2020 Mazda 3 review

By David Bonnici and WhichCar Staff

2019 Mazda 3

Priced From $25,590Information

Overall Rating


4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
Expand Section

Safety, value & features

5 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

5 out of 5 stars


5 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProStandard features; ride comfort; driving manners; safety tech.

  2. ConInterior space; hatch boot space

  3. The Pick: 2020 Mazda 3 G20 Evolve 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

The new Mazda 3 manages to be a vast improvement over the popular third-gen model, and presents as a deeply impressive, ultra-well-rounded small car. Refinement takes the biggest leap forward, but the new 3 also comprehensively ticks the boxes for dynamics, ride comfort, cabin quality and style.

What might bug me?

Being one of the first to buy an all-new Mazda 3 meant missing out on option to get revolutionary new, highly efficient SkyActiv X petrol engine. This isn’t available in Australia until October 2020.

How it takes up more garage space than previous model without offering additional interior space.

Hearing complaints from the rear seats due to the lack of USB ports and air vents.

What body styles are there?

Five-door hatchback and four-door sedan.

Both are front-wheel drive. The Mazda3 is classed as a small car, lower priced.

What features does every Mazda 3 have?

A multimedia system built around an 8.8-inch colour screen and controlled by a dial on the centre console. The screen displays images from a reversing camera, satellite navigation, as well as settings for AM/FM/Digital radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

AUX, USB inputs and Bluetooth connectivity for mobile devices, and sound system.

Autonomous emergency braking (Mazda calls it Smart City Brake Support) which uses a camera-based system that can detect an impending collision with a car, pedestrian or cyclist ahead and apply the brakes automatically, perhaps avoiding a crash. It also works in reverse, which helps prevent parking accidents. (For more on Mazda3 safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Semi-autonomous driving with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive (radar) cruise control with stop-and-go function that operates in slow traffic.

Head-up display, and traffic sign recognition.

Advanced driver assist features such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and driver attention alert that senses if you’re veering within the lane, which could be a sign of fatigue.

LED headlights with auto on-off, and auto high-beam control.

Keyless entry, and push-button start.

Rear parking sensors, and electric folding mirrors.

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, and buttons on the wheel for operating the cruise control, audio system and your phone. Height adjustment for both front seats.

Hill-launch assist, which controls the brakes automatically to help you start from rest on an uphill slope.

Air-conditoning, electric parking brake, and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.

Wheels made from aluminium alloy (which are lighter and nicer looking than steel wheels with plastic covers). A space-saver spare wheel, with a recommended maximum speed of 80km/h.

G-Vectoring Control, a Mazda technology that makes the car respond more consistently to the steering wheel.

Electronic stability control, which helps the driver recover from skids. (All new cars must have this feature.)

Six airbags.

The Mazda3 is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and five-year Mazda roadside assistance.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol is the more fuel-efficient of the two engines available in a Mazda 3, consuming as little as 6.2 litres/100km in the official test (city and country combined). This is the only engine choice for the Mazda3 G20 Pure, G20 Evolve and G20 Touring. This engine is the same one that was under the bonnet of the previous model, but is still an excellent unit.

The sportier Mazda3 G25 Evolve, G25 GT and G25 Astina models are available only with a bigger and more powerful 2.5-litre petrol that also carries over from the third-generation 3. It brings you about 25 per cent more thrust in most driving conditions, which is not necessary but brings swifter overtaking and, for some drivers, more fun, with only slight increase in fuel consumption.

Both engines have an auto stop-start system that cuts fuel use in city driving. It shuts down the engine whenever you stop, and starts it automatically when you take your foot off the brake pedal to drive away (or in manuals, depress the clutch pedal).

All Mazda3s offer a choice between six-speed manual and six-speed automatic gearboxes.

In October 2019, Mazda will introduce the new SkyActiv X engine that will provide superior power and torque with the economy of a smaller engine. This is expected to be an extra cost option to the more powerful G25 variants.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Step past the least costly model, the G20 Pure, and spend more for the G20 Evolve and you get a more welcoming feel in the cabin, with the steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake lever trimmed in leather. On auto versions the wheel has paddle shifters for controlling the gearbox.

The G20 Evolve also adds dual-zone climate control that lets the driver and front passenger set their own temperature and fan settings. It also gains a centre fold-down armrest on the back seat, and bigger and sportier 18-inch alloy wheels with wider tyres that have shallower sidewalls (giving you more grip and sharper steering response).

Spend more again for a Mazda G20 Touring and the cloth seat trim of the less costly versions are replaced with a mix of real and fake leather in black. The driver’s seat has 10-way power adjustment and two-position memory setting for the rear-view mirrors. You also get advanced keyless entry, auto-dimming driver’s side mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors in the sun visors, and an overhead sunglass storage box.

For not many more dollars than a G20 Touring you could have instead a Mazda3 GP25 Evolve, which is much the same as the G20 Evolve but gains the more powerful 2.5-litre engine plus advanced keyless entry and 10-way driver’s seat adjustment for the cloth seats.

The GP25 GT returns the black leather trim and adds heating for the front seats. It also brings you the additional features found in the G20 Touring, plus a great Bose 12-speaker sound system over the standard eight speakers, and heated steering wheel.

The most expensive Mazda3 is the G25 Astina, which adds a sunroof, 360-degree parking monitor, front parking sensors, adaptive LED headlights, front-cross traffic alert, and auto braking that works when reversing if another vehicle crosses your path. You can also opt for white leather in the Astina sedan, or burgundy in the hatch.

The Astina's 360-degree parking monitor, front-parking sensors, front-cross traffic alert are part of Vision Technology package that's $1500 option for all other Mazda 3 versions.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The 2.5 litre petrol engine uses about 5 per cent more fuel than the 2.0 Petrol.

The lower profile, wider tyres on all but the GP20 Pure decrease ride comfort, because there is less air between the wheel and the road. These tyres may also cost more to replace.

How comfortable is the Mazda3?

In short, excellent. Mazda has put the way people sit, bend, see, and generally function while driving or riding in a car at the forefront of every design decision. The front seats are more comfortable than the previous model and even more supportive than those in the bigger Mazda 6.

The driving position feels spot-on, with the steering column providing an extra 20mm (for a total of 70mm) of reach adjustment, allowing taller drivers to pull the wheel in closer.

Mazda has also vastly improved road noise, through the use of a new production process that sees sound-damping ‘nodes’ sandwiched within the bodywork.
Only the lack of ventilation for rear-seat passengers detracts from the 3’s overall scoring for comfort.

Interior design is another highlight. The instrument panel, air-conditoning controls and centre console appear far less cluttered compared to the outgoing car, with greater practicality evident in things like the dual cup holders forward of the shifter, and a generous bin ahead of that for phone or sunglasses.

The multimedia screen is larger – now 8.8 inches – and positioned slightly further away from the driver to reduce the eye-focussing time from the road ahead to the display. Mazda has also bucked the touch-screen trend, claiming it’s safer for drivers to navigate the improved system via the larger rotary controller.

The improved head-up display ditches the pop-up plastic reflector for a more integrated and sophisticated projector system. Eyes-ahead clarity for navigation and speed-sign recognition is excellent.

What about safety in a Mazda3?

Six airbags, stability control, seatbelt reminders on all seats, and rear parking sensors, contribute to a well-rounded safety package on all Mazda 3s.

In addition, every Mazda3 comes with Smart City Brake Support Forward – a significantly enhanced version of the autonomous emergency braking system that also recognises pedestrians and cyclists.

The addition of a radar sensor to the auto-braking system extends its operating range to 160km/h. And Lane Keep Assist acts to guide the car back into its lane if you have begun to drift distractedly across the roadway.

All fourth-generation Mazda 3s have a reversing camera and rear parking sensors to help you check back there yourself. The top-spec GP25 Astina also has front-parking sensors and 360-degree camera display to help you see obstacles around the vehicle.

All versions have a blind-spot monitor that alerts you, when you indicate to change lanes, if it detects another car near your rear corner but out of view of your mirrors. And a rear cross-traffic alert helps you avoid trouble when reversing out of parking spaces or driveways, warning you if it detects a vehicle approaching from either side.

A fatigue detector is also standard. This looks for changes in the way that you steer the car on the highway. If it detects evidence that you may be falling asleep, it warns you to take a break. The other is Traffic Sign Recognition, which helps you keep track of speed limits. It reads roadside signs, and shows the most recently detected limit on your head-up display.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Mazda 3 its maximum Five Star safety rating in May 2019.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Yes. The new Mazda 3 has a brilliantly responsive steering set-up that manages to balance slow speed manoeuvring with high-speed handling without the need for different steering modes. Keen drivers will lap up the precision with which you can place the nose when pushing into corners.

The 2.0 litre engine copes admirably with city life and has enough power for easy highway touring. It revs freely and mates well with the six-speed auto gearbox that most buyers opt for.

While this engine does not thrust as hard when you first press the accelerator as the turbo engines in some small-car alternatives, needing to spin past 4000rpm before it really performs, it is keen from there and it even sounds a bit rorty.

The bigger, 2.5 litre petrol engine in the GP25 versions is also a good fit for the car, and offers about 25 per cent more go than the 2.0. With the added grunt the car feels deliciously responsive, and its driveability is abetted in auto form by immaculate gear changes.

The Mazda 3 also benefits from Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, whose operating principle is simpler than the name might suggest. It adjusts the engine when you turn the steering wheel, decelerating slightly so as to transfer load to the front tyres and help them bite (and reversing the process as you return to centre). You don’t notice it working but the car feels more planted, while changing direction more fluidly.

How is life in the rear seats?

Despite its bigger frame, the new Mazda 3 has about the same interior space as the previous model, meaning leg room is average for the class rather than generous. As in all small cars, three full-sized adults across the rear is a squeeze.

All versions except the entry-level Pure have rear air-conditioning vents.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The boot in the hatch is relatively 295 litres, which is below average for a hatch and 13-litres smaller than the previous model. It’s helped by 60/40 split-folding seats and a broad tailgate opening. But it’s the sedan that has more space, at 444 litres (36 litres more than the previous model) albeit without the hatchback functionality.

Both versions have a handy 1200kg towing capacity that allows them to tow small trailers.

Where is the Mazda 3 made?

All Mazda3 versions are made in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Not much. Perhaps the greater all-weather security of all-wheel drive, standard on a Subaru Impreza.

If you plan on doing a lot of country-road driving, maybe better fuel-efficiency from a diesel engine. The Hyundai i30 and Peugeot 308 offer diesels, for example.

If you face a lot of city commuting, possibly a fuel-saving petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain. Toyota offers an excellent hybrid Corolla, and Hyundai with its Ioniq that’s also available with an all-electric version.

Rear air vents for additional passenger comfort, as featured in cats like the i30, Impreza, Kia Cerato, Renault Megane and Volkswagen Golf.

Other small-car alternatives include the
Ford Focus, and Honda Civic.

If you love the Mazda's 3's styling and features but need a bit more practicality, the Mazda CX-30 small-SUV has a virtually identical interior and performance.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

We’re still yet to drive all versions of the new Mazda 3, but the smart money seems to be on the GP20 Evolve auto (hatch or sedan). It brings everything you need plus paddle shifters, dual-zone climate control, centre fold-down armrest on the back seat, and bigger and sportier 18-inch alloy wheels. And the leather-bound steering wheel is a nice finishing touch. If you want more power you can have all that with the GP25 Evolve.

Are there any plans to update the Mazda 3?

Not really. The 2019 Mazda 3 replaced the hugely popular third-generation model when the hatchbacks arrived in April 2019 and the sedan versions the following month. The only change on the horizon, before a slight update sometime in 2021, is the introduction of the new SkyActiv-X engine to the range in October 2020.