2023 Mazda Mazda3 Preferred

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$363 below market
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Mazda Mazda3 Details

L4, 2.5L
Deep Crystal Blue
29 Miles

Vehicle Specs

interior color
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2023 Mazda Mazda3 Review

The Mazda3 has the hot hatch look but, until recently, it was all for show. With the introduction of turbocharged power starting with the 2021 model year, Mazda injected this car with desperately needed oomph and smartly bundled it with standard all-wheel drive. Also sold with a naturally aspirated version of the same engine but with front-wheel drive, including an available, model-exclusive manual transmission, Mazda has bumped up horsepower and fuel economy of the entry-level Hatchbacks for 2023.
The Mazda3 is the last car standing in Mazda’s six model lineup not named Miata as it focuses on growing its offerings of SUVs and electrified powertrains. The Mazda3 is available as a sedan or a hatchback with prices starting in the mid-$20,000s. Climb to the sixth step of the Hatchback’s seven rung trim ladder and you’ll discover the fun zone; a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. Feed it premium gas and it’ll reward you with up to 250 horsepower and better yet, 320 pound-feet of torque. Do note however that using 87-octane drops those numbers to 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet. Regardless, those are huge gains when compared with the non-turbo models. To mitigate torque steer - though there’s still some - the power goes down to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic.
Until recently I had been a little disappointed with the newest Mazdas. They were more premium in their design and craftsmanship but by and large left me longing for the Zoom-Zoom days from behind the wheel. But my ambivalence about this car in particular was erased with the arrival of the turbocharged engine. Blessing the Mazda3 with excitable power levels has finally bestowed this willing chassis with the goods it deserves. This is the Mazda of our Mazdaspeed memories and then some, because let’s face it, its cars have always been driving rich but power poor. Integrate four-wheel grip and big boost and suddenly the Mazda3 is a very entertaining drive with plenty of five-door chutzpah and a handling verve that’s delectable – one that’s also confidently predictable. That being said, I still think Mazda gets a little too cute with its Skyactiv and G-Vectoring Control programming which add a layer of artificial feel to the driver’s inputs. Their purpose is to add smoothness and a higher level of connectedness with the car but I’ve never completely warmed to the sensation. It’s slightly less noticeable with the turbo and best alleviated when in the Sport drive mode which prevents the transmission from prematurely upshifting.
No torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system here – though it is capable of more rear power distribution than before – nor is there an independent rear suspension. Nevertheless, this car can really get after it on your favorite curvy road and is truly fun-to-drive if not particularly sophisticated in its manners. The seating position is low but the forward visibility is good, the steering is light and precise and the turbo’s power delivery is more linear than expected; there’s even a subtle but gutsy exhaust sound to accompany it. Paddle shifters are included but do little to elevate the sporty experience; the transmission in general is this car’s most notable weakness. A stick shift would certainly be nice but Mazda offers its 6-speed manual on only one Mazda3 Hatchback trim level: the naturally aspirated, front-wheel drive 2.5 S Premium. As is, gas mileage is rated at 23 MPG city/31 MPG combined.
Priced at $37,095 for this range-topping 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus in Mazda’s spectacular Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, there’s undoubtedly a tinge of sticker shock here. Leather-trimmed seats, a very quiet cabin and a lengthy list of uplevel features aside, Mazda’s ambitious new pricing combined with an unfavorable environment for traditional cars has made the Mazda3 a hard sell, resulting in a precipitous sales decline. But just look at it – Mazda’s styling is award worthy, its paint process to produce this depth of red is exceptional and the Hatchback’s versatility propels the Mazda3 dimensionally from compact to midsized. Much like MINI, there is value here for the person who appreciates a specific set of attributes, the few who have yet to migrate to an SUV.
A 360-degree camera with a convenient off-screen activation button, low-speed cruise control with lane keeping and steering assist which Mazda refers to as Traffic Jam Assist, traffic sign recognition and built-in navigation highlight the special features of the Premium Plus Package. The head-up display, 12-speaker Bose audio system, heated seats and heated steering wheel are also nice gets but Mazda has an infotainment problem on its hands. What was once a partial touchscreen is now almost strictly controlled via a rotary dial on the center console. Though the system itself is chock full of wide-ranging features including the best weather radar I’ve ever seen in a car, it’s cumbersome to use and distracting with which to interact. The wired phone connection for screen projection is found in the center console which houses 2 USB-A ports.
Long-legged rear seat passengers will find their knees right up against the seatbacks and have to make due with no accoutrements outside of a center armrest. And of course, it’s a hatch so there’s considerably more available cargo room than in the sedan. But if Mazda is truly dedicated to pursuing premium, it has some work to do in terms of certain material selections and a lack of rear seat features such as HVAC vents or USB ports.
The Mazda3 turbo hatch is the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel of a Mazda in some time. A model refresh is expected late in 2023 with a complete redesign slated for 2025.