior is still nicer.
It's also functional. The steering wheel, which looks sensational, is an absolute treat to hold. There's considerable center console space, and Mazda's tech interface, which had lagged behind its competition due to key usability issues, has been cleaned up. Those models with the base engine come with an 8.8-inch infotainment display (not a touchscreen) that is controlled via a large dial ergonomically placed on the center console. Mazda engineers determined that hunting for touch-operating icons can be distracting. They're not wrong, and the higher-mounted screen is certainly easier to read at a glance. That said, there are a lot of people who don't care for this setup and specifically prefer touchscreens.
Stepping up to the Turbo models upgrades the display to a 10.25-inch touchscreen (pictured below in Mazda CX-50), but even this has some limitations. It can only be operated by touch when using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (no complaints there), but the native Mazda infotainment system remains knob only. This is the same setup found in the Mazda CX-50 and CX-90. It’s disappointing that every Mazda3 does not get it.
How big is the Mazda3?
The Mazda3 is about average in terms of its exterior dimensions. It's similar to, but a bit shorter than a Honda Civic, VW Jetta or Hyundai Elantra, but bigger than a Corolla. Front occupants will have space right on par with compact competitors and the well-shaped seats provide plenty of comfort over many miles. The back seat, by contrast, has the least amount of legroom in the segment. It would've been adequate 10 years ago, but today it feels cramped compared to the enormous Civic. The hatchback's avant garde roofline also makes rear headroom tight and the unusually fat rear pillars make things a bit dungeon-y. Of course, some may consider that an acceptable trade-off for the 3 hatch's unique look.
The sedan's trunk (below left or top for mobile users) is useful and managed to fit all six suitcases in our luggage test, but it must be said that its 13.2 cubic-feet of space is outdone by the surprisingly cavernous Honda Civic (hatchback and sedan) and Hyundai Elantra trunks. The Mazda3 Hatchback cargo area (below right or bottom for mobile users) jumps up to 20.1 cubic-feet, but that number is deceptive as it counts a lot of space up near the roof that isn't particularly useful. We actually found the sedan can hold more than the hatchback when the back seat is raised due to it having a longer space. Fold that back seat down, though, and the hatchback obviously grants it far more space and versatility than the sedan can manage. There also isn't much of a drop-off in space between the Mazda3 hatchback and the mechanically related Mazda CX-30 small SUV.
What are the Mazda3's fuel economy and performance specs?
The entry-level 2024 Mazda3 models come with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-four good for 191 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. That makes it a powerful and torquey base engine for its class; some of its rivals' upgrade engines don't even produce that much. All versions come standard with a six-speed automatic, but the top-of-the-line Premium Hatchback can be outfitted with a six-speed manual (front-drive only), which will be the enthusiast's choice. Front-wheel drive is standard with the automatic, and unusual for the segment, all-wheel drive is an option.
Mazda estimates the sedan with the automatic and front-wheel drive will return 31 mpg combined. Opting for AWD drops that estimate to 30 mpg. The Hatchback is estimated to return 1 mpg less for front- or all-wheel drive, while the manual should return 30 mpg.
The Mazda3 Turbo is a unique entry in the segment in that it provides a massive power upgrade without the sort of high-performance chassis upgrades you'd find in a Honda Civic Si or VW GTI. It features Mazda’s 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder found in far larger vehicles such as the CX-9 and CX-50 SUVs. It produces 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on 87 octane, but pump 93 octane, and those figures go up to 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. You can only get the Turbo with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Fuel economy for the sedan dips to an estimated 27 mpg combined for the sedan and 26 mpg for the hatchback.
What's the Mazda3 like to drive?
The Mazda3 is so much fun. We've already talked about the Mazda's strong powertrain, but its ride and handling really make it something special. The steering weight is pretty much smack in the middle of the spectrum from light to heavy. It builds resistance naturally and even delivers some road feel, while every input returns exactly the amount of steering you desire.
The chassis then follows in kind, as it's amazingly neutral with nary a hint of understeer. Body roll is very restrained. Over bumps, the car doesn't get nervous, which is impressive considering its torsion-beam rear-end. It's a car that begs to rip around corners. Thankfully, the Mazda's ride quality doesn't suffer much for its handling prowess. It's certainly on the firm side, enough that some people used to particularly cushy cars might be put off. But the firmness is couched in excellent body control. There's very little movement from bumps, and it feels downright European. Road noise and engine noise are hushed, too, making for a refined cruising experience.
The Turbo might sound like a performance model on paper, but it’s no Mazdaspeed3 revival. Yes, the Turbo is noticeably quicker in a straight line and makes a nice growl, but the engine is a lazy one. It prioritizes low-end shove over a sportier race to the top of the tach, and the six-speed automatic isn’t a speedy shifter. The Turbo’s suspension is only changed to account for the extra weight of the Turbo powertrain. It ends up riding a little firmer but handling a little worse than a non-Turbo car due to the smallest sensation of front heaviness not experienced in the naturally aspirated version. That said, the Mazda3 Turbo is still a great handling and driving car — just don’t expect anything as serious as a VW GTI, Honda Civic Si or Subaru WRX.
What other Mazda3 reviews can I read?
We drive both to see which grown-up hot hatch might be better for you
Here's what we thought about the Mazda3 Turbo after getting our first taste of the boosted version.
Here are all of our staff's thoughts about the Mazda3 when it's equipped with the six-speed manual transmission.
We test the range-topping hatchback and walk away incredibly impressed.
What is the 2024 Mazda3 price?
The 2024 Mazda3 pricing starts at $25,335, including the $1,165 destination charge. That's for the base 3 Sedan, which comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, an eight-speaker sound system, two USB ports, an 8.8-inch infotainment display and a full suite of accident avoidance tech (see safety section below). We suggest stepping up to the Select Sport for another $520. For that reasonable price, you get larger wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers.
The base hatchback S Select Sport trim with front-wheel drive has a base price of $26,855 and is equipped with a similar level of standard features as the sedan. The only way to get the six-speed manual transmission is to get the hatchback in Premium trim, and it costs $31,515.
A Carbon Turbo Hatchback (cheapest way to get the Turbo powertrain) starts at $34,115. The Turbo Sedan in the same trim costs $32,915. The “Carbon” trim levels come with special gloss black exterior trim, black wheels and exclusive paint options (Polymetal Gray and red leather in the Carbon Edition, and Zircon Sand Metallic and terracotta leatherette in the Carbon Turbo). Both versions are pictured below.
S Select Sport: $25,855
S Preferred: $27,355
S Carbon Edition AWD: $30,225
Carbon Turbo AWD: $32,915
Turbo Premium Plus AWD: $36,615
S Select Sport: $26,855
S Preferred: $28,555
S Carbon Edition AWD: $31,425
S Premium 6MT: $31,515
Carbon Turbo AWD: $34,115
Turbo Premium Plus AWD: $37,815
What are the Mazda3's safety ratings and driver assistance features?
Every 2024 Mazda3 comes standard with the modern car basics, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high beams. Move up the trim ladder into the fully-loaded Turbo Premium Plus, and you gain rear automatic emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, a 360-degree-view camera, front and rear parking sensors and a traffic jam assist that functions as lane following at low speeds on the highway. Mazda does not offer lane-centering steering assist with its adaptive cruise control unlike many carmakers.
The Mazda3 sedan and hatchback received a Top Safety Pick award by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for 2023 and we expect it to do so again for 2024. They got the best possible crash scores as well as the best possible ratings for the frontal crash prevention system and LATCH child seat ease of use. They got an Acceptable headlight score for the base trims, but a “Good” for Premium and Turbo trims. NHTSA gave the Mazda3 similarly high marks in its crash testing, awarding it five stars for frontal crash and rollover protection.
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