Mazda 3 Red Paint

Red paint adds $595 to the Mazda 3’s base price.

Those seeking a practical, small car that’s fun to drive yet easy on gas should give this Mazda 3 a look. Traditionally, the car has been offered as a four-door sedan with a rear trunk, but you can also get a four-door hatchback, as seen here. This allows for more cargo capacity, especially if the second-row seats are folded.

The Mazda 3 only comes with a four-cylinder, 2.5-liter engine, rated at 186 horsepower. This isn’t some cheap motor that sounds like a buzz bomb; it’s a sophisticated SKYACTIV unit that’s very smooth and loves to be driven hard. Fuel economy is claimed to be 24 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg overall. A six-speed manual gearbox is offered, but we tested the optional six-speed automatic. And then there’s a sport-mode switch, which allows for more fun in daily commuting. Plus, the car has the option of all-wheel drive for better traction on wet roads.

The Mazda 3’s base price is $21,000. However, when we tested the car, we loaded it up with all the features. The red paint costs $595, while illuminated door sills cost $450. A phone charging pad costs $275, which seems a bit excessive, but even more so is paying $90 for floor mats. In the end, the total tab on this one comes to a staggering $31,930. It’s a good thing Mazda dealers offer discounts. At least the car is really made in Japan, explaining its excellent quality.

We also got a car that is fun to drive. The engine wants to be driven hard, handling on tight corners is excellent, the ride quality is smooth, and the brakes stop in a hurry. The only complaint we have is with the well-designed instrument panel, which has a plastic cover that causes a glare at certain times of the day. Also, we did get 29 mpg on highway trips, but in city traffic the engine wasn’t too happy, only getting 19 to 21 mpg in the hot weather. The vehicle did show 23 mpg overall, compared to the 27 claimed, which is reasonable for an all-wheel drive car.

Overall, the Mazda 3 is a very nice commuter car. Those seeking the best fuel economy and performance might want to pass on the optional all-wheel drive and stick with the standard front-wheel drive version. It’s less expensive to buy as well.