What it is: There are plenty of reasons to still buy a car and not a crossover, and the Mazda3 Hatchback is right at the tip of the spear. Mazda sells an almost identical vehicle in crossover form, the CX-30, and while the CX-30 is fine, it is basically a poser-mobile with the gruff-looking plastic cladding on the fenders to help protect the paint from the off-roading that you are only going to do in your dreams. The best thing about Mazda vehicles is how sporty they are behind the wheel (remember the Zoom-Zoom slogan?) and you are only making the Mazda3 worse by ratcheting it up a few inches off of the ground.
The Mazda3 Hatchback starts at a paltry $22,650, which gets you an impressive 186 horsepower four-cylinder, adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, but the one you want is the one with the turbocharged four-cylinder that pumps out a much heftier 250 horsepower. It will run you a $8,400 premium but it also adds a bunch of goodies like AWD, a Bose 12-speaker stereo, paddle shifters, signature exterior LED lights, power moon roof, 18-inch wheels and more. It also allows you to order the soul red crystal metallic paint option ($595) which is one of the single best paint choices available on any car. If you’ve seen a bright red metallic Mazda, then you have seen this color and you probably even remember it.
The extra 64 horsepower and down-low torque really wakes up the Mazda3. It isn’t a raw spectacle of power but a very refined and rewarding drive. It also looks downright classy on the interior and feels more like a luxury car than an economy brand. The one downside was that I didn’t like the implementation of the infotainment screen when using Android Auto. The screen isn’t touch screen, so you have to use a control knob near the shifter and it is pretty clunky. The infotainment screen has a widescreen aspect ratio and does allow Android Auto to use all of it, which looks good.
The storage space in the hatchback is not enormous but it gets the job done. You might not be able to get luggage for four people for a long journey, but being a hatchback, it has quite a bit of space back there. The rear seats fold down to extend the luggage compartment if you only have two passengers.
MPG: 26 combined/23 city/31 highway
Price: $35,415 as-tested.
Upsides: Lots of Zoom-Zoom.
Downsides: Rear seat headroom a little tight. Not a bargain.
Wrap-up: The Mazda3 Hatchback (with the turbo engine) is quiet, fun to drive, looks handsome, has a refined interior and is a pretty good deal. There aren’t a ton of cars out there like this, the VW GTI comes to mind as a competitor, and you get a good amount for your money. Also, the 86-horsepower version of the car, for a lot less money, is still a really good car. If I were interested in a sports-focused sedan/hatchback, the Mazda3 would be my top choice. I love the hatchback form-factor and the extra space that it provides and the Mazda3 has the most interesting option.