Mazda has long been the go-to choice
for enthusiasts on a budget (or, simply, enthusiasts who recognize a good deal). All of their vehicles, from the little 3 sedan up to the three-row CX-9 crossover, seem to have a little of that mysterious MX-5 magic baked into them somewhere. Perhaps it's in the front fender flare, like in the midsize 6 sedan, or perhaps it's in the way it tucks into a corner, like the CX-5 crossover. Like a good BBQ joint, this brand has a secret sauce it applies to everything.
Its entrant in the compact car class is called the 3, freshly refurbished for the 2019 model year. For 2020, the base GX starts at an unusually even $18,000 rather than, say, $17,998. This is refreshing, especially in a world where many manufacturers price their machines a couple of bucks under a threshold just so marketing can bleat that the car "starts under $18,000" or some other nonsense.
The GX is powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0L four-cylinder engine, making 155 horsepower and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. While the mill includes snazzy engineering like direct fuel injection, it runs fine on a steady diet of regular unleaded. Expect highway economy in the 6.5L/100km range. Note, too, that all models of the 3 sedan have disc brakes on all four corners; some competitors stick their base trim compact cars with drums out back.
Stylists at Mazda have been drawing some good-looking cars of late, and the 3 - despite its humble station as the brand's entry-level car - is no exception. LED head- and taillamps are standard across the range, as are colour-keyed door handles and side mirrors. It'll take a good eye for the neighbours to notice you're rolling in a base model 3. The sole exterior nod to your frugality? Steel wheels instead of alloys.
Inside you'll find the same 8.8-inch wide infotainment display as appears in top-rage trims, along with steering wheel mounted audio controls and CarPlay/Android Auto. There are two USB ports and 8 speakers but satellite radio is absent. Push button start is on tap but, and this is important to know, air conditioning is absent.
What We'd Pick
Adding the $2300 Convenience Package warrants serious consideration if you're shopping a base Mazda 3. It brings the essential air conditioning, safety kit like blind spot monitoring, heated front seats, and alloy wheels. Your author also recommends the attractive Deep Crystal Blue Mica paint shown here since it is a $0 option.
Find rest of the Base Camp series here