If you’ve read my car reviews over the last several years (and I thank you if you have), you know that I love short, squatty cars with distinction in both looks and performance. That perfectly describes my tester this – the 2020 Mazda3.

This compact sedan never disappoints. In fact, there’s been very few Mazdas over the years that have disappointed me. Now that’s not to say I’m not critical of some things about this Mazda3 as I am, just read on, but I do appreciate the modern, distinctive styling as well the performance that offers some personality in the way it drives too. All Mazdas have that quality. They used to call it Zoom Zoom, and that catch phrase still applies somewhat.

EXTERIOR

The Mazda3 is best as a hatchback, which is what my tester was. The longer hood paired on the hatchback give the Mazda3 a lot of distinction. I am a sucker for hatchbacks anyway. A rear spoiler just above the hatch adds a sporty touch. The taillights have distinction especially at night. It’d be easy to pick out a Mazda3 at night for sure. The front loses some of the distinctive styling and certainly could stand to be touched up with a more youthful, sporty look. As such, I can’t be too glowing about the Mazda3 as the front, which is the most important part of the car, just doesn’t excite me as much as the back or even the profile.

POWER/PERFORMANCE

The Mazda3, whether as a sedan or a hatch has only one engine option. I do wish there was a turbo version for the hatch, but maybe that will happen in the future. As such, my tester had a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine which made 186 horsepower. It drove a little faster than those numbers would indicate, but that’s always the case with Mazda. The big thing on the powertrain that holds back the Mazda3 from being exhilarating is the outdated six-speed automatic transmission. Purists will appreciate the swap-in of a six-speed manual transmission which might help overcome some of the annoyances with the shift ratios, otherwise.

INTERIOR

For a small vehicle with an affordable price tag, the interior of the Mazda3 is quite nice. The touchpoints are outstanding. Other hatches seem to skimp on the quality and comfort, but that’s not the case, at least for the front-row. The back seat lacks legroom, but that’s to be expected from a compact car. The hatch styling does seem to offer more head room, however. So you gain some, and lose some.

I’ve read other thoughts on the Mazda3’s technology and I have to disagree with them. I still find the Mazda infotainment system to be confounding and cumbersome. It lacks intuition and still ranks at the bottom of my list when it comes to technology. There is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so I can overcome some of the annoyances with the infotainment by just using my phone.

The Mazda3 hatchback has 20.3 cubic feet of cargo space, which is just another reason to opt for the hatch over the sedan, which only has 13.2 cubic feet of trunk space.

PRICE

Base model Mazda3 hatchbacks start under $21,000. My tester was the top-of-the-line premium package. My tester even had all-wheel drive which elevated it in my book. But, the top-of-the-line trim, though complete with many niceties and creature comforts comes at a much higher price (for a compact car). My tester had a base price of $28,900 and with several other options, including paddle shifters, it had a final MSRP of $31,470.

FUEL ECONOMY

The Mazda3 hatchback with AWD has an EPA rating of 24 mpg/city and 32 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mixed highway and suburban driving, I averaged just over 27 mpg.

I can’t call this a hot hatch as I have others in the past, but I can proclaim the Mazda3 hatchback as one of my favorite compact cars I’ve driven this model year. Cars should have personality, and this one has plenty of it to go around.

SPECS

2020 Mazda3 Hatchback Premium

Price/As tested price…………………….. $28,900/$31,470

Mileage…………………………………… 24 mpg/city; 32 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.5-liter 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 186 hp/186 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… Six-speed automatic

Drive Wheels…………………….. All-wheel drive

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmore@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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