2019 Mazda 3 review - price, specs and release date

With a new look, new mechanicals and plenty of new technology, the 2019 Mazda 3 is gunning for honours in the family car class...

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Neil Winn
21 February 2019

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Priced from £20,595 Release date Now

What do you buy if you don't want a high-riding SUV but are bored with the usual suspects in the family hatchback class, such as the Ford Focus, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf?

Well, this new Mazda 3 certainly looks the part, replicating the stunning Kai concept car of 2017 with its smoothly contoured surfaces and sloped roofline that tails off neatly into its rear screen.

On top of this (or, rather, beneath it), there's an all-new platform, the option of four-wheel drive and a revolutionary (so Mazda claims) new Skyactiv-X engine that promises dramatically improved fuel efficiency over a standard petrol unit.

2019 Mazda 6 Rear End

2019 Mazda 3 driving 

If there’s one thing that Mazda’s engineers have mastered over the years, it’s ensuring that all the key controls, such as the clutch, accelerator and gear lever have a consistent weighting. It’s an attribute that's immediately noticeable in the new 3 and allows you to feel at home straight away.

And before you go thinking that these characteristics benefit only ‘keen drivers’, that’s simply not the case. Being confident in the car’s responses, from the well-weighted steering to the firm brake pedal, benefits you whether you’re trundling about town, tackling a winding road or cruising on the motorway.

However, it’s worth noting at this point that the previous 3 made a good fist of this, too, only for it all to be laid to waste when you started to push on. Because while Mazda has built a strong reputation for making fine-handling cars, the old 3 wasn’t one of them, falling apart dynamically when the going got tough.

Indeed, it’s one of the reasons why Mazda invested so heavily in an all-new platform – one that not only profits from being stiffer but should also provide greater stability, thanks to its longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) and wider track (the distance between the left and right wheels)

2019 Mazda 3 Cornering Rear

Sure enough, it quickly becomes apparent that the wayward nature of the old car has been banished. There’s a little body lean through corners, but it’s controlled and progressive, and although the 3’s front end will eventually run wide if you enter a corner too fast, it now feels much more composed.

In addition, the 3 is much quieter than its predecessor. Even at motorway speeds, wind and road noise are really well suppressed, while an obvious lack of suspension noise will come as welcome respite for anyone who drives an Octavia.

There are a couple of negatives, mind you, the most significant being the ride. The 3 is rather firm and tends to trip up over the kind of abrasions that simply wouldn’t trouble the Focus or Golf.

2019 Mazda 3 side

And while customers will eventually be able to order that innovative Skyactiv-X petrol engine, which is said to deliver diesel-like fuel economy, only a regular 2.0-litre petrol and a 1.8-litre diesel are available at launch.

We had the chance to sample the petrol, which produces 120bhp. Put simply, it lacks the low-end grunt that many of its turbocharged rivals can deliver. This means you have to work it hard to make swift process, so it's a good job that it remains relatively smooth at all revs. 

2019 Mazda 3 interior

From the slender dashboard to the small steering wheel, the interior of the 3 has a graceful minimalism to it, as if the designers have been taking tips from Marie Kondo.

Indeed, it looks as though every unnecessary ancillary control has been removed, leaving the driver with only the essentials – a refreshing approach that has allowed Mazda to focus on making sure all that's left operates with a really slick, high-quality feel.

2019 Mazda 3 Interior

Unusually, it has opted not to fit a touchscreen infotainment system. Indeed, Mazda has expressed concern that these can be dangerous to use while you're driving – a brave statement, even if it's something we’ve known for years.

We’ve always preferred a simple rotary controller interface, and the one in the new 3 works a treat. Granted, the screen it's connected to may not look quite a sharp as the equivalent in the Golf or Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but its menus are well laid out and the standard provision of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring is very welcome.

Mazda has also been very generous with standard equipment. There's a head-up display, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and LED headlights across the range, although the SE-L Lux model (which commands just £1100 more than the base car) does look tempting with its rear-view camera, keyless entry and heated front seats. 

However, not all is rosy. While the amount of space in the front is fine, rear head room is compromised by that distinctive roofline. So much so, in fact, that adults approaching 6ft tall will be touching the ceiling. And even if that's not be a big deal for those with young children, the small, 358-litre boot (for reference, the Golf’s has 380 litres) may well be.

Next: 2019 Mazda 3 verdict >