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Post: Kelley Blue Book: The 2023 Mazda3 is fun to drive and a cut above the mainstream

Pros
  • Great to drive

  • Stylish inside and out

  • All-wheel drive is available

Cons
  • Wide rear pillars in the hatchback

What’s new?
  • Apple
    AAPL,
    +0.24%

    CarPlay/Android Auto standard

  • Carbon Edition offers all-wheel drive

  • 2.5-liter engine improved

  • 2.0-liter engine dropped

The 2023 Mazda3 compact car offers choices of body styles, engines, and the option of all-wheel drive. This Mazda
MZDAY,
-0.94%

is one of the most enjoyable cars in its class. Prices start at $22,550.

When we say enjoyable, that’s not just from a driving perspective, even though the 2023 Mazda3 excels in this respect. Other attributes include a high-quality cabin, superb ergonomics, and attractive designs.

With so many things going for the 2023 Mazda3, it’s not hard to imagine some financially prudent buyers going in this direction instead of an entry-level model from one of the usual luxury companies.

The Mazda3


Mazda

2023 Mazda Mazda3 pricing

The 2023 Mazda3 starts at $22,550, plus a destination charge. This most affordable Mazda3 model is the 2.5 S sedan with front-wheel drive. The hatchback equivalent is another $1,000.

All-wheel drive is now offered with the Carbon Edition, which comes to $28.6K — $1,400 more than its front-drive counterpart. At the top of the range is the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus with all-wheel drive as standard and a starting price of $34,000 for the sedan. A hatchback version of this model with a few options could add up to $36,000.

Although the 2023 Mazda3 starts out on the expensive side, it does come with a punchy 2.5-liter engine, along with a relatively luxurious interior.

To compare, the Honda Civic is priced from about $22,000, the Toyota Corolla from $21,000, the Hyundai
HYMTF,
-3.65%

Elantra (sedan only) at about $20.5K, with the Kia
000270,
-5.07%

Forte and Nissan
NSANY,
-0.16%

Sentra (also sedan only) starting at around $20K. The Subaru Impreza begins at $19,795, and with all-wheel drive as standard equipment.

Before buying a new Mazda3 compact car, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for theirs. The Mazda3 sits behind the Honda
HMC,
-1.08%

Civic, Toyota
TM,
-0.73%

Corolla and Subaru
FUJHY,
-1.17%

Impreza in terms of resale values.

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3/36 warranty

Mazda’s new car warranty is three years or 36,000 miles, whichever happens first. This includes roadside assistance. The powertrain is covered for five years or 60,000 miles.

Driving the 2023 Mazda Mazda3

People who care about a car’s dynamic qualities will love the 2023 Mazda3. People with absolutely no interest at all in dynamics will also love the Mazda3.

It’s a question of degree. Drive in a sedate manner, and the ride is comfortable, the steering is easy, and the brakes just plain work.

Push it a little harder, an easy thing to do with the optional 250-horsepower engine, and the Mazda3 shows how responsive and agile it can be without sacrificing suppleness or poise. It’s this ability to accommodate the demands of a wide range of driving styles that really makes the Mazda3 special.

It’s enhanced by G-Vectoring Control Plus. This system makes subtle adjustments to how much power goes to each driven wheel, enabling optimum weight transfer and retaining composure when cornering or executing quick lane changes. The Plus part adds imperceptible braking to individual wheels for an extra level of control.

All-wheel drive (AWD) is available in the upper trims, coming in at the Carbon Edition level, or standard with the turbocharged engine. Power delivery can vary between the front and rear axles, according to the needs of the moment. However, the rear wheels always receive some drive to make these shifts as quick as possible.

Speaking of shifts, most versions of the Mazda3 have a 6-speed automatic transmission — the Premium hatchback offers a 6-speed manual. Mazda maintains that as long as they’re the right ratios, then half a dozen is more than adequate. We’ve had no complaints when driving a Mazda3, whereas we’ve been disappointed by the slow-acting continuously variable transmissions (CVT) in some rival cars.

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Interior comfort

Mazda doesn’t need to create a luxury division like Toyota has with Lexus. The company already makes vehicles that look and feel a substantial cut above the mainstream. As the Mazda3’s cabin illustrates perfectly.

Fine materials are arranged into an interior design with a neatness that would impress an Audi or BMW
BMW,
-2.07%

owner. A similar level of Germanic attention to detail goes into the front seats, shaped to keep the spine at the right position to help the driver remain alert yet relaxed. Even the way the body has been welded together helps reduce noise, vibration, and harshness.

Sedan or hatchback, rear legroom is the same at 35.1 inches. That’s not especially good for the compact car class. The Hyundai Elantra, for example, has 38 inches. But that may not be an issue for many potential buyers.

The hatchback is able to take more cargo and has some passenger/luggage versatility. Behind its rear seats is an area of 20.1 cubic feet; the sedan’s trunk volume is 13.2 cubic feet (a cube shy of the Elantra’s, by the way). With the hatchback’s rear seats folded down, maximum space is 47.1 cubic feet.

One potential reason for not choosing the hatchback is that its wide rear pillars create blind spots. However, blind-spot monitoring is standard in the 2.5 S Select trim, one up from the base model.

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Exterior styling

The big decision is whether to choose a sedan or a hatchback version of the 2023 Mazda3. Either way, it’s a stylish compact car that we think could easily wear a badge from one of the luxury marques and no one would think anything was amiss.

The sedan’s trunk adds to the overall length, which is 15.3 feet. The hatchback measures 14.6 feet.

A variety of external paintwork hues is offered, including Mazda’s special Soul Red Crystal Metallic, which (along with Machine Gray Metallic) is the most expensive choice at $595.

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Favorite features

1. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
This year sees smartphone integration become standard in every new Mazda3 variant. It’s one of those features that’s hard to live without once you’ve used it a few times.

2. Infotainment system
Unusually, there’s no touchscreen in the 2023 Mazda3, just an 8.8-inch display and a rotary control in the center console. But it’s quite easy to get used to and negotiate. And Wi-Fi is standard.

3. G Vectoring Control Plus
As well as contributing to the Mazda3’s driving talents, it might also help prevent car sickness because it reins in body movements. This is standard across the lineup.

4. Carbon Edition
This is a popular choice and is now the first model on the trim level ladder to offer all-wheel drive. It might be logical to assume that a Carbon Edition would go heavy on the black, but that’s not the case. It comes in Polymetal Gray, with red leather upholstery adorning the cabin. The 18-inch alloy wheels are black, though.

5. Turbocharged 2.5-liter engine
Admittedly, this is only available in the priciest 2023 Mazda3 variants, but the car’s dynamic talents are explored to a greater extent with this 250-horsepower engine, bringing the whole package up to the level of something akin to an Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

6. Traffic Jam Assist
As engaging as the 2023 Mazda3 is to drive, we all need a little help from time to time. Adaptive cruise control with a stop/go function is standard in every new Mazda3, but the enhancement of Traffic Jam Assist comes in at the top trim. It adds minor steering corrections at speeds up to 40 mph.

Engine and transmission

Most of the changes to the 2023 Mazda3 lineup have happened here. The range now starts with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 191 horsepower (up five from last year) and 186 lb-ft of torque. This is the same with regular or premium gasoline. Fuel economy is also improved this year by about a couple of miles per gallon.

The top two models — the 2.5 Turbo and the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus — also have a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, but this one (unsurprisingly) has a turbocharger attached. Output is 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque on a diet of regular gas, or 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque when premium is in the tank.

A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard in most models, but the front-drive 2.5 S Premium hatchback offers stick-shift diehards a 6-speed manual gearbox.

Front-wheel drive is the default complement to the non-turbo engine, with all-wheel drive available as an option from the Carbon Edition and up. With the turbocharged engine, however, all-wheel drive is part of the package.

2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine
191 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
186 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/37 mpg (FWD sedan, auto), 26/35 mpg (AWD sedan), 26/36 mpg (FWD hatch, auto & manual), 26/33 mpg (AWD hatch)

2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
227/250 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm (87 octane/93 octane)
310/320 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000/2,500 rpm (87 octane/93 octane)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/32 mpg (sedan), 23/31 mpg (hatch)

KBB’s car review methodology.

This story originally ran on KBB.com.

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