2022 Mazda 3 Review

2022 Mazda 3 - Compact continues fun-to-drive tradition


2022 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo  AWD hatchback with Premium Plus Package

Price: $34,400

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.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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