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First drive: 2020 Mazda 3 in the UAE

First drive: 2020 Mazda 3 in the UAE

Mazda has built a bit of a reputation with enthusiasts on a budget. Building cars that drive well, no matter what category they play in, it is popular among certain younger buyers. Of course, the problem is most buyers aren’t of the enthusiastic variety, and Mazda has always been way behind when it comes to the basics of space and comfort, thereby giving up market share to brands which understand their respective segments better. Does the new Mazda 3 change that?

The 2020 Mazda 3 truly is all-new, with a new chassis that actually regresses from the old one’s fancier multilink suspension. We’ll talk about the implications of that in a bit.

In terms of looks, the new hatchback makes a head-turning first impression, especially compared to the conservative sedan version. However, the thick rear pillars make for an odd butt-heavy overall profile that will not appeal to everybody. Styling elements such as the thin headlights, the clean grille and the intricate rear lights work well in keeping with Mazda’s premium aspirations.

Inside, Mazda pushes the boundaries of how good an economy car’s interior can look, with a clean aesthetic and premium-looking touches such as stitched-leatherette padding on the dashboard and metallic-looking trim strewn about. In this top version, the upholstery is a deep red in leather, and you even get a heads-up display, 360-degree cameras, and active cruise control with stop-and-go function. But beauty is where the positives end.

The non-traditional control setup makes it hard to find what you need at a quick glance. The climate control a/c with rear vents doesn’t cool as well as the a/c on other Japanese rivals. And while rear space has been improved, the legroom remains cramped compared to rivals in the same segment. Space is something that’s lacking in all Mazda models in their respective segments, and it’s probably a consequence of having to cut down on size to pay for the premium accoutrements elsewhere.

The 153 hp 2.0-litre motor with 200 Nm of torque makes adequate juice for a daily driver, and feels quicker than equivalent cars with similar horses on paper, which is also a Mazda trademark. However, it’s not quick enough to hold your interest if you’re an enthusiast. They should’ve slapped a turbo on it by now, especially since the asking price is now similar to a Honda Civic RS, or the now-defunct Ford Focus ST.

The drive is still good though. They’ve retained a 6-speed automatic instead of switching to CVT like many others. The entertaining handling is retained even with the switch to cheaper rear torsion-beam suspension (apparently to make way for more cargo space in the boot). We didn’t drive it for long, but we suspect the downgrade will only be noticeable when driving at the limit, which is probably what Mazda is counting on most of their owners not doing.

The Mazda 3 also seems to be quieter and rides less firmly than before. The old model was absolutely terrible in terms of highway comfort, although the new one is still not quite the best car to take on a cross-country trip.

And “not quite the best car” sums up the new Mazda 3 really. It remains a car that largely appeals to enthusiasts on a budget, except it’s dumbed down that aspect a bit while still being somewhat unappealing to the mass-market buyer who would cross-shop it with Corollas and Civics. And with the high asking prices, its fate is sealed, even if it does win awards (of which there are many).

Photos by Mashfique H. Chowdhury

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. the alfaromeo from japan but without the italian unreliability.

  2. Thanks for your review! Some feedback – you mention the high asking price more than once, but then don’t say what the prices are. I think many readers would be interested to know the price points.

  3. Your review sums it up, the car was on my shopping list when it was first released but skipped it for cramped rear seats, underpowered as it is offered in the US with the 2.5 L while here only the 2.0 L, the materials are nice inside but the price is not justified

  4. Mazda made their cars based on the Practical Technology Philosophy

  5. I was looking at buying this as a commute car, after having used a Mazda6 as an amazingly efficient DXB-AUH commuter few years back….. The prices were 96k for the full options sedan and 100k for the hatchback ! I would have paid it if they offered the same engine they offer in the US, but nope, they downgraded the engine for the Gulf……I can understand manufacturers giving slower engines to countries where roads are congested and with lower speed limits. But to give slower engines to a market with 140 kph limit on highways? The design is nice though and interior quality is top-notch

  6. I have a previous gen mazda 3 with the 2.0 engine…have 2 comments which i see mash always complaining about:

    1) The A/C not being strong: actually on the contrary i find the A/C to be quite adequate. If you are implying that Nissan’s A/C is stronger then I agree with you, but its also UNCOMFORTABLY cold. The Mazda A/C is adequate enough I’d say without that annoyance.

    2) the old model was NOT a terrible car for long cruises. Its noisy but not rough. Its seats are small but not back-shattering. It couldve improved in the recent gen maybe but the old one was below average at best, not absolutely terrible.

    Anyways, im looking to upgrade but only if Mazda brings the Skyactiv X here on a Mazda 6…otherwise sticking to my good’ol mazda 3 skyactiv for a bit more…its a good car for its size!

  7. I been a Mazda fan since it rebirth with the 6. Sine then and actually way earlier, most of the Japanese brands were not even close when it comes to styling of the M’s. Even the new 3 looks dashing, is it pricier with the options like lane change warning, adaptive cruise control, auto braking etc? I dont think so. Most of the Japanese cars are way costlier than Mazda. I had 2 brand new M’s and to say frankly, I loved both, are a little under power, but isn’t that what we want with the rise of Gas prices? My 2016 M’6 gives me around 900 kms on long hauls….I guess that is still pretty good. So somethings has to be sacrificed for the sake of having a car that translates your driving and not thee way around.

  8. They keep bringing the skyactiv-G in the region, not the skyactive-X – great strategy Mazda – keep bringing only the old junks in the region.

  9. Quotation for Mazda?

  10. I feel Mazda cars are overpriced for the features they offer… Yes I really liked the design n the way it handles… But it scores less when coming to practicality… Even the new gen swift sport has better legroom with enjoyable drive at an affordable price

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