2020 Mazda3 Hatchback: Urban Cool

At 25, I was driving a 1989 Toyota Camry. Compact, practical, and zippy, it packed a 2.5-liter V6 with 153 horsepower and double-overhead cams. There is something about your mid-twenties that makes you feel as though you can take on the world, and driving feels like an extension of yourself. I still love to drive, but now I’m more careful. Smarter. Wiser. Sometimes, anyway.

When I slid behind the wheel of a 2020 Mazda3 hatchback last week, that same feeling from my invincible 20s flashed back. Streamlined and punchy, this hatch has a lot to offer.

Trim Levels

This vehicle is available with one engine: a 2.5L four-banger with 186 hp and the same number for torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and a six-speed manual transmission is available on the FWD Preferred model.

  • Base LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, simulated leather upholstery, 8.8-inch display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an eight-speaker audio system
  • Preferred + power driver’s seat, heated front seats and a 12-speaker Bose audio system
  • Premium + adaptive headlights, sunroof, head-up display, leather upholstery (paddle shifters available)

Audio/ infotainment

  • AM/FM audio system with 8 speakers and HD Radio
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • 8.8-inch center display
  • Infotainment system voice command
  • Multifunction Commander control
  • Pandora integration
  • SMS text message audio delivery and reply
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Two USB ports


  • Whiplash-reducing front seat headrest
  • Dynamic stability control with traction control system
  • Blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert
  • Lane departure warning system
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Cruise control with stop & go
  • Driver attention alert

Five Things to Love

  1. Zippy acceleration and firm braking
  2. Bose speakers and audio system
  3. Leather double stitched perforated leather seats
  4. Interior ornamentation consists of beautiful, flowing lines
  5. Super easy to park anywhere

Three Opportunities for Improvement

  1. Take a look at the video from Jill Ciminillo about the command control knob, which explains how it’s supposed to be used. It’s logical. However, it still doesn’t work for me – it feels like too many steps to get to what I need and it’s not intuitive. I want to be able to change the channel or seek when I’m on road trips easily.
  2. Gearing is middling in normal mode. I’d use it on sport mode all the time, and as long as you don’t mind the drop in mpg, it’s the better option.
  3. The space feels a little cramped in the back. I have a ten-year-old kid, and he didn’t mind, but adults might not enjoy it as much.

Overall Impression

I thought this hatchback was really fun to drive, and while I’m an avowed fan of the Soul Red Crystal, I must say the Machine Gray Metallic is quite handsome. Mazda makes a great car for the money, and the Mazda3 in both the sedan and hatch versions are a good value. You can park it anywhere and it’s easy to get in and out. This would be a terrific car for a college student or young professional in the city.

Mazda says:

Creating a sense of motion, even at a standstill—That’s the essence of Mazda’s KODO: “Soul of Motion” design philosophy. It allows designers to imbue each model with its own personality while staying true to a unifying theme. Cars are our canvas, and every one we make begs to be driven.


We’re in the golden age of computer-aided design. It allows us to render 3D models with a level of accuracy that was out of reach just a few short years ago. But at Mazda, design starts with a block of clay. And for that, there is simply no substitute. Artisans shape the clay until the ideal lines reveal themselves and only then do they collaborate with digital modelers. This traditional/digital partnership takes the best of both worlds to create uniquely appealing designs.

News You Should Know (directly from Mazda)

Announced December 19: Mazda North American Operations has filed a Part 573 defect notification with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a safety defect, which exists in certain 2019 and 2020 Model Year Mazda3 vehicles. The affected vehicles may unexpectedly stop while driving due to inadvertent activation of the Smart Braking System (SBS) automatic emergency braking system.

Incorrect programming of the SBS control software may cause the vehicle to falsely detect an obstacle in front of the vehicle while driving. In certain cases, the SBS control software may automatically apply the vehicle brakes to prevent or reduce damage from a collision, even though no collision is imminent. If the SBS automatic emergency braking system unexpectedly activates while driving, the risk of a rear-end crash from a following vehicle may increase. There is a warning alarm sound and warning message displayed in the multi-information and active driving displays when this defect occurs.

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