The Mazda3 is one of the most popular mid-size sedans on the road. Just scope out the highway, you are bound to see them zipping around in the regular four-door model, or the five-door hatch version that is my personal favorite.
I've never thought of the Mazda3 as a great car to handle inclement weather. Its front-wheel drive drivetrain never really tried to go for that title. But low and behold, the 2019 version comes with an all-wheel drive system that's ready to go for that inclement weather title.
When Mazda reached out and invited me to test out this all-wheel drive option, I jumped at the opportunity to test out to see exactly what the Mazda3 could do in a snowy landscape. It did not disappoint.
All-wheel drive on the 2019 Mazda3 is possible thanks to the all-new I-ACTIV system (more on it later), which unfortunately only comes in automatic (sorry manual fans). It is available for the higher tier trims: Select Package, Preferred Package and Premium Package. That means with the basic trim, it'll start out at $24,920, which is not an expensive way to get an all-wheel drive.
The model I test drove went all the way up to $31,886 with all the bells and whistles, including premium 18-inch alloy wheels and leather seats. Kind of pricey but kind of worth it.
Completely revamped, inside and out
Overall, the 2019 Mazda3 has undergone a major change in the form of a far-reaching refresh. It is still the same soul, but the changes are noticeable, in a good way. Over the past year, Mazda has been busy transitioning its cars over to the new Kodo design language that uses Japanese culture and animal movement to create a common aesthetic. The result is a very pragmatic design that leads to some stealthy cars.
Looking at the exterior of the car, your eye is instantly drawn to how sharp that car looks. The lines are more subtle, particularly on the rounded out rears of both the four-door and five-door models, and the front fascia has undergone a meaner redesign that looks quite menacing. From the expansive grille to the distinct headlights, the 2019 Mazda3 definitely attracts some well-earned attention.
Inside, the changes are more obvious. Mazda made sure to imbue the car with a certain level of luxury that looks and feels high quality. The instrument cluster is now digital, the infotainment display grew to 8.8 wide and spacious inches and the cockpit was completely reconfigured. The heads-up display (HID) is now displayed on the windshield and, for the first time, works with polarized glasses.
Additionally, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support is carried over from the last generation. Mazda was slow to add support from the additional infotainment systems, but now that it has, it is a very welcomed layer to its infotainment display. CarPlay looks fantastic in the ultra-wide display.
Mazda made sure to imbue the car with a certain level of luxury that looks and feels high quality.
Mazda also moved around things within the cockpit to be within a comfortable distance to the driver. No button, no control is too far or out of the way. Even the heads up display was moved 30 inches further to better fit the driver's eye sight. That's some attention to detail.
A key change that Mazda added was a new, redesigned speaker system developed by Bose with Bassmatch. With speakers placed in various new locations throughout the car, including the bass woofers being placed in the cowls of the car, the sounds is now directly positioned to hit the front right within their listening angles. Instruments come more to life and the bass rocks without any rattling or buzzing found in other car systems. Listening to Anderson .Paak's "Til It's Over" and Meek Mill's "Going Bad" was a heart-thumping experience.
And to complete the full audio experience, the infotainment system now supports free lossless audio codec files (flac)—the highest level of audio playback. For comparison, Spotify streams music at 320kbps while flac files deliver 9216kbps.
Powerful all-wheel drive
Moving under the hood, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder SKYACTIV-G engine produces 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It will be plenty of pep for most people, but revving through the twisty roads of the Tahoe National Forrest, I couldn't help but wishing it has an extra kick. Maybe a turbo? Hopefully in the 2020 model.
The onslaught of changes in the 2019 Mazda3 continued with an all-new I-ACTIV all-wheel drive option that is meant to shred through rugged terrain like snow and mud That's why Mazda put the Mazda3 AWD in the snow and let us test out what it is all about. Mazda uses an all-wheel drive with torque coupling to deliver the power to all four wheels and is powered by software to intelligently interact with the driver in the background.
Driving in the snow, it was way easier to handle the car as Mazda's system did a great job of hiding in the background. The only reason I could tell is because it had the developer of system, Daiske Umetsu, drove with us and turn off the GVC system and experience the difference for ourselves. It was immediately evident in how much more fighting I had to do with the steering wheel to keep the car turning at will.
Enticing mid-size option
Having driven the Mazda MX-5 Miata, I am familiar with the direction Mazda is going in. It's a direction that puts an importance on the user experience, and, for the most part, the 2019 Mazda3 accomplishes that.
The revamped interior screams of tech that will make any person with a desire to see a next-generation interface in their cars happy. Plus, the premium details it added, like the leather trim on the dashboard, make the car feel like a luxury car from Mercedes-Benz or Audi instead of the relatively affordable mid-size sedan it is.
Where it runs into issues is things like the power and polarizing design. Mazda has never been one to throw in a stupid amount of horsepower in its cars just for the hell of it. It didn't do that with upgraded Miata and it doesn't do that with the Mazda3. Is that a deal breaker? Not for most, but for those looking for power to go along with the luxury element it delivers, they might be disappointed.
I, for one, am a fan of the slick new body of the 2019 Mazda3. I think it's more sporty and stand outs much more from the last generation design. That being said, many aren't fans of its loudness. It definitely doesn't not blend into the background anymore. And details like the rounded hatch and oversized c-pillars that do affect visibility continue to divide fans of the Mazda3 line.
Even for all its quirks, I think the Mazda3 is one of the best mid-size sedans you can buy right now. The price may be on the high end, but you'll definitely get what you're paying for. Looks, style and features, it offers them all. I'd personally spring for the five-door variant (I'm a hatch guy) and the polymetal gray finish with the red leather seats. It's a stunning combination.
The reliable mid-size sedan got sportier and rugged.
Mazda stamped its new era with the 2019 Mazda3 that offers innovation with a striking design and powerful all-wheel drive system that aims to be your all-weather vehicle of choice.
Disclaimer: Mazda invited TechnoBuffalo to drive the 2019 Mazda3 AWD and provided transportation and housing.
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