The Absolute Best
The Philippine automotive market has seen a proliferation of entry-level small three-row MPVs and small SUVs. For the price of a Honda Civic, you can now get yourself a three-row MPV such as a Mitsubishi Xpander. However, these affordable region-specific three-row vehicles don’t exactly offer much in terms of sportiness, technology, and refinement as global compact passenger cars. As a result, compact sedans and hatchbacks are now something that’s more of an aspirational and sophisticated choice among Filipino buyers. Perhaps taking those aspects to a higher notch is this all-new Mazda 3–a car which we think all other compact passenger cars should be measured against. For this review, we’ll specifically be scrutinizing the Mazda 3 Sedan 2.0 Premium variant.
Between the sedan and hatchback body styles, I am somewhat leaning towards the sedan due to its resemblance to the award-winning Mazda Vision Coupe Concept. Its striking evolved Kodo design highlights the car’s lack of character lines, which in turn gives this Mazda 3 sedan a distinct look. Mazda is also spot on with the car’s proportions. The classic long hood, short rear deck silhouette is always a good canvas for car designers to utilize, and it’s a proportion that’s been a signature of Mazda’s award-winning sedans. Speaking of awards, the Mazda 3 line-up was given the World Car Design of the Year award at the 2020 World Car Awards. If you think that the Mazda 3 is ugly at this point, then your eyes probably need an examination.
In my entire stint as an automotive journalist, the word “premium” is probably one of the most abused claims. For every peso a manufacturer boldly claims how premium their car’s interiors are, I’d probably be able to afford an actual Mazda 3 at this point. Unlike most manufacturers, however, Mazda actually walks the talk. Just look at this interior! There’s plenty of leatherette trims on the doors and dashboard, plus the stitching details aren’t fake. It’s also noteworthy that the clicky buttons and switches are almost on par, if not better than what most entry-level luxury cars offer. Because this is the 2.0 Premium sedan we’re testing, the seats are finished in actual cowhide along with power adjustment for the seats.
Mazda’s designers have also done a stellar job with the car’s electronics. The 7-inch digital gauge cluster, for instance, blends well with the rest of the analog gauges with little to none of that washed-out appearance. This is because Mazda’s engineers spent a lot of time calibrating all of the interior lights to make it as even as possible. Now that’s attention to detail.
The standard 8.8-inch Mazda Connect infotainment system looks simpler than ever in order to minimize eye distraction. As with every Mazda infotainment system, this remains to be one of my favorites. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are equipped as standard, while a glorious Bose sound system is offered in the 2.0-liter variants. Speaking of the Bose sound system, it’s simply outstanding in terms of sound quality and it’s also capable of reading high-resolution audio files.
As for the rest of the interior, rear-seat space inside the Mazda 3 sedan is okay for adults like me, though a Honda Civic offers much more legroom. On the upside, the seats offer excellent thigh support due to its cushion size and sculpted design. Trunk space is about par for the class at 444 liters, though again, this is trumped by the Honda Civic at 519 liters.
Mazda has also upped the game in terms of advanced driver-assist systems. Along with having one of the nicest and clearest 360-degree camera systems out there, the all-new Mazda 3 is the first in the brand’s Philippine line-up to be fitted with the full suite of i-Activsense safety and convenience features. This includes lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, front and rear automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and a first-in-class front cross traffic alert. Front cross traffic alert, however, is only available in this 2.0 Premium sedan.
A 2.0-liter inline-4 Skyactiv-G petrol engine that produces 154 hp at 6,000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm resides under the seductive long hood of the Mazda 3. While all of its competitors opt for a CVT, the Mazda 3 is fitted with a good ol’ 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters–which is always a sportier option compared to a transmission with fake gear ratios.
And sport really is the Mazda 3’s name of the game–sort of. If you’ve read my first impressions review of this car, you’re probably aware of Mazda’s focus towards delivering a premium and human-centric experience. With their increased focus on smoothness and stability, the steering wheel’s on-center response is actually slightly slower than its predecessor.
As a result, fewer steering corrections are needed when driving down a highway and when entering a corner. Some may initially think of this as the car being less eager to change direction, but the smoother driver inputs due to the Skyactiv Vehicle Architecture and G-Vectoring Control Plus make the car much more composed. However, as the steering wheel is turned even more, its responsiveness increases. Oh, and steering feel is actually improved compared to its predecessor. Regardless if it’s centered or turned, the driver gets a better feeling of the front tires than before. This makes the Mazda 3 both a fun canyon carver and a relaxing long-distance cruiser.
Further contributing to its newfound focus towards a premium experience is the impressive levels of refinement. Simply put, the all-new Mazda 3 is the quietest, most refined in its class. It rides well too–much better than the previous model with its multi-link rear suspension.
Speaking of the suspension, its new torsion beam rear suspension is probably your main concern. But here’s the thing, the switch to a torsion beam set-up is actually not a cost-cutting decision. It’s all because Mazda’s engineers think that in order for them to create a smoother driving car, a torsion beam set-up was easier to tune with far less moving parts to calibrate compared to a more complex multi-link rear suspension.
It’s not just a simple torsion beam design though. The beam itself is in a V-shape, which makes the torsion bar much more rigid. The two bushings, on the other hand, contain two rubber materials, with each rubber material designed to absorb different movements. In simpler terms, Mazda’s engineers have developed a torsion beam rear suspension with some of the elements of an independent rear suspension, which Mazda claims is a world’s first.
Impressively, this set-up is still able to keep the car relatively flat and stable through corners. The damping of the suspension has been tuned to smoothen out the car’s movements as the driver accelerates, brakes, and goes through a corner. Not only does it make this Mazda 3 sedan fun to drive, but the smooth nature also minimizes the feeling of motion sickness—which is basically the aim of that human-centric philosophy.
The 2.0-liter petrol engine also performs really well. While it does not have the low-end pull of the turbocharged Honda Civic 1.5 RS, it’s linear nature is still a joy out on the open road. Plus, the paddle shifters of the Mazda 3 sedan offer a true manual-mode experience. It won’t upshift for you at all if you ignore the needle going towards the redline, plus the transmission has rev-matching capabilities and not just engine braking like in all of its competitors. The powertrain combo is truly built for an enjoyable driving experience.
Oh, and fun doesn’t have to leave a hole in your pocket. For the entire week that this car was with me, I average at 10.9 km/l, which is impressive regardless of how you look at it.
At the start of 2020, I said that the all-new Mazda 3 was the most memorable car I’ve driven in 2019. That claim still holds true even today now that I’ve given it a full review. Mazda has made a lot of bold claims with the all-new Mazda 3. Well, guess what? This Japanese automaker from Hiroshima is actually able to more than fulfill its own claims. In short, Mazda was able to push the boundaries of what a compact passenger car should be.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.7 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.