Caraganza First Drive Review 2020 Mazda 3: Stranger Things


Something strange happened at my house last week. Well, maybe not as strange as being locked in with your wife and two adult children, all working from home, for the last two months, but pretty close.  I was delivered a 2020 Mazda 3. It was a press car.  Normally I get two press cars a week, so that isn’t weird.  In this era of “contactless” everything, the press fleets are delivered with no interaction beyond a phone call that the swap has been made (they pick up last weeks) and where to find the key.

What was weird was the sight that greeted me about an hour later when I finally got off my butt to retrieve the key.  There in my driveway was the 2020 Mazda 3 parked side by side with my fulltime vehicle, the one I own, a 2008…Mazda 3.

Rarely do I get to see a new model next to something over a decade older. Strange. And I knew it would be an interesting week.

The latest generation of the Mazda 3 was launched in 2019. For 2020, the model was gifted some additional standard driver assistance features, so now all models have the company’s i-Activsense suite that includes adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, automatic high-beams, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.

The Mazda 3 can be had as a sedan or hatchback. My tester for the week was the sedan, mirroring the model I own. The 2020 Mazda 3 sedan is offered in four trim levels (the company refers to them as packages), Base, Select, Preferred and Premium.

The Base trim has all the safety features and is nicely equipped with such niceties as LED headlights, an 8.8-inch infotainment display, emergency telematics and an eight-speaker audio system; the Select adds a few extras like keyless entry, simulated leather upholstery, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Preferred adds a power driver’s seat, heated front seats and a 12-speaker Bose audio system and the Premium adds adaptive headlights, a sunroof, a head-up display, leather upholstery and paddle shifters.

All models have the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (186 horsepower, 186 lb-ft of torque). A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission and front-wheel drive is standard. A six-speed manual delivers the power to the wheels, and the only way to get a manual transmission is to get the hatchback.

My tester for the week was the Premium, so it was of course loaded.  Inside the interior is a far cry from the well-used one in my 2008 model.  The 2020 Premium seems very upscale, almost European-ish.  Unlike some of those European sedans however, the tech is easy to figure out and there isn’t a lot of extra knobs and switches and stuff that makes you feel like you need to ask for clearance for takeoff form the tower.

But there was a problem.

When you can’t really drive anywhere, how do you find out how a car actually, well, drives?

Simply put, you go and drive the damn thing.  I put less than a hundred miles on the 2020 Mazda 3 and that was plenty of time to learn that this is still a very good car, just like the 2008 model I paid off years ago. The I-4 has plenty of power, the drive is nimble, smooth and the upscale cabin is a very nice place to be.  To top it all off, with an MSRP of $30,770 for the top of the line Premium it is a very affordable sedan, just like it was in 2008.

The only deal killer could be the warranty Mazda offers on their new vehicles.  The Mazda warranty of 3 years, 36,000 miles and 5 years 60,000 mile on the power train, can’t really compare to the 10 year, 100,000 miles of powertrain coverage offered by Hyundai and Kia, Mazda’s main rivals in the segment.

But, if warranty coverage isn’t something that will keep a buyer away, the Mazda 3 is a definite contender in the segment.  It also made my 2008 model look way too old in my driveway. Maybe it’s time I myself did little car shopping.

The 2020 Mazda 3 (Sedan)

MSRP: $27,900
MSRP (as tested): $30,770
Engine: 2.7 Liter I-4 186 horsepower @6000 rpm, 186 lb-ft torque @4000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable with O/D
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 25 city, 33 highway, 28 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 35 mpg
Base Curb Weight (pounds): 3248

Exterior Dimensions
Wheelbase (inches): 107.3
Length (inches): 183.5
Width, without mirrors (inches): 70.7
Height (inches): 56.9
Front Track Width (inches): 61.7
Rear Track Width (inches): 62.2
Minimum Ground Clearance (inches): 5.5

Interior Dimensions
Passenger / Seating Capacity: 5
Total Passenger Volume (cubic feet): 92.8
Front Head Room (inches): 37.6
Front Leg Room (inches): 42.3
Front Shoulder Room (inches): 55.7
Front Hip Room (inches): 54.6
Second Row Head Room (inches): 36.7
Second Row Leg Room (inches): 35.1
Second Row Shoulder Room (inches): 53.5
Second Row Hip Room (inches): 50.9
Trunk Space (cubic feet): 13.2

Basic: 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion: 5 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 3 Years/36,000 Miles

Greg Engle