Few small cars balance frugality, practicality, and verve like the 2020 Mazda 3. The compact Mazda is offered in sedan and hatchback configurations, all powered by thrifty inline-4 engines that can be paired with automatic and manual transmissions as well as front- or all-wheel drive. The 3 puts its best foot forward in an effort to lure buyers not totally sold on crossovers and SUVs.
We reward the latest Mazda 3 for its good looks and versatile blend of utility and performance, though we concede that its infotainment interface is due for an overhaul. On our scale, the 2020 Mazda 3 scores 6.7 out of 10 points. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Mazda 3 sedan comes in base, Select, Preferred, and Premium trim levels; the hatchback does not offer Select. This year, the full suite of collision-avoidance tech previously standard on Select and above trims is included at every step of the way.
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The 2.5-liter inline-4 rated at 186 horsepower is unusually powerful for a compact car, and it sets the stage for a lineup with aspirational intentions. The Mazda 3 delivers ride and handling characteristics of a more expensive car paired with features not available on most compact cars and an interior ambience that bests some entry-level luxury cars. Linear, predictable handling isn’t as entertaining as before, but the Mazda 3 boasts a grown-up feel and a refined demeanor. All-wheel drive costs $1,400, but is not available on the base sedan. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard on every trim except the range-topping Premium hatchback, where a 6-speed manual delivers power to the front wheels. Fuel economy isn’t a big selling point, though 30 mpg combined in most configurations with the automatic is thrifty.
Inside, the 3 has a stylish, low-slung dash and comfortable, bolstered seats up front. Rear-seat riders will find just average space, and even the hatchback isn’t especially utilitarian. The standard 8.8-inch screen is bright and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard on all but base models. Mazda skips a touchscreen in favor of a bulky center console-mounted knob to toggle through a menu-intensive system.
Mazda’s entry-level model isn’t perfect, but it impresses on many levels. Its price is on the high side, its infotainment interface a chore to sort through, and the hatchback’s styling is polarizing at best. Still, small-car buyers would do well to add this zoomy compact car to their shopping lists.