The 2020 Mazda3 hatchback is available with all-wheel drive and comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment technologies, keyless entry, leatherette seating surfaces and door trims, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, automatic dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a black metallic front grille, rear roof spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels and power windows with one-touch driver down/up feature. It has received 5-Star overall ratings in frontal crash, side crash, rollover, and in overall vehicle score the highest government safety ratings a vehicle can earn. Metro News Service photo

Mazda3 Hatchback has spunky personality, all-wheel drive

A compact with zoom-zoom

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 distinctive looks and performance. That perfectly describes my tester this – the 2020 Mazda3.

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

The Mazda3 is best as a hatchback, which is what my tester was. Its longer hood differentiates it. A rear spoiler just above the hatch adds a sporty touch. The taillights have character, especially at night. It’d be easy to pick out a Mazda3 at night for sure.

The front end could stand to be punched up with a more youthful, sporty look. As such, I can’t be too glowing describing 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.

The Mazda3, whether as a sedan or a hatch, offers only one engine. 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The big thing on the powertrain that holds back the Mazda3 from being exhilarating is the outdated six-speed automatic transmission.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 tranny which might help overcome some of the annoyances with the shift ratios, otherwise.

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 quality and comfort, but that’s not the case, at least for the front-row seats.

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. Here you gain some and lose some.

I’ve read others’ thoughts on the Mazda3’s technology; 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.

Base model Mazda3 hatchbacks start under $21,000. My tester carried 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; with several other options, including paddle shifters, it had a final MSRP of $31,470.

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.

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