Now straight away I know that if the brand Mazda is brought up and “MX-5” does not immediately follow it, people tend to lose interest in what you’re saying, but hear me out. When looking at Mazda’s lineup the casual observer will point out that the company doesn’t make any interesting cars other than the MX-5, but I believe that maybe a case could be made for the Mazda 3 Hatchback.
The main question I want to answer is whether it may be something to rival the mighty Golf GTI or at least even be mentioned as part of the large family of hot hatchbacks that now exists as a result of the original Golf. It is worth remembering that in the past Mazda has created cult classics such as the Mazdaspeed 3 and RX-7, serving to remind us how every once in a while the company does come out with a brilliant car outside of the fabled MX-5. Factoring in all these considerations, I was pretty excited about the possibilities of what this could be, but as ever, consider me primarily as an independent adjudicator. While others may rest on a line of uncertainty, I have no feelings to spare. So without further ado, here is my unimpaired, unabridged review of the Mazda 3 Hatchback.
Well, this is a tricky one to start off on. If we stick with the facts and figures, things don’t look so great. The car comes with a 2.5-liter engine that produces only 186 horsepower, a number that seems dismal when compared to the 228 German horses you get from a Golf GTI. At 3,255 pounds the car isn’t necessarily a lightweight either. So when considering the Mazda 3’s performance from a statistical viewpoint, it doesn’t really work. On the other hand, if we do get past this initial phase of thought, which justifiably can discourage many, it is possible that there is a case to be made in favor of the car’s performance.
While the car itself may not be travelling quickly, there is an undeniable sense of occasion that comes with the experience of pushing the pedal straight through the floor. The small four-cylinder engine allows for high revs and the accelerator is responsive enough to provide a pleasant surprise. If this qualitative approach is continued we can progress to the idea that maybe fundamentally the car is pretty close to what a hot hatchback should be. You might not actually be going very fast and it may seem a little silly, but you can have fun. As far as I’m concerned, that in itself is a major box to tick when reviewing any small car.
The car isn’t the most beautiful machine ever made, but critically it is better looking than many of its competitors. From the front, the car is quite good looking especially if you purchase the black gloss finishings as part of the premium package. When you move to the rear end of the car, the story is different. It can best be described as an angry looking elephant seal that lost its large nose. The designers were doing such a good job with this car until they came to the ass end and decided they would rather have lunch than finish the job. To me this seems like a major error on Mazda’s part because with subpar performance in comparison with its peers, the 3 needs to make up in areas like this. With a combination of the beautiful and the ugly, the Mazda 3 continues with its indecisive status and does nothing to set itself apart from the competitors.
This is an area of the review where you may find that some of my relentless battering takes a pause. While I do have one or two small critiques about the interior, I find it to be one area of the car that I can decisively say is better than many of its competitors. The design is very simple, but in this case simple does not have to be given a negative connotation. Without overwhelming the driver, Mazda is still able to fit everything you would expect in a modern car and even more importantly everything is exactly where you would expect it to be. Even within the first five minutes in the car I was able to navigate most of the dials and switches and even though there was a sense of simplicity I still didn’t feel like I was sitting in something cheaply made. The one thing I don’t like is that the center console isn’t touch screen, but with everything else so well integrated it doesn’t really seem like a true problem to me.
Pricing is another area where the car does have some marginal advantages, but again I’m not sure if it’s enough to set itself apart from its competitors. You can get a base model for a little less than 24 thousand dollars, but if you add on things like the premium package- which I think are necessary to make it a worthwhile purchase- you get closer to 28 thousand dollars which puts it in the company of the Golf GTI. This leads me to what I think the main problem with the car is…
As you can probably deduce by now, there are many positives and negatives to the Mazda 3 Hatchback, but there is one main problem with the car that no matter any statistic or feature, I cannot get past: it lacks and identity. To break into the highly saturated world of the hot hatchback a car needs to have a distinct personality or just be that much better than anything presented before. It is difficult for me to find a major feature of the car that sets it apart from the other, but more importantly it is difficult for me to find Mazda’s true intention with the car. Don’t get me wrong, as a practical buy there’s a lot of value to the car. Good economy, loads of tech, and it’s a Mazda so it will be well-built and more reliable than most of its counterparts in the industry. But if what you wanted in the first place was a small, practical car than you can take to the edge and have a good laugh in, what exactly is wrong with the Golf GTI?
While I do firmly stand behind my feelings on the Mazda 3, at the same time I am not ungrateful to the staff at Continental Mazda of Naperville who provided me with the opportunity to review the car. I’m sure despite my review there still may be some of you who feel inclined to take a look at the car for yourself, so may I subtly push you towards my friends at Continental Mazda.
“2019 Mazda 3 Hatchback – Specs & Features | Mazda USA.” Mazdausa.com. N. p., 2019. Web. 24 Nov. 2019.
“2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review, Pricing, And Specs.” Car and Driver. N. p., 2019. Web. 24 Nov. 2019.