Back in January, Roadshows Steven Ewing spent a day drivehowever, southern Southern California, and was impressed impressively. It's as wonderful to drive as ever, but the new Mazda3 boasts significant improvements in built-in tech, not to mention the creature's comfort. Overall, it is a better rounded car but has not lost Mazda's distinctive on-road referral.
But while Ewing's test was referred to the front-wheel drive car, much of the 2019 Mazda3 story is the newly-available all-wheel drive. That's what brings me to Lake Tahoe, California, for this second time to find out if the AWD really raises Mazda3's appeal.
All-wheel drive, Mazda style
Most all-wheel drive systems are reactive, meaning they do not send power to traction-free wheels until slip is detected. Mazda's i-Activ system is slightly different.
Dda Coleman, Mazda's Vehicle Dynamics Manager, says the i-Activ AWD monitors things like steering keys, G-forces and vehicle speed to get a better idea of how much load is applied to each tire. "It's finding out where to send the torque, based on which tire has the most grip available to use that torque," he says.
In other words, instead of waiting for a tire to slip before sending torque, the Mazda system is a little more predictive. It runs automatically power to the wheels that already have the most grip, can predict oversteer or support situations and mitigate the situations before the front or rear axle has the chance to be overwhelmed. This method makes the Mazda3 safer in all situations.
It's easy to experience the virtues of the i-Activ AWD system on a Mazda-designed snow track near Lake Tahoe. Starting with a front-wheel drive and then moving to the Mazda3 on all wheel drives, the difference is noticeable, even on tires throughout the season. With the extra four-wheel drive, I can get faster through the snow and with more confidence ̵
One last race in an AWD Mazda3 equipped with winter tires from Bridgestone Blizzak provides the best experience – a reminder to always equip your car with seasonally-suitable rubber, regardless of drive configuration. With all-wheel drive and proper snowshoeing, the Mazda3 attacks a snow-covered slalom track with total aplomb. If I lived in a place that routinely saw snow, I would love to have this combination of fun-to-drive capabilities.
All-wheel drive gives the 2019 Mazda3 an extra layer of dynamic depth on dry roads as well. With 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque coming from a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4 engine, there's no big performance envelope to dig in. But AWD lets you make better use of the power while you swing. The Mazda3 is not a sports car, but it is certainly not to be operated as one.
As Ewing explained in its first vehicle, the Mazda3 provides a good steering capability with speed, with a finely tuned chassis that allows natural road deflections to fail. All-wheel drive just allows you to carry a little more speed through each ride, knowing that you have the benefit of applying force to all four corners.
Adding AWD comes with a small weight penalty – 177 pounds on sedan – – but that's not something you really want to feel behind the wheel. However, it is worth noting that adding AWD reduces fuel economy a little. The Mazda3 then has EPA-rated ratings of 27 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. Adding AWD drops these numbers to 35, 33 and 28, respectively. If you want full-wheel drive tailgate, you see a further reduction to 24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. Certainly not very harmful, and remember that your mileage may vary.
Four Doors or Five
In addition to the all-wheel drive, my second with the 2019 Mazda3 involved a chance to jump behind the rear wheel of the hatchback model; Ewing could only test the sedan. As you would expect, the cars are almost identical. The hatchback weighs just 7 pounds more than the sedan.
I still can't come down with hatchback's profile, which kind of looks like a hound dog, but I know the beauty is in the eyes of the guard. Of course, the hatchback shape gives a bit more practicality. With the rear seat up, the Mazda3 hatchback offers 20.1 cubic meters of cargo, which orders the Toyota Corolla Hatchback, but is not known for the Honda Civic Hatchback and Volkswagen Golf. Mazda has not yet released a seat-folded cargo number.
Otherwise, the Mazda3 hatchback is nicely appointed as sedan, but rather cramped to the rear passengers. At 5 feet, 10 inches high and only 125 pounds, even as I approach the size limits of Mazda3's rear seats.
More to love
The cheapest way to get a all-wheel drive Mazda3 is to select the Select trim then. At $ 24,000, not including $ 895 for destination, it's $ 1,400 more expensive than a similarly equipped, front-wheel-drive sedan. The same goes for the Mazda3 hatchback, starting with $ 25,000 with full-wheel drive compared to $ 23,600 with front-wheel drive.
Adding full-wheel drive only enhances the Mazda3 experience. If you live in a belt condition, all-wheel drive gives you better ability to handle the winter's worst. And if you just buy a Mazda3 because you're attracted to its other great features, all-wheel drive gives extra confidence in vibration. Plus, apart from Subaru Impreza, you can't get all-wheel drive on any other compact car – and let's be honest, Mazda is much better than Subie, with nicer interior design.
It's not an option every buyer will cross, but for those who do, the whole wheel only runs the new Mazda3's appeal.
Editor's Note: Travel costs associated with this feature were covered by the manufacturer. It is common in the automotive industry, as it is far more economical to send journalists to cars than to send cars to journalists. While Roadshow accepts manufacturers multi-day vehicle loans to provide scored editorial reviews, all scored car reviews are made on our grass and on our terms.
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