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Recently Driven

2019 Mazda 3 GT Sedan

By: Ron Corbett, APA Staff Writer

The 3 sedan is a triumph of restrained form and artfully rendered bright accents  

The new-for-2019 Mazda 3 is the fourth-generation of the model that debuted for the 2004 model year.

Model mix
Since the current model was introduced, the 3 sedan and hatchback are selling in essentially the same numbers and of the 2.5L-engined 3s, about half of buyers are opting for all-wheel drive. The 2L engine, restricted to the GX trim and the manual transmission GS model, is accounting for roughly 25 percent of 3 sales this year. 

Vehicle tested 2019 Mazda 3 GT Sedan with the Premium package
Body style Four-door sedan
Engine 2.5L four (186 horsepower)
Transmission Six-speed automatic
MSRP price spread $18,000 to $31,400
Price as tested $29,150 (GT sedan automatic with the Premium package and Soul Red Mica paint
Observed fuel economy 11.5L/100 km


Except for direct fuel injection, Mazda’s familiar 2L and 2.5L fours return virtually unchanged for 2019. The 2L is rated at 155 horsepower with 186 horsepower produced by the 2.5L. When hooked up to an automatic transmission, the 2.5L features cylinder de-activation that turns it into a two-cylinder engine during steady-state cruising. All-wheel drive is optional on 2.5L cars with automatic transmission. Two six-speed transmissions, a manual and an automatic, return for 2019. Mazda has abandoned its sophisticated multi-link rear suspension for a simpler torsion-beam axle. Many would argue that this is a retrograde step, but Mazda notes they did it not to save money (which they probably did anyway), but to more precisely locate the rear suspension to improve handling feel.

Mazda has returned with sedan and hatchback body styles once again but has radically differentiated the styling of the two formats.
Styling is a development of Mazda’s “Kodo” design philosophy but is sleeker than its bulbous predecessor. A long exhaust manifold, apparently necessary by Mazda’s SkyActive technology, results in a hood that is disproportionately long for the size of the car. The sedan resembles a visually cleaner version of the second-generation 2010 Mazda 3. The hatchback borders on the radical; displaying taut unbroken surfaces that somehow manage to impart a sense of tension as well. 


Crisply marked dials that look conventional but the centre one uses transister film technology (TFT). The centre of the TFT gauge can be configured several ways 

With sober, crisply-marked gauges, visually simple controls, pleasing shapes, attractive materials and careful assembly, the cabin is a visual triumph. That said, there are a few touches, like the unreadable faux alloy buttons on the steering wheel, and the optically plain but not entirely straightforward
controls of the climate system, that will require owners to ascend a bigger learning curve than they should have to as they get used to the car. Updates to the dial and button-based infotainment interface have rendered the system more difficult to navigate than its predecessor. The elegant and sumptuous cabin of the 3 should make some so-called “premium” brands blush in embarrassment.

Despite its visual excellence, what the cabin of the new 3 isn’t is roomy. Though longer and taller than the spacious Honda Civic sedan, the 3’s cabin feels narrow, the driver feels hemmed in between the door and the centre console and headroom is not abundant. The front seats are quite comfortable. The rear seat itself is amply supportive but is short on legroom to the point that buyers who regularly carry rear passengers that they like need to look elsewhere. Trunk space on the sedan is competitive for this segment. 

Modern, luxurious cabin of the Mazda 3  

The rear seat is comfortable but ingress is hampered and legroom is tight 

Our test car was a range-topping GT sedan powered by a 2.5L engine sending power to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. This engine, while a bit raucous off the line in the Mazda 6 and CX-5, is a paragon of refinement in the 3 under the same conditions and a sonic delight from idle to the redline. In addition to being refined, the big 2.5L moves the 3 with authority. The conventional, hydraulically operated automatic transmission is notable only by its lack of fuss under all conditions and proves, in this age of CVTs and multi-speed transmissions, that six gears are really enough. Consuming 11.5L/100km in our 400 km with it, our 3 certainly wasn’t economical, but in fairness, the car had triple digit mileage and economy should improve as the car becomes broken in.

Mazda notes it adopted a torsion beam rear axle to more precisely locate the suspension but also to improve steering turn-in feel. This, they have achieved as the steering on the 3, precise and beautifully weighted, is a delight. Despite the on-paper downgrade in rear suspension sophistication, the 3 rides with aplomb and its handling feels unflappable. Braking is strong with good pedal feel and no lost motion. On the road, the 3’s refinement, robust feel and crisp dynamics make it feel like a more expensive car than it is. 

Large, regularly shaped trunk

2019 Mazda 3 pricing ranges from $18,000 for the GX front-wheel drive base model sedan to $31,400 for the all-wheel drive GT hatchback (Sport) with the Premium package. Our Soul Red Mica GT sedan with the Premium package was priced at $29,150.

Without air conditioning or an automatic transmission available, the base 2L GX trim is merely a loss leader. The GX Convenience sedan, with automatic transmission, air conditioning, blind spot and rear cross traffic monitors, heated seats and cruise control, is a very good value and is equipped to suit most buyers. The GS trim upgrade, which includes a comprehensive active safety suite, dual zone climate control, a heated steering wheel and the stronger 2.5L engine (with automatic transmission), is a bargain. The GS Luxury package is great value. The range-topping GT is expensive for what you get. The GT Premium package is tremendous value if you like its additional features such as leather seating, navigation and Keyless Go. All-wheel drive, offered on 2.5L cars with automatic transmission, costs only $1700 more than a front-wheel drive variant with the same equipment. The base hatchback (marketed as Sport), which starts at the same equipment level as a GX sedan with the Convenience package, is priced $1000 higher than a similarly-equipped sedan. 

Sleek, conservative styling. The Mazda logo contains the trunk release button 

The first Mazda 3, which debuted for 2004, was an attractive, fun-to-drive car that had significant reliability and rust issues until the 2008 model year, after which reliability improved markedly. The second-generation 3, which went on sale for the 2010 model year, has exhibited few issues regarding reliability or rust. The third-generation, which went on sale for 2014, has been equally trouble-free. The new Mazda 3 is built on a new platform but, except for the all-wheel drive system, the mechanical units are carried over from the previous-generation car. Mazda must be confident of the reliability of its cars as both its basic warranty (three years) and powertrain warranty (five years) feature unlimited mileage.

For a small company, Mazda has often punched above its weight and with the new 3 it continues to do so. The car—really, two cars, so different are the two body styles-is very elegant and its cabin is very chic. On the road, the 3 is quick, responds precisely to driver inputs and is impressively refined. The 3’s chief failing, is, as noted before, a very tight cabin, with rear seat legroom a potential deal breaker for drivers who regularly carry adult passengers in the rear seat.