2022 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD hatchback with Premium Plus Package
Pros—Stylish. Fun to drive. Fairly roomy. Swift. Supple ride. Upscale interior. AWD. Safety features.
Cons—Snug rear seat. Fussy infotainment system. Premium fuel needed for most power. Marginal city fuel economy.
Bottom Line—Sporty compact sedan that is fairly practical.
Mazda has again raced past the finish line with its Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD hatchback to provide a fun-to-drive, fairly practical model.
Mazdas are “fun” cars, a tradition largely established by the first Mazda Miata sports car introduced several decades ago. The turbocharged AWD Mazda3, although not billed as a performance car, is plenty speedy, has fast responses, quick steering, agile handling with dynamic stability and traction controls and flat cornering. The anti-lock all-disc brakes stop the car quickly and surely.
This stylish compact model comes as a sedan or hatchback, with prices ranging from $21,150 to $34,790, give or take a few hundred dollars here or there. There are a variety of trim levels with front- or all-wheel drive (AWD) and regular or turbocharged engines that have horsepower ratings from 155 to 250. Get AWD and you also get a turbocharged engine.
I tested a $34,400 “Polymetal Gray Metallic” Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD hatchback with a Premium Plus Package, several options and 18-inch black alloy wheels. My car also had a distinctive black front grille, black rear hatch spoiler and black heated power side mirrors with reverse tilt. However, the extremely low front air damn looked as if it can be easily damaged by objects such as low curbs.
The tightly built Mazda3 can swallow four adults, but the rear seat is snug and best left for two. Moreover, a passenger behind a tall driver will find legroom to be tight. There’s a large center fold-down armrest with twin cupholders back there. Front seats are especially supportive, but thick rear pillars greatly hinder a driver’s over-the-shoulder vision.
My test car cabin’s upscale features included leather-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, push-button start, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bose premium sound system with 12 speakers and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There also was a power sliding glass moonroof. (Whatever happened to “sunroofs?”)
The hatch raises smoothly on struts, and there’s decent cargo room. Rear seat backs can be flipped forward to significantly increase cargo space, but one can’t lower them from outside the rear of the car.
The quiet cabin has upscale materials and easily read gauges. However, the infotainment system with its 8.8-inch screen is controlled by a rotary console dial and is fussy to use. On the plus side, there are small manual lower dashboard controls for such things as the heated front seats and heated adjustable steering wheel. _There are just a fair amount of cabin storage areas, including door pockets and a covered console bin.
The Mazda3 I drove had a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 227 horsepower on regular-grade gas and 250 horsepower and additional torque with premium fuel. Acceleration is fast, with virtually no turbo lag. Merging, passing on freeways and making quick traffic moves with the responsive six-speed automatic transmission are easy affairs. Figure on 0-60 m.p.h. in 6.4 seconds with the 250-horsepower engine, which I felt my test car had.
The transmission can be manually shifted with steering wheel paddles or the transmission’s control lever. A driver can select normal or sport driving modes with the flick of a console switch. Sport mode increases engine revs for more responsive acceleration but lowers fuel economy and really isn’t needed for most normal driving.
City fuel economy is so-so at an estimated 23 miles per gallon. The highway figure is 31. The fuel tank only has a 12.7-gallon capacity, but there’s only so much room to put things in an AWD compact car.
Safety features include a rearview camera, radar cruise control, 360-degree view monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, rear cross-traffic with braking, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention alert, lane departure warning system and lane-keep assist. There also are automatic on/off headlights, a tire pressure monitoring system and a bunch of air bags, including front and rear side air cushions, besides knee air bags.
Mazda lacks the advertising budgets of larger automakers, but cars such as the Mazda3 should help give it wider word-of-mouth advertising.