Perfect? No. Excellent? Yes. That’s it. I’m done. How I wish it were that easy to summarize a week with one of the most impressive compact sedans ever produced by a mainstream volume brand. I’d…

2020 Mazda3 GT Road Test

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The great looking Mazda3 could win fans over on appearances alone, but its goodness goes way deeper than that.

Perfect? No. Excellent? Yes. That’s it. I’m done.

How I wish it were that easy to summarize a week with one of the most impressive compact sedans ever produced by a mainstream volume brand. I’d call it the most impressive compact sedan ever produced by a mainstream volume brand, but I haven’t driven the new 2021 turbo or 100th Anniversary Edition yet, so I’ll curb my enthusiasm until these two hit my driveway.

After making such grandiose claims of superiority, I should probably mention that I’ve undergone similar weeklong tests with multiple new examples of Honda’s best-selling Civic, Toyota’s second-most-popular Corolla, Hyundai’s third-place Elantra (which is being updated for 2021) and additional compact sedans from other makers, so my impressions come from a place of experience, however biased they may be.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The 3’s side panels are so dramatically indented it looks as if they’ve been broadsided by a perfectly smooth-faced car.

We all have brand and model biases formed over years of ownership, or in my case 20-plus years of testing. This said, I try to limit any biases that might be based on the good or poor brand PR staff communications I’ve received over the years (although, in full disclosure, Mazda’s professionalism has been amongst the best in recent years), only sharing my thoughts on all aspects of the vehicle in question, its expected dependability, and its relevance in the marketplace.

First off (or maybe second off), the Mazda3 competitors named above are arguably the very best iterations of each model ever made, and very good cars overall. In fact, I’m sure you’d be happy with any of this segment’s top four, as well as most others on offer in this segment. I’m just saying you might be happier with the Mazda3, especially when comparing fully loaded variants.

The 3 sedan’s tasteful rear styling shouldn’t be offensive to anyone.

The test model shown here is Mazda’s top-line 3 sedan for 2020 in GT trim, albeit not with its i-Activ all-wheel drive system. Yet more full disclosure means I need to clarify the car driven was actually a 2019 model that I wasn’t able to review until now, but in all fairness the only visible updates to this GT were darkened 18-inch alloy wheels. Reviewing this 2019 model as a 2020 allows me to comment on this change along with others, both of which segue nicely into the various 2021 upgrades.

Your opinion of this car will no doubt be influenced by its styling, so let’s get that out of the way immediately. If you prefer smaller grille designs Mazda’s compact might not be for you, but then again, most seem to agree the brand’s large heptagonal air intake is attractively shaped and tastefully integrated into the design, nicely fitting the 3’s overall look without appearing overbearing or out of place. I especially like the way its outermost chrome edges frame the lower inside corner and bottom edge of each LED headlamp, and appreciate the simple elegance of the car’s lower front fascia.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The 3’s grille is very big, but it nevertheless fits this compact model’s design perfectly.

Interestingly, the Mazda3 looks widest of all the competitors mentioned above, at least to my eyes, yet it’s the second narrowest of the four, albeit only by a handful of millimeters. Sometimes this effect is created by lowering a car’s height, but in fact the 3’s roofline is 20 mm taller than the Corolla and Elantra, and reaches 39 mm higher than the lowest Civic. The 3’s styling makes it look wider, which is the result of good design, while its greater length from nose to tail lends to its sleek side profile.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The sharply pointed Mazda3 grille extensions underscore the GT’s sporty LED headlamps nicely.

Deeply carved door panels do their part too, the dramatic depth of their indent almost making the 3 look as if it’s been sideswiped ever so neatly (check out my photo of the car’s side profile in the gallery and you’ll see what I mean). The car’s rear styling is neat and tidy too, with a slender pair of LED taillights, visually supported by an uncluttered rear apron and sporty set of circular chromed tailpipes. The rear design might not win points for uniqueness, but it scores high marks when it comes to understated good taste.

Much the same can be said about the 3’s cabin when it comes to tastefulness, although to be fair it gains some strong character points too. The dash, which is completely covered in a high-grade soft composite, seems to float above the instrument panel as it flows over the primary gauge cluster and wraps around the infotainment display, its outer edges meeting albeit not melding into the front door uppers made from the same material. These swoop downward from the front to rear of each door, starting out almost entirely flat and rounding downward as they grow thicker. Unusually, the 3’s inner rear door panels duplicate those up front, complete with pliable uppers, a feature normally only found in luxury branded models in this compact class.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
These 18-inch alloys were given a light-grey tone for 2020.

Just below each soft-touch door upper is a thickly padded leather-like bolster with stylish French-stitched seams down the middle, an attractive and luxurious feature that’s also found just under the aforementioned floating dash. It visually envelopes the entire interior, even more so when combined with finished in contrasting Pure White leatherette to match an upgrade that also includes white leather seat upholstery. The 3 looks particularly stylish when finished in this two-tone motif, although it can be a bit challenging to keep clean. The 3 Sport gets the same optional treatment in Garnet Red, by the way, as does the previously noted 100th Anniversary model. I should also point out that the lower front console’s top edges receive similar stitched and padded leatherette to protect the inside knees, although these are always finished in black.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
These signature LED taillights are exclusive to the GT sedan.

The GT’s leather-covered seats feature perforated inserts for breathability, while most of their bolsters are a solid leather like the beautifully crafted steering wheel rim and each top portion of the horizontal spokes, not to mention the shifter knob and boot. Both the steering wheel spokes and shifter feature gorgeous satin-aluminum detailing too, the latter really chunky and solid feeling. The high-grade metallic trim is in fact a theme throughout the entire cabin, highlighted by drilled aluminum speaker grilles for the great-sounding Bose audio system.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The Mazda3 GT’s interior quality is arguably best-in-class, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces, metallic accents and leathers.

While those latter items aren’t exactly unique, the thin aluminum accent spanning most of the instrument panel, even striking through the dual-zone automatic climate control system interface, is pure industrial art. This line of brightwork underscores the centre vents as well, culminating in C-shaped (at least on the driver’s side) flourishes that wrap around the corner vents. Suffice to say there’s plenty to keep an owner in love with a 3 GT long after the honeymoon is over, which is exactly why most premium buyers spend more for a luxury brand.

All said, Mazda is not a luxury brand, with pricing for the 2020 3 sedan starting well under $20k, and the front-wheel drive version of my top-line trim priced much below Acura’s ILX, a sedan that’s front-drive only and starts at $30,490. In fact, even after increasing in price by $300 from 2019 to 2020, thanks to proximity-sensing keyless entry made standard (previously part of the Premium upgrade package), the Mazda3 GT with its automatic only came to $26,500, nearly $4,000 less than the ILX (which is really an upgraded previous-generation Honda Civic under the metal), whereas the GT with i-ACTIV AWD (that only comes with an automatic) went up $100 to $30,500 this year, a near identical price to the front-drive-only ILX. By the way, the 2020 GT Premium now includes a sharp-looking frameless centre mirror, as well as the updated alloy wheels mentioned earlier.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The 12-speaker Bose audio system not only provides impressive sound quality, but also includes these gorgeous drilled aluminum speaker grilles.

Also take note, the Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD goes up to $32,200 for 2021, an increase of $1,700 due to features being made standard that were only previously found in the Premium upgrade package, such as a 10-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar support and memory that also links to the side mirrors, leather upholstery, a navigation system, and tech features including SiriusXM satellite radio (with a three-month trial subscription), plus SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link (with a complimentary five-year trial subscription), and lastly Traffic Sign Recognition. Incidentally, the front-wheel drive GT auto moves up by $2,000 to $28,500 for the same reasons.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The 3 combines uniquely attractive interior design with excellent materials quality.

As noted earlier, there’s also been the addition of a new 2021 turbocharged GT AWD model that’s a mere $700 pricier at $32,900, so you might want to wait for that, and this upgrade in mind, Mazda dealers may want to consider how many non-turbo GTs they bring into inventory, being that soon these less potent 3s will probably only appeal to fuel-stingy commuters that want the creature comforts of a GT.

Some additional GT features include the 12-speaker Bose audio system noted earlier, plus advanced keyless entry, paddle shifters on automatic-equipped models, adaptive cornering for the auto-levelling LED signature headlamps, signature LED taillights, and 18-inch alloys, while the new Premium package includes glossy black front grille, a front wiper de-icer, an auto-dimming driver’s side mirror, reverse tilt-down on both exterior mirrors, a frameless centre mirror with auto-dimming, a HomeLink garage door transceiver, a head-up display, a 360-degree overhead parking monitor, front and rear parking sensors, emergency automatic braking for reversing, and traffic jam assist.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
While the gauge cluster appears like three dials, the one at centre is actually part of a digital multi-information display.

The GT isn’t the only Mazda3 sedan to get a price boost in 2021, with the base GX model increasing from $18,000 to $20,500 thanks to standard 16-inch alloy wheels, body-colour power-actuated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, manual air conditioning, heatable front seats, cruise control, and advanced blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, all previously only available with the Convenience package, while yet more new 2021 standard 3 gear includes auto on/off headlights and rain-sensing wipers. Of note, the same model with the automatic goes up by $2,500 as well.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The main infotainment interface is high in resolution for crisp, clear graphics, and filled with features in GT trim.

Mid-range GS trim remains the most affordable way to get all of Mazda’s i-Activsense safety features, including adaptive cruise control with stop and go, automatic high beams, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, plus driver attention alert. The GS increases in price by $200 to $22,900 for 2021.

Finally, a new 100th Anniversary Edition based on turbocharged GT i-ACTIV AWD trim approaches premium compact levels at $36,100, so you’ll have to be a real serious Mazda fan to pay the extra $3,200 needed to partake. For that money you’ll get special Snowflake White Pearl exterior paint, aforementioned Garnet Red leather upholstery and accents inside (normally reserved for the 3 Sport), red carpets and mats, the latter including unique 100th Anniversary embroidery, plus the same logo stamped onto the headrests, the key fob, the wheel centre caps, and each front fender.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The 3’s main display is smaller than some, at least in height, and it’s not a touchscreen, making it solely controlled from a set of dials and buttons on the lower console.

I should also mention that both 2020 and 2021 Mazda3s are being offered with up to $750 in additional incentives according to CarCostCanada, where you can find out about all the latest manufacturer leasing and financing deals, rebate information, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when purchasing a new vehicle. Check out how the CarCostCanada system works, and make sure to download their free app so you can have all this important information on your smartphone when you need it most.

Of note, the five-door Mazda3 Sport gets similar year-by-year updates and price hikes, except for the base model that only increases by $200 from 2019 through 2021 due to including most of the standard features mentioned above from inception, and therefore already retailing for thousands more than 2019 and 2020 versions of the base sedan. The 100th Anniversary Edition hatchback pushes this Mazda3 model into a new near-premium price point of $37,100 too, but I won’t say anything more about the five-door Sport body style as I’ll be reviewing it separately.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
Some of the 3 GT’s switchgear detailing is exquisitely crafted, like the knobs on the dual-zone automatic climate control interface.

Sportiness in mind, however, both Mazda3 models are available with three Skyactiv-G engine choices, all of which are fun to drive, although the new turbo dusts off distant memories of the late-great Mazdaspeed3. That engine, which makes 250 horsepower and a whopping 320 lb-ft of torque, will be covered in an upcoming review as well, being that I haven’t even driven it yet, so I’ll keep my comments to the 2.0-litre variant that makes 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque in base trim, and the non-turbo 2.5 that’s good for a respective 186 units apiece.

Performance from these two naturally aspirated engines haven’t changed since 2019, and there’s actually plenty to like about the base engine, which incidentally can only be had with GX manual and auto trims, plus GS manual trims for 2021, and comes standard with the base GX and all non-AWD versions of the GS in 2020. Its main selling point is fuel efficiency, good for a claimed 8.7 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.7 combined when hooked up to the six-speed manual or 8.4, 6.6 and 7.6 respectively when mated to the six-speed auto (note, the Mazda3 doesn’t include a continuously variable transmission/CVT like most competitors, so while it may give up some thrift compared to rivals, it arguably improves drivability).

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The lower console, surfaced mostly in shiny piano black, features a well made leather-clad shift knob and boot, lots of aluminized trim, a rocker switch for Sport mode, an electromechanical parking brake, and infotainment controls.

The 2.5-litre four, standard with the GS auto, all non-turbo AWD models, and the GT for 2021, makes a noticeable difference in performance without sacrificing much in fuel economy at 8.8 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.8 combined with FWD or a respective 7.0, 9.2 and 8.2 with AWD.

Paddle shifters make the most of the Skyactiv-Drive automatic, especially in sport mode, and let me say it really doesn’t need more than six forward speeds, except maybe for marketing purposes. There’s something wonderful (and reliable) about a simple six-speed auto, and considering I was testing compacts with four- and five-speed automatics when I started out in this business, this is still a comparatively advanced transmission. As noted, Mazda incorporates its Skyactiv technologies, which they say combine all the advantages of conventional automatics, CVTs and dual-clutch gearboxes together—one big fat claim.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The 3 GT’s perforated leather upholstered seats are both comfortable and supportive, while the car’s driving position is ideal for all body types.

For starters, the Skyactiv-Drive autobox incorporates a significantly widened lock-up range to improve torque transfer efficiency while realizing a direct driving feel that Mazda reports as being the equivalent to a manual transmission, whereas fuel efficiency is improved by four to seven percent compared to the brand’s older non-Skyactiv automatic. While I can’t prove any of this from the wheel, it was certainly thrifty throughout my weeklong drive and responded well to input, shifting quickly and, like I mentioned a moment ago, a lot more positively than any CVT I’ve ever used (although the Corolla Hatchback’s CVT is surprisingly good).

Likewise, the Mazda3’s suspension ideally balances comfort and performance, but it goes about this in a surprisingly unsophisticated way. To be fair, the brand’s engineers chose to keep a simpler torsion-beam rear suspension in play rather than adopt an independent multi-link setup in back, and not just because it would save money that could be used elsewhere. First and foremost, it’s lighter, whereas the more straightforward design is easier to tune for the desired results. What you get is a smooth riding suspension that transitions to quick, fast-paced inputs nicely, only getting a bit unsettled when hammered through really bad patches of pavement at high speeds, mid-turn. This is where a multi-link design works better, but all said I found the 3’s torsion-beam setup hard to fault, even when pushed hard over broken road surfaces.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The overhead console includes every performance car fans’ favourite feature, a sunglasses holder.

Fortunately, Mazda has isolated the 3’s passenger compartment so that most bumps, potholes and bridge expansion joins don’t translate to discomfort within. The body structure feels tight and solid, plus it seems as if this car gets a lot more sound-deadening insulation between outer and inner door panels than its key competitors. Again, it feels more 3 Series than Corolla in this respect, no offence to Toyota, or maybe more A-Class and A3-like, but either way resulting in that premium-like experience I’ve been going on and on about.

The 3’s driving position is similarly impressive, with enough reach from its tilt and telescopic steering column to make my long-legged, short-torso frame feel right at home, and certainly more in control than when piloting the Corolla, which needs more steering wheel extension for people shaped like me. The driver’s seat was a perfect fit too, its two-way power-adjustable lumbar support even pushing up against the small of my back where I need it most.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The rear door panels are finished as nicely as those up front, which is unusual in all the best ways.

When seated just behind in the second row, the driver’s seat having been set up for a guy that measures five feet, eight inches tall with (once again) longish legs, and backrest canted rearward marginally, I benefited from approximately five inches of knee space to the seatback ahead, which is pretty good for this class, and no shortage of foot space below. The aforementioned taller than average roof height resulted in about three inches of room for growth above my head, while side-to-side space was more than adequate for two adults, along with reasonable room for a third when required.

Rear seat accoutrements include a fold-down centre armrest with two integrated cupholders, and that’s it. No heatable rear outboard seats, and even stranger, no air vents or USB charge ports on the backside of the front console. This is only odd due to Mazda finishing off all rear surfaces as nicely as those up front, as noted earlier in this review.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
The rear seating area is both comfortable and roomy, but it comes up short on premium-like features.

As for this sedan’s trunk, it’s about average in size for this class at 358 litres, and includes expandability via the segment’s usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. If Mazda wanted to appeal even more to the premium crowd, 40/20/40-split rear seats, or at least a centre pass-through would help, this potentially a dealmaker for outdoor sports enthusiasts who might choose an all-wheel drive 3 over a competitor thanks to its all-weather traction, especially if they can fit their skis safely inside with four occupants onboard.

I wouldn’t mention this for a car in this class if Mazda wasn’t already one of the only mainstream manufacturers to provide 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks in its compact CX-5 SUV, meaning they’ve proven to understand how important passenger/cargo flexibility is to their buyers.

I wouldn’t call that last issue a complaint, but I do have a few negatives to bring up with the Mazda3 GT. For starters, I found the sensitivity of the auto braking and lane change alerts a bit annoying, but not as much as the nagging digital voice’s constant speed limit announcements. If this had been my personal car, I would’ve quickly found a way to turn that feature off.

2020 Mazda3 GT i-ACTIV AWD
This dual cupholder-infused folding armrest is one of the only features found in the 3’s rear seating area.

Also, the dual auto HVAC system was more difficult to set to a comfortable temperature than what I normally experience in other brands. I therefore chose 20C so it wasn’t overly hot, but take note 20.5C was already uncomfortably warm. This means there was no middle ground, with 20C being on the cool side and 20.5C requiring the windows powered down a crack. I ended up setting it to 20C and using the three-way heated seats to keep my backside warm, not to mention the heatable steering wheel rim.

I’d also like to see Mazda improve the otherwise handy radio volume/tuner knob on the lower console, which rotates for the former and can be modulated from side-to-side for the latter. It works perfectly for changing AM/FM stations, but scrolling through satellite stations requires a tedious multi-step process within the infotainment system’s audio interface, each and every time you want to do so. I ended up saving my favourite stations to a list accessible from the star button just next to the volume/tuner knob, so at least a shortcut method has been provided, but I’d like to see some sort of improvement for tuning in satellite stations just the same.

You might find my little complaints more annoying to read than these issues actually are in real life, this probable after factoring in just how excellent the Mazda3 is in every other respect. If I were buying in this class, this car would be right at the top of my list and probably get the nod, albeit with that new turbocharged engine upgrade and potentially the Sport body style.

It’s hard to argue against a car that recently won the 2020 World Car Design of the Year award after all, let alone took top honours in AJAC’s 2020 Canadian Car of the Year earlier, and the 2019 Women’s World Car of the Year before that, while earning an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award is an accolade worth mentioning too. All that aside, I like its styling, love its interior design and materials quality, find it comfortably accommodating, appreciate its expected reliability, and always enjoy spending time in its driver’s seat. In other words, I highly recommend the Mazda3.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Anticipation. Sometimes it’s better than the real thing. Just think back to someone you fell head over heels for in junior high, only to finally go out on a date and realize they weren’t the perfect…

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Did you know Mazda was offering a twin-turbo diesel-powered CX-5 last year? Some were still available at the time of writing.

Anticipation. Sometimes it’s better than the real thing. Just think back to someone you fell head over heels for in junior high, only to finally go out on a date and realize they weren’t the perfect match your idealistic imagination conjured them up to be. As we age, most of us become a little more cautious in our approach to everything, including our next best ride.

Enter the Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel or SkyActiv-D, a compact crossover SUV that most buyers in this class never realized was even on the radar, let alone available for the 2019 model year. Amongst the auto industry media, Mazda’s upcoming turbo-diesel was a highly anticipated new powertrain in a model that’s long earned high marks, but it took longer to arrive than expected and only lasted one single model year, a shocker that’s caused some disappointment within a small following of diesel engine fans, and as I just noted, not even a whimper from most Mazda buyers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
It’s just as attractive and beautifully finished inside as the regular CX-5 thanks to top-tier Signature trim, but Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine is more fuel efficient.

Of course, the latter group matters much more in the grand scheme of things than a tiny handful of oil-burner zealots and enthusiastic auto journalists, and to be fair to Mazda that’s now looking as if it made a major product planning error, Volkswagen’s Diesel-gate fiasco wasn’t a thing when the 100-year-old independent Japanese brand first decided to bring its SkyActiv-D to market (yes, Mazda is 17 years older than VW). As it is, the very fact the new turbo-diesel engine met Canadian regulations for the 2019 model year shows that it was cleaner than anything offered by the Germans, all of which dropped their diesel powerplants soon after the Diesel-gate scandal.

I’m speaking in past-tense because this review is coming out after the fact, although being that 2020 is one of the most unusual years we’ve ever experienced in the car industry, or any other sector for that matter, I was still able to find some of these unique 2019 CX-5s available to purchase new when perusing online.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature Diesel’s stylish design with narrow LED headlamps, tiny fog lights and attractive 19-inch alloys, truly makes a visual statement.

In this review I’m going to cover the 2019 model shown, as well as the 2020, particularly the changes moving up to the latest model year, being that there are many more 2020s available to purchase than 2019s, with or without the SkyActiv-D powertrain with respect to the latter. If you can find a 2019 model that suits your needs, you’ll be able to benefit from up to $2,500 in additional incentives, while 2020 models are only being offered with incentives up to $1,000, as per CarCostCanada’s comprehensive 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page and 2020 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page. CarCostCanada’s very affordable membership provides plenty, by the way, including manufacturer rebate information, details about any available manufacturer financing and leasing deals, dealer invoice pricing info that could save you thousands, and more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5’s distinctive LED taillights are similar to its LED headlight design.

A quick look at the just-noted 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page will immediately show the 2.2-litre twin-turbo-diesel only being available in top-line Signature trim at a price of $45,950 plus freight and fees. Signature trim is a new for 2019 premium brand-like level that’s never previously been offered to CX-5 clientele. Other CX-5 trims include the base GX that starts at $27,850 with front-wheel drive or $29,850 with all-wheel drive, the mid-grade GS at $30,750 with FWD or $32,750 with AWD, and the previous top-line GT that starts at $37,450 and tops out at $39,450 with its 2.5-litre turbocharged gasoline with engine upgrade. GT and Signature trims include Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard equipment.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature is a step above all mainstream branded competitors when it comes to luxury, thanks to soft Nappa leather and real hardwood trim.

The CX-5 Signature, available with the just-noted 2.5-litre turbo gas engine for $40,950 and the aforementioned diesel, builds on the already impressive CX-5 GT with features like LED cabin lighting, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, a slick looking frameless rearview mirror, genuine Abachi hardwood inlays on the dash and door panels (yes, real wood, folks), plus dark chocolate brown Cocoa Nappa leather upholstery and trim, while items pulled up from the GT include front and rear signature lighting, adaptive headlamps, LED fog lights, power-folding side mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless entry, traffic sign recognition, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a 10-speaker audio system including satellite radio, a garage door opener, leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a six-way powered front passenger’s seat, plus more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Soft-touch surfaces abound, as do beautifully finished metal accents.

Details like fabric-wrapped A pillars and luxuriously padded interior surfaces including the dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, lower console side edges, door uppers front to back and armrests side to centre go further to make the CX-5 a near-luxury experience, while Mazda also adds a tasteful assortment of anodized aluminum accents throughout the compact SUV’s cabin, with some of the brushed metal switchgear receiving rich knurled metal edging for an extremely upscale appearance. It’s pretty fancy stuff from a mainstream volume-brand, leaving some in the industry to wonder (including yours truly) whether or not Mazda is making a long play for luxury brand status.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5’s centre dial is purely digital, despite looking as if it’s merely another analogue instrument.

The diesel option fits the premium sector well too, being this engine type has mostly been sold through luxury brands (Volkswagen aside) such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and the like, with Jaguar offering a bevy of diesel-powered models up until last year (so there are probably plenty of these around if you’re interested too) and Land Rover having only dropped the oil-burner in its Velar, yet not offering diesel-power in the one vehicle 4×4 enthusiasts would most likely want it in, the all-new 2021 Defender.

Back to Mazda’s diesel, it makes a rather meagre 168 horsepower yet a very healthy 290 lb-ft of torque; the low horsepower, high torque ratio normal for diesel powertrains. This said the same CX-5 Signature’s base gasoline-fed powerplant is good for 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque (take note, this engine has just been announced for the AWD Mazda3, and should be a real screamer in such a lightweight car), as long as you fill it with 93 octane premium fuel. If you don’t, and I can’t see most owners throwing that much cash into the ether, it puts out a commendable 250 horsepower and the same 310 lb-ft of torque, while the 2020 model gains an additional 10 lb-ft of torque to 320 lb-ft when fuelled with high-octane gas.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The centre display can be modulated via a dial and set of buttons on the lower centre console, just like with premium brands.

Drive both CX-5 powertrains back-to-back, as I’m sure many would-be CX-5 Diesel buyers would have done, and the benefits of the gasoline-powered version are immediately clear, at least from a performance perspective. Of course, opting for the diesel is more about fuel economy, and to that end it’s thriftier than its gasoline-powered counterpart, but probably not enough to cause a large volume of CX-5 buyers to choose it over the more conventional powertrain. The diesel’s claimed 8.9 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined fuel economy is certainly better than the gasoline engine’s 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating, but the extra $5,000 needed to upgrade makes any savings less reasonable.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
An attractive dual-zone automatic climate control system is easy to use.

Something else to consider is the nicely equipped CX-5 GT mentioned earlier, which for $37,450 offers a lot of luxury along with an even thriftier 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder good for 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, plus a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.8 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 9.0 combined, while the same engine with front wheel drive gets 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5 respectively.

Last year I reviewed a GT with its base engine and was very pleased with its fuel economy, performance and level of luxury after my usual weeklong test, but this said I more recently spent three months with a 2020 CX-5 Signature 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbo and was even more enamoured, particularly with its performance and premium fittings. I’ll be sure to review it in full detail soon, although for the sake of this review I’ll only say that Mazda made the right choice in keeping its top-line gasoline engine over its even more exclusive diesel.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Knurled metal edging makes many of the CX-5 Signature’s controls look and feel very upscale.

Don’t get me wrong as the two models’ fuel economy disparity was even more pronounced during real life duty than on National Resources Canada’s downloadable Fuel Consumption Ratings spreadsheet. This was made even more obvious thanks to diesel fuel pump prices that are normally much lower than regular gasoline (let alone premium), but the biggest reason for the two models’ fuel economy disparity came down to the sportier 2.5-litre turbo-gasoline engine making the paddle-shift actuated 2020 CX-5 Signature way too much fun to merely coast along in comfortable bliss. With the knurled-metal, console-mounted rocker switch pulled rearward for Sport mode, the most potent CX-5 is a rarified dynamo amongst mostly dawdling compact crossover competitors, while the turbo-diesel version is much more sedate after its initial launch from standstill.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature’s Nappa leather covered driver’s seat is very comfortable and supportive.

Yes, the diesel-powered CX-5 provides a lot of twist from lower speeds, and I certainly never had any problem passing slower moving traffic on the highway. It just doesn’t provide the level of sporty performance as the conventionally-fuelled turbo-four, and due to the subtle yet still evident rat-a-tat-tat sound emanating from ahead of the engine firewall, it makes the CX-5 sound a bit more truck-like than the gasoline version. This will either be good or not so good depending on your preferences. I happen to like the sound of a diesel engine, so it was kind of comforting, while its standard 19-inch Gunmetal grey Signature wheels and equally large tires provided plenty of pavement adhesion when hustling it through corners.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The rear seats are comfortable and the surrounding area spacious.

Unlike the gasoline-powered Signature, the diesel doesn’t provide steering wheel paddles, so its six-speed automatic transmission isn’t quite as engaging as the gearbox I more recently tested. Yes, you heard me right, like Hyundai’s Tucson and Kia’s Sportage, the CX-5 uses a conventional six-speed automatic instead of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has become more commonplace in this small SUV market segment, while more complex eight-speed autoboxes are now incorporated into VW’s Tiguan and Ford’s latest Escape, and even fancier nine-speed automatics can be found in the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Jeep Cherokee. More gears can add problems, however, with most of the eight- and nine-speed automatics just noted commonly cited for reliability issues, making Mazda’s well-proven six-speed SkyActiv-Drive transmission a good choice for those wanting something they can rely on.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Loads of cargo space make the CX-5 a winner in its compact SUV class, but its 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, featuring a full pass-through down the middle, are amongst the segment’s most useful.

Along with commendable handling, all second-generation CX-5 models I’ve driven so far have provided a comfortable ride, albeit firmer in the more performance-oriented Germanic sense than most competitors. This said, the SUV’s fully independent suspension was never harsh in any way, but instead felt wholly confidence-inspiring when pushed hard through circuitous two-lane roadways, and wonderfully controllable at higher speeds on the freeway. This is a crossover SUV I was able to spend many hours in at a time without discomfort, while its roominess from front to rear is very generous and therefore competitive with compact SUV challengers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Say hello and goodbye to Mazda’s SkyActiv-D twin-turbo diesel engine, which provided good fuel economy in real world conditions.

Feel free to check out my 2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test for even more detail, particularly about its best-in-class 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with convenient cargo sidewall-mounted release levers, cargo measurements and more, and remember to download the free CarCostCanada app to your smartphone from the Apple Store or Google Play Store so you can get the best deal possible on this impressive compact SUV.

I won’t try to claim that I know which engine will best suit your needs, because those who already like diesels will love the short-lived SkyActiv-D, and performance fans will no doubt want the much quicker SkyActiv-G turbo, while some will prefer to save as much as possible by purchasing a more affordable trim and therefore be happy with the naturally aspirated SkyActiv-G powerplant, as I was. Either way Mazda has you covered, at least for a little while longer, unless you’re looking for a hybrid. If that’s the case, you may want to wait for Mazda’s sporty looking electric crossover just unveiled at the Tokyo auto show.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

When the CX-3 arrived in May of 2015 as a 2016 model, there were 13 rivals in the subcompact crossover segment. Two others had arrived earlier that year and one more came onto the scene the following…

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Early 2019 CX-3s look the same as those that came along later, but there are some key differences inside.

When the CX-3 arrived in May of 2015 as a 2016 model, there were 13 rivals in the subcompact crossover segment. Two others had arrived earlier that year and one more came onto the scene the following month, but interestingly four other models from that year’s 15 competitor class are no longer available today. The sporty Nissan Juke and its taller Cube compatriot were kind of replaced by the new Qashqai and newer Kicks, while the void left by the Jeep Patriot was more or less filled by the Renegade, but the Scion xB, along with its brand, is gone forever.

The Honda Element had been given the boot many years before that, whereas that automaker’s more popular HR-V arrived the same year as the CX-3, along with the just-noted Renegade and Fiat’s related 500X. Models still existing today that preceded these five include (in order of arrival) the Jeep Compass, Kia Soul (that like the Kona has an EV as well), Mitsubishi RVR, Mini Countryman, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, and Subaru Crosstrek (that’s now available as a plug-in hybrid for 2020), plus more recent entries including the Qashqai, Ford EcoSport, Toyota C-HR, Kia Niro (that’s available as a plug-in hybrid and an EV too), Hyundai Kona (which includes an EV), Kicks, Hyundai Venue, Mazda CX-30, and Kia Seltos (a 2021). That’s a total of 20, with more expected from a variety of automakers.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
This is a late arrival 2019 CX-3 GT, and it has some upgrades worth noting.

Considering this burgeoning category the CX-3’s seventh-place standing is very good, especially when factoring in the little crossover SUV hasn’t visibly changed all that much since inception five years ago. Model year 2017 carried over from 2016 identically, but 2018 added a manual gearbox to base FWD models, retuned the suspension for more comfort, added Mazda’s G-vectoring control to improve handling, lowered interior noise, upgraded the steering wheel and instrument cluster, made the automaker’s smart city brake support low-speed automatic emergency braking standard, pulled more standard and optional i-ActivSense advanced driver assistive systems into lower trims, including full-speed smart brake support with front obstruction warning, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The CX-3 received minor styling updates for 2019, but you’ll need to look closely to see them.

The following model year saw Mazda modify the grille, taillights, and wheels, but changes to everything but those alloys were ultra-subtle, whereas the cabin received nicer materials along with new seats, while the lower console was redesigned to accommodate an electromechanical parking brake. Blind spot monitoring was made standard for 2019 too, while the top-line GT being reviewed here received genuine leather in place of leatherette in previous years, plus this top trim line also featured everything from the previous year’s Technology package as standard kit, which included items like satellite radio, automatic high beam assist, and lane departure warning.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
LED headlights with cornering capability and auto high beams are standard in GT trim.

The 2019 CX-3’s Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine gained 2 horsepower too, an increase to 148 horsepower that carries over to 2020 like the entirety of the car, incidentally, while torque stayed steady at 146 lb-ft, and continues to do so. I’m guessing it would be difficult to tell the difference between 2018 and 2019 models off the line or while passing, as an increase of 1.35 percent might only be perceptible to professional engineers testing both model years back to back, but I was happy with the previous model’s performance and therefore continue to find the CX-3 to be a fun car to drive.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The GT includes tiny LED fog lamps, more exterior chrome, and larger 18-inch alloys.

The same engine is included with all trims, by the way, while base GX models once again come standard with a manual and FWD, and optional with a six-speed automatic with FWD or the brand’s i-Activ AWD. The mid-range GS is standard with the autobox and optional with AWD, while the GT gets both the auto and AWD standard. The CX-3 starts at just $21,045 plus freight and fees, whereas my fully loaded tester hits the road for $31,045. Those numbers don’t change one iota for 2020, although a CarCostCanada report will show you how to save up to $2,000 in additional incentives for the 2019 CX-3, says their 2019 Mazda CX-3 Canada Prices page, but average member savings have actually been $2,166. Take note that the 2020 Mazda CX-3 Canada Prices page claims up to $600 in additional incentives, although once again it’s showing average member savings at $2,166.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Fresh new LED taillights grace each GT model.

The Skyactiv-Drive automatic gains steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters in GS and GT trims, which make the little SUV more engaging to drive quickly, while only the GT gets two-inch larger 18-inch alloys on 215/50R18 all-season tires for additional grip around fast-paced corners. Handling is good despite merely making due with a semi-independent torsion or twist beam rear suspension, although this setup is common in this smallest SUV class, while the front MacPherson strut design is also par for the course and delivers good control through quick curves, while the power-assist rack-and-pinion steering provides good directional control and fairly decent feedback.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Early 2019 CX-3s had the option of Cocoa brown Nappa leather plus leatherette dash and door inserts.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with the way the CX-3 drives, especially since Mazda improved its ride quality, and together with this increased refinement is one of the nicer interiors in its class. This is nothing new for the independent Japanese brand, and while the CX-3 doesn’t quite measure up to the new CX-30 or CX-5, let alone the near-premium CX-9, at the very least needing fabric-wrapped A-pillars plus a soft-touch dash-top and door uppers to do that, the primary instrument hood is finished in stitched leatherette for an upscale look and feel, while the centre portion of the instrument panel gets a contrast-stitched and padded leatherette bolster across its middle.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The CX-3 GT delivers a truly upscale interior.

Before going any further I need to mention an interesting change taken midway through the 2019 model year. That instrument panel bolster and the door inserts were actually finished in stitched leatherette in earlier 2019 examples like my Soul Red Crystal painted tester, whereas this changed to grey Grand Luxe Suede (think soft, plush Alcantara) in the fall when I received my Snowflake White Pearl example. Now, for 2020, the suede-like material remains the only surfacing for these areas, and thanks to a massive photo gallery (just click on any photo above) you can see the difference with your own eyes.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
This late-2019 CX-3 GT doesn’t look quite as fancy due to a black interior, but believe us it’s just as nice.

This means if you’re eyeing up a new 2019 CX-3 at your local dealer (and plenty are still available due to somewhat sluggish sales during fall and winter plus the new challenge of COVID-19), you’ll now know why some 2019s have the leather look and others are all soft and cuddly. I personally like the suede a lot, and would choose it if the option was available due to its richer, more opulent appeal, plus it’s the newer of the two GT interior choices and therefore might bode better upon resale, but both are nice.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The gauge cluster includes both analogue and digital elements.

You may also notice a change in upholstery designs, with my red tester featuring the chocolate brown and cream two-tone perforated Cocoa Nappa leather interior package that’s no longer available for 2020, and the white model getting the same perforated black leather with grey piping as you’ll find in the 2020. Mazda offers the 2020 CX-3 GT with a no-cost Pure White interior option too, just like it did in 2019, so your choices are greater with the outgoing CX-3 than with the new one, as long as you can find an example with Nappa leather. No matter which version you choose, Mazda fits leatherette bolsters to each side of the centre stack and lower console, thus making sure you won’t chafe your knees. As I’ve been saying all along, the attention to detail in the CX-3 GT is impressive.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Top-line CX-3 GTs get this pop-up display that shows projected info right in the safest line of sight.

Upholsteries and trims aside, the two cars are pretty well the same other than some small details. The lovely instrument panel bolster gets visually separated from the dash above by an attractive metallic trim strip that elegantly integrates the centre vent, which would otherwise be invisible unless tilted up or down to direct air. The corner vents are circular in design, and their bezels are finished with a satin-aluminum outer ring and a piano black lacquered inner ring for the older model, this matching some other glossy black trim around the shifter and elsewhere, although the newer CX-3 GT features a glossy red inner ring that ironically would be more suitable to the older model’s red exterior.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Late-arrival 2019 and 2020 GTs get this suede-like padded bolster and red rings around the air vents.

Fortunately Mazda still offers its gorgeous trademark colour in the 2020 model for the same upgrade price of $450, while my white tester’s extra paint charge was only $200. Mazda offers the exact same seven-colour pallet for 2020 as it did for this 2019 model year, and when researching Mazda Canada dealers nationwide to find out if enough 2019 CX-3s were available to warrant this review, I noticed plenty of colour options and trims.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Maps and Waze mean that Android Auto is finally part of the CX-3 experience, although only in late-2019 and 2020 models.

If you’re into the luxury-look of satin-silver polished metal, the CX-3 will be an absolute delight. There’s more surrounding the wing-like analogue and digital primary gauge cluster, plus the thin twinned lower steering wheel spoke and upper door garnishes around the door pulls. Yet more metallic trim surrounds the fixed tablet-style infotainment display perched on centre dash top, while wonderful knurled metal rings dress up each of the three automatic climate control dials. Knurled metal also edges the infotainment controller on the lower console, which is surrounded by quick-access buttons for the main menu, audio system, navigation, radio favourites, and the back button, while a useful rotating volume dial gets the identical knurled metal treatment.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Knurled metal rings around the auto HVAC dials, padded leatherette knee protectors, and three-way heated seats are premium-level kit.

Speaking of the infotainment system, Mazda has been cold-molasses-like slow to integrate Android Auto and Apple CarPlay into this model, which means if you’re a fan of either you’ll need to choose the updated late 2019 arrival, or of course a 2020. Yes, believe it or not the otherwise very good 7.0-inch centre touchscreen display in my early 2019, complete with navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, controls for the very good seven-speaker Bose audio system that includes satellite and HD radio, automated text message reading and responding, plus more, is devoid of these two smartphone integration apps, but the newer version includes both as seen in the photos, and therefore I hooked up the Android version that works well.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The CX-3 includes this knurled metal trimmed rotating infotainment controller as well as touchscreen operation.

Features in mind, both 2019 and 2020 CX-3 GTs also include auto on/off LED headlights with adaptive cornering, auto-levelling and the aforementioned auto high beams, LED fog lamps (although they’re tiny and therefore hard to see), LED rear combination taillights with signature elements, extra chrome exterior trim, proximity-sensing keyless entry, a 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, a colour Active Driving Display (which is kind of like a head-up display), traffic sign recognition, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a powered glass sunroof, and everything already mentioned.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The Cocoa Nappa is really nice if you can find an early-2019 CX-3 GT, but you’ll forgo the newer model’s psuede trim.

Notable features pulled up from lesser trims include pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-clad shift knob, a wide-angle reverse camera (without active guidelines), Aha and Stitcher internet radio functionality, two USB charging ports, three-way heatable front seats, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder, a folding rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, a removable cargo cover, tire pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety features found in this segment, and more.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The classic black seats feature classy grey piping.

The just-noted 10-way powered seats and the tilt/telescopic steering provided enough adjustability to provide good comfort without forcing my long-legged frame to reach too far for its leather-wrapped rim, the latter easily one of the nicest in its class. Rear seat roominess is good for this smaller class of subcompact SUVs, with the new CX-30 (which really should have been dubbed CX-4 despite the name already being used in China) providing a little bit more room, performance and luxury for those willing to upgrade.   

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The rear seating area includes a folding centre armrest with integrated cupholders.

Being that the CX-30 has just arrived it’s difficult to know if it will do as well as the CX-3, but Q1 of 2020 shows the two models running neck-to-neck at 1,486 units for the older SUV and 1,420 for the new entry, and there may have been availability issues with the latter. Year-over-year Q1 comparisons show the carnage COVID-19 is inflicting to the auto industry, with the CX-3’s sales down by almost 59 percent, but believe me it’s hardly worst amongst its peers. The previously mentioned Soul is down 61 percent while the Renegade has lost 68 percent, which actually looks good when compared to the Compass that’s plunged by 71 percent. The Qashqai is even faring worse with a 74 percent drop in Q1 year-over-year sales, while the Kicks is off by 69 percent. Everything else is failing slightly better (although not necessarily with as many overall sales), but not much.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
CX-3 cargo capacity is fairly good when compared to smaller subcompact SUVs, measuring 504 litres (467 in the GT) behind its 60/40-split rear seatbacks.

Looking back at normal markets, the CX-3 had a very successful start, and earning the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s 2016 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year award right off the mark and rising to fourth in its class for 2016 and the same for 2017, plus an impressive third for 2018, but age dropped it to seventh last year, and now, as noted, the CX-30 may pass right on by until Mazda can provide us with an all-new CX-3. I’ll have a full review of the 2020 CX-30 coming soon, plus a review of a 2020 CX-3 GT, but until then you may want to consider a 2019, as there are plenty of savings to be had. This in mind, remember to check out CarCostCanada to save the most you possibly can.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The CX-3 can stow up to 1,209 litres (1,147 in the GT) of gear when the rear seats are laid flat.

In the end, any Mazda CX-3 is a good choice in this segment, particularly if you want a stylish, sporty, refined subcompact SUV that’s easy on fuel—it’s rated at 8.8 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 8.0 combined with its manual and FWD, 8.3 city, 6.9 highway and 7.7 combined with the automatic and FWD, or 8.6, 7.4 and 8.1 respectively with the auto and AWD. Just the same, this segment is beyond hot as covered earlier in this review. Therefore I recommend doing your homework so you’ll be 100 percent happy with your final choice. I believe once you’ve done your due diligence the CX-3 will be on your shortlist, as remains one of this segment’s best.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

Mazda is doing a good job of taking its brand as close to premium territory as it can without actually raising prices to the point where it has to compete directly with Audi, BMW, Mercedes and the rest…

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Mazda’s CX-5 makes a good argument against paying more for a premium brand name. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Mazda is doing a good job of taking its brand as close to premium territory as it can without actually raising prices to the point where it has to compete directly with Audi, BMW, Mercedes and the rest of the luxury labeled lot.

It starts with good outward design that translates well into all sizes and body styles, the sporty CX-3 subcompact SUV looking very similar to the fresh new CX-30, as well as the compact CX-5 shown here, and largest three-row CX-9 mid-size model, and likewise for the compact 3 and mid-size 6 series car lineup, not to mention the fabulous MX-5 sports car.

Mazda calls its latest design language KODO 2.0, or in other words this is now the second-generation of its clean and elegant “art of the car” philosophy, a glimpse of which we initially saw in its sensational Vision Coupe and Kai concepts from the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, the latter of which more or less morphed into the latest Mazda3 Sport, and is starting to affect the brand’s SUVs like this recently updated CX-5.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5’s styling is both sporty and elegant. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The CX-5 has been Mazda’s compact crossover utility since it laid its Ford Escape-based Tribute to rest in 2011, the much more modern Mazda3-based design arriving in January of 2012. The second-generation model seen here came onto the scene in 2017 and integrated much more KODO 2.0 styling into its design than its predecessor, resulting in a much more upscale looking SUV.

The real premium experience happens inside, however, with details like fabric-wrapped A-pillars and a luxuriously padded dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, and door uppers front to back, and then going so far as to trim out the cabin with a tasteful supply of anodized metal accents, this beautifully brushed treatment even decorating some of the switchgear that’s sometimes finished with knurled metal detailing, not to mention real Abachi hardwood in its top-tier Signature trim line. Mine didn’t include the Signature’s dark chocolate brown Cocoa Nappa leather and trim, the latter included on the door inserts and armrests along with the seats, but its Pure White regular leather was impressive nonetheless. It all makes for a rich, upscale environment.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
LED headlights are standard, while GT and Signature trims get more distinctive elements as well as dynamic cornering ability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, despite the luxurious appointments seen inside the SUV in the photos, it isn’t a Signature model, but even this mid-range (third-rung out of four) GT trim line is nicer inside than most competitors top-line trims, albeit devoid of over-the-top premium bits like the Signature’s aforementioned wood inlays that adorn the instrument and door panels, plus the satin chrome-plated glove box lever and power seat switches, higher end cross-stitching detail on the steering wheel, plusher Nappa leather upholstery, a black interior roof lining, a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror instead of a less elegant framed one, LED illumination for the overhead console lights, vanity mirrors, front and rear room lamps and cargo area light, and a host of upscale features like a nice bright 7.0-inch LCD multi-information display at centre, a one-inch larger 8.0-inch colour touchscreen display, a 360-degree surround parking monitor, front and rear parking sensors, gunmetal finish 19-inch alloy wheels in place of the GT’s silver-finish 19s, an off-road traction assist function to improve its ability on the trail, and the quickest Skyactiv-G 2.5 T four-cylinder engine featuring a Dynamic Pressure Turbo (DPT) good for 250 horsepower (with 93 octane premium fuel or 227 with 87 octane regular) and 310 lb-ft of torque (for 2020 it gains 10 lb-ft to 320 when fuelled with 93 octane), plus paddles for the six-speed automatic transmission.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
These 19-inch silver-painted alloys are standard with the GT. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That’s a really potent powertrain for this class and available optionally for $2,000 in as-tested GT trim (for 2020 the GT with the turbocharged engine also gets paddles, off-road traction assist, and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen display), although my tester came with the base non-turbo Skyactiv-G 2.5 four-cylinder with fuel-saving cylinder deactivation and no paddles on the steering wheel. So equipped it makes 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, which is around the same as offered by the class sales leaders with their most formidable engines, while I prefer the feel of a regular automatic over those competitors’ continuously variable transmissions (CVT) any day of the week.

Of note, Mazda also offers a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel powerplant in top-line Signature trim that puts out 168 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, the ritziest CX-5 starting at $40,950 (plus freight and fees) and topping out at $45,950 with the oil burner upgrade, so you’ll need to get the calculator out to see how long it’ll take to save $5,000 by using normally cheaper, more efficient diesel fuel. Before you do, however, make sure you check around for available examples, as the diesel feature was only available for the 2019 model year (at the time of writing there were plenty, albeit nowhere near as many as gasoline-powered variants).

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Top-tier trims also get signature LED lighting in the rear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I tested it and was impressed, but as much as I like Rudolf’s invention and was plenty happy with its 8.9 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined fuel economy, the much less expensive, and much quicker turbo-four achieves a very respectable claimed 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating as it is, so it’s no wonder the diesel was discontinued. My GT tester, which comes standard with i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) and starts at $37,450, is good for 9.8, 7.9 and 9.0 respectively, while the same engine with FWD that comes standard with mid-range $30,750 GS trim is most efficient with a respective rating of 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Even the refinement, quality of materials and near-premium excellence of this non-top-line GT trim will impress. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Believe it or not there’s a fourth engine available, the 2.5-litre four found in the $27,850 base GX without cylinder deactivation, which performs just as well yet manages just 9.7 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 8.8 combined with FWD, whereas that engine with AWD is said to consume 10.2 city, 8.2 highway and 9.3 combined. AWD is a $2,000 option in GX and GS trims, by the way, and standard with the GT and Signature.

There’s absolutely no way I’m going to itemize every feature available in each trim, not to mention the various packages, but being that I tested the GT I should go over its standard kit. Features specific to the GT that can’t be found in lesser trims (yet come standard with the Signature) include the aforementioned 19-inch alloys on 225/55 all-seasons (lower trims include 17-inch alloys on 225/65s), adaptive cornering for the headlamps, LED signatures within the headlights and taillights, LED fog lamps, LED combination tail lamps, power-folding side mirrors, plus piano black B- and C-pillar garnishes, and that’s only on the outside.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5’s dash design is artfully crafted and intelligently laid out. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Proximity-sensing access lets you inside and pushbutton ignition gets things started (although the latter is standard across the line), while the primary instrument cluster is Mazda’s classic three-gauge design with a decent sized multi-information display in the right-side dial (the 7.0-inch LCD MID is standard in GT trim for 2020), and above that a really handy windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display (ADD) (head-up display) comes complete with traffic sign recognition. Additionally, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat includes power lumbar support and two-way memory, while a six-way power-adjustable passenger’s seat is included too, as are three-way ventilated front seats, and three-way heatable rear outboard seats.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The gauges are laid out in Mazda’s sporty three-dial design. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Back to premium-level niceties, a satin-chrome front console knee pad adds class to the front seating area, as does a fabric-lined glove box and premium stitching on the front centre console, while a powered moonroof adds natural light, a Homelink universal garage door opener adds convenience, accurate navigation got me where I was going, and a 10-speaker Bose audio system upgrade sounded great thanks to an AM/FM/HD radio, seven channels of customized equalization, SurroundStage Signal Processing, Centerpoint 2 surround sound technology, AudioPilot 2 Noise Compensation, and SiriusXM satellite radio (with a three-month complimentary service). Mazda also supplies CX-5 GT and Signature owners with SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link services (with a five-year complimentary service), as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, air vents on the backside of the front console, and more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Android Auto is standard across the CX-5 line, as is Apple CarPlay. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Some other features pulled up to the GT from lower trims include automatic headlight levelling, a front wiper de-icer, radar cruise control with stop and go, a heatable steering wheel, an additional two USB ports in the rear centre armrest, and a bevy of advanced driver assistive systems such as Smart Brake Support (SBS) with forward sensing Pedestrian Detection, Distance Recognition Support System (DRSS), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS) and High Beam Control System (HBC) from second-rung GS trim, plus auto on/off LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, LED turn signal indicators on door mirrors, rain-sensing intermittent wipers, an electronic parking brake, dual USB ports and an auxiliary audio input, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Aha and Stitcher internet radio, SMS text messaging read and respond function, as well as all the expected active and passive safety systems from the base GX. There’s plenty more, but I’ll leave something for you to discover.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The sides of the lower console are padded leatherette, and that metal-edged knob just below the shifter is for controlling the infotainment system. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The CX-5 is spacious and comfortable no matter which trim you purchase, with excellent front and rear seating, including ample room for three abreast in the rear row. Legroom and headroom is good too, while the rear outboard heaters are a nice touch, although the controls can’t be accessed if someone’s sitting in the middle position. Now that I’m griping, a bright and airy panoramic sunroof would be welcome in top-tier GT and Signature models.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Yes, that’s a fabric-wrapped A-pillar embellished by a beautifully detailed Bose tweeter. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

More important than that is the CX-5’s best-in-class 40/20/40 split folding rear seatbacks with convenient cargo sidewall-mounted release levers. I’m always calling for a centre pass-through and this is an even better solution, because there’s more than enough room for an entire family’s skis, poles and snowboards down the middle while boots, helmets and other gear is stowed in back with rear passengers comfortably occupying each window seat. Once again I bring up the folly of housing the rear seat warming buttons within the folding armrest, where they can’t be accessed when the centre pass-through is lowered. Hopefully Mazda will rethink this decision and relocate the rear seat heater switchgear to the door panels when the model comes up for redesign. On the positive, the CX-5 can load up to 875 litres (30.9 cubic feet) of cargo behind the rear seatbacks and 1,687 litres (59.6 cu ft) when they’re loaded flat, making it one of the roomier compact crossovers in its mainstream volume-branded class.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The rich looking CX-5 GT gets the no-cost option of a Pure White leather interior, and believe it or not Signature trim is even nicer. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Mazda tops off all this roomy luxury with performance that comes very close to premium as well, although in my base GT tester I’m not referring specifically to straight-line power as much as ride and handling. The sense of quality starts with well-insulated doors and body panels, so that everything is solid feeling upon closure and nice and quiet once underway, while the ride is firm but never harsh, more akin to an Audi or BMW than a Mercedes or Lexus. Still, that translates into good manoeuvrability around town and better than average agility when pushed hard. Mazda relies on tried and tested engineering to achieve these results, its front suspension made up of MacPherson struts with coil springs and stabilizer bar, and its rear suspension incorporating an independent multi-link setup with coil springs and stabilizer bar.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The rear seating area is large and comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As noted earlier, the base engine is on par with some of the class leaders’ top powerplants as far as acceleration goes, but more importantly it’s smooth and efficient, while the six-speed automatic transmission was so smooth it made me wonder if Mazda hadn’t adopted a CVT into its drivetrain. Of course, it shifts like a regular automatic when revs climb, and while this is a very good thing that performance fans will appreciate, it once again goes about its business smoothly. While the base GT doesn’t offer paddles, you can shift manually via its console-mounted gear lever, and take note Mazda does provide a Sport mode that certainly gives it more pop off the line and better passing performance, but that’s it for extra drive settings, the default mode taking care of any eco and comfort duties that a driver might otherwise want to select.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
While initially appearing upscale, the heated rear seat controls can’t be accessed if someone is sitting in the middle or if gear is stowed through the centre pass-through. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

In summary, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 is an exceptionally good entry that should be considered seriously by anyone purchasing in its compact SUV class. The Canadian segment leader is Toyota’s RAV4 with a category-best 65,248 sales in calendar year 2019, followed closely by Honda’s CR-V with 55,859 deliveries, Ford’s Escape (all-new for 2020) at 39,504, Nissan’s Rogue at 37,530, Hyundai’s Tucson at 30,075, and the CX-5 at 27,696 unit sales. While the CX-5 might seem far down the list at first glance, keep in mind there are 14 entries in this class, and the next best-selling VW Tiguan only managed 19,250 deliveries, while the Chevrolet Equinox found just 18,503 buyers, Jeep Cherokee just 13,687, Subaru Forester only 13,059, Kia Sportage 12,637, GMC Terrain 12,023, Mitsubishi Outlander 10,701, and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 5,101 unit sales. What’s more, the CX-5 was one of just six models to increase its numbers year-over-year, the rest losing ground.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5’s 40/20/40-split rear seatback is another premium touch that makes it easier to live with than most competitors. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Right now is a good time to buy a CX-5, because Mazda is offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives on 2019 models (and plenty of 2019s are available right across Canada), and for those wanting a 2020 CX-5, up to $1,000 in incentives. Make sure to check CarCostCanada for all the details, including itemized pricing of trims, packages and individual options, manufacturer financing/leasing deals, rebate information, and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that can help you negotiate the best possible deal. Most retailers are available by phone or online, and of course they’re motivated to sell.

All said I highly recommend the CX-5 in this class, especially for those who appreciate the finer things in life, yet would rather not have to pay a premium price.

After first driving the all-new 2019 Mazda3, I would’ve immediately said it was by far the best car in its compact segment. Then the new 2020 Toyota Corolla arrived, and while the Mazda3 might still…

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT FWD and AWD Road Test

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The new Mazda3 Sport look fabulous, especially in top-line GT trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

After first driving the all-new 2019 Mazda3, I would’ve immediately said it was by far the best car in its compact segment. Then the new 2020 Toyota Corolla arrived, and while the Mazda3 might still nudge it out of the way for tops in class in my books, it no longer holds such an obvious lead.

Of course, sales numbers and what I find most appealing don’t always correlate, the Honda Civic leading this category in deliveries by a country mile. In fact, the Civic is the best-selling car in Canada and has been for years. Even after losing 12.8 percent in year-over-year 2019 sales it still managed to top 60,000 (60,139 to be exact) units, while the Corolla was second after a 2.5 percent year-over-year loss with 47,596 sales, the Hyundai Elantra was third after a 5.5 percent downturn resulting in 39,463 deliveries, and the Mazda3 you see on this page, along with its four-door sibling, was fourth after a surprising 20.4 percent drop to 21,276 units.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
Red or grey? FWD or AWD? Manual or automatic? So many choices, but one great car. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

There are many others in this class too, Volkswagen’s Golf coming close to beating the 3 with 19,668 unit sales after an 8.4 percent dip, but to be fair to VW we need to lump its 17,260 Jetta deliveries into the mix after a gain of 14.1 percent, for a total of 36,928 VeeDub units and an effective fourth place, while Kia’s Forte also gained 8.0 percent for 15,549 unit sales. I won’t go into detail about the segment’s sub-10k competitors, but will say some, including Chevy’s Cruze and Ford’s Focus, have called it quits whereas Nissan’s Sentra, with just 7,719 units sold, probably should (although I haven’t driven the new one yet so we’ll need to wait and see if it’s got what it takes to break away from the bottom-feeder crowd).

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The Mazda3 Sport certainly doesn’t come up short on styling. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Pulling the outgoing Sentra up beside any recent Mazda3 makes the Nissan look rather dowdy, but such is the case for comparing a car that hadn’t been significantly updated for seven years with one that’s been regularly redesigned, the last time being this very model year. I don’t want to make this review a hatchet job on the past Nissan Sentra, however, because a new one is coming and we’ll see how well it stacks up after testing. Still, I can’t believe Nissan will make the massive leap forward necessary in a single generation for the Sentra to measure up to the best in this class, which in my opinion is the Mazda3.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
Mazda offers a variety of wheel upgrades that really make the 3 stand out. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

So why am I writing a review about a 2019 model so far into the 2020 calendar year? That’s easy, as there are plenty of new 2019s still available throughout Canada in every trim. I don’t specifically know why this is the case. Possibly Mazda Canada didn’t expect the 20-plus percent downturn in sales last calendar year and therefore overestimated their allocation, but you should take advantage of any savings nonetheless, because the 2020 Mazda3 hasn’t changed very much in either four-door sedan or hatchback body style. I’m covering the five-door Sport model in this review and will write another review of the sedan shortly. For this review I’ve tested two top-line GT trims in both front- and all-wheel drive, so I’ll cover most of the important issues, particularly what it’s like to drive the new i-Activ AWD system.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
LED headlights come standard across the line, while adaptive cornering capability is standard with the GT. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Regarding potential discounts for a 2019 Mazda3 Sport, CarCostCanada is reporting up to $1,000 in additional incentives without haggling, compared to $750 with the 2020. That’s not a lot, but I’m guessing you’ll be able to negotiate a larger discount if you have all the information you need to do so. This in mind, a CarCostCanada membership will provide access to dealer invoice pricing, so you’ll know exactly how much the dealer paid for the car you’re negotiating on. This could save you thousands with or without a trade, plus CarCostCanada also provides info about the latest manufacturer rebates. Make sure to check them out before you visit the dealership.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The GT comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Back to the car in question, the five-door Sport model is mechanically identical to the Mazda3 sedan despite its performance-oriented name, which gives it both 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre SkyActiv engines, the first good for 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque and the upgrade making 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions standard and optional across the entire lineup (even in top-line GT trim, which is a bonus for performance fans), the former a slick-shifting relatively short-throw gearbox with a nice, easy, evenly weighted clutch take-up, and the latter providing manual-shift capabilities including paddle shifters in GT trim, while both transmissions come with a drive mode selector featuring a very responsive Sport setting. i-Activ AWD is only available with the automatic, incidentally.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
These great looking 18-inch rims add a level of sporty sophistication to the near-premium Mazda3. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

For 2020, the Mazda3 Sport GT comes standard with proximity-sensing keyless entry, which was previously part of the optional Premium package that my 2019 test car includes. The Premium package adds a more stylish frameless rearview mirror for 2020, plus satin chrome trim throughout the cabin, although this 2019 model certainly wasn’t devoid of the latter.

For 2019, trims include the base GX starting at $21,300 plus freight and fees, the mid-range GS from $24,000, and the top-line GT from $25,900, with the 2.0-litre engine found only in the base model and 2.5 standard in GS and GT trims. The automatic transmission costs an extra $1,300 across the line, while i-Activ AWD adds $1,700 over and above the price of automatic-equipped models.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The LED taillight design was certainly influenced by the MX-5 sports car. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Both direct-injection, 16-valve, dual-overhead cam engines are given Mazda’s trademark SkyActiv name, but only the larger mill features segment-exclusive cylinder deactivation, while both can run on regular fuel, the former claimed to achieve a Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 8.7 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.8 combined with its most efficient 2.0-litre four connected to the base manual transmission, or 8.6 city, 6.7 highway and 7.7 combined when the same engine is mated to the automatic. Alternatively, the 2.5-litre four is said to be capable of 9.2 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 8.1 combined with its manual gearbox, 9.0 city, 6.8 highway and 8.0 combined with its automatic, or 9.8, 7.4 and 8.7 with its auto when mated to AWD.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
While the red car features a more traditional black interior, this black and red combination looks fantastic. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Considering the power advantage, the top-line engine doesn’t give up much in economy. Of course, if you choose to use most of its power all the time you won’t be able to meet the claimed numbers, but I only flogged my two weeklong loaners for short testing purposes despite the spirited performance offered by the 2.5-litre four. As luck would have it, the red FWD model with the black interior came with the six-speed manual, and the grey AWD car with the red interior featured its standard six-speed auto with paddles, allowing me a nearly complete driving experience when it comes to the GT model.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The 12-speaker Bose audio system in the GT features these gorgeous drilled aluminum speaker grilles. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

First off, both models provide excellent driver ergonomics, which isn’t always the case in this compact class or higher. The driver’s seat, which is 10-way-powered including lumbar support in GS and GT trims when their respective Luxury and Premium packages are added, is wholly comfortable with decent lateral support and very good lower back support. Even more important for me is a tilt and telescopic steering column that provides excellent reach, due to my longer legs and shorter torso. Fortunately the Mazda3’s wheel can actually be pulled rearward more than necessary, which allows for ideal driver positioning regarding comfort and control.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
What do you think? Black or … (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The rear seating area is comfortable and spacious too. Headroom is good, with about three and a half inches of airspace left above my head, about four ahead of my knees, and plenty of space to put my feet underneath the driver seat when it was set up for my five-foot-eight frame. Likewise, I had about four inches between my left hip and shoulder to the door panel, which was certainly enough, plus there’s enough room to seat three average-sized adults in back, but I’d rather not have someone larger than a child in the middle on a longer trip.

Speaking of three being a crowd, Mazda includes a wide folding centre armrest with dual integrated cupholders too, but the 3 Sport doesn’t include a lot of extras in the rear seating area, such as overhead reading lights, vents on the backside of the centre console or anywhere else, USB charging ports or any other type of device charger, or for that matter heated seats.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
…. red? The latter sure catches the eye. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The cargo compartment was definitely spacious enough for my needs. It’s nicely carpeted all the way up the sidewalls and of course the backs of each 60/40 folding seat, which unfortunately don’t offer a centre pass-through (as is the case with most competitors). The hard shell carpeted cargo cover is easy to remove, and needs to be flipped upside down on the cargo floor or shoved behind the front seats to store, while the 3 provides 569 litres of dedicated storage behind the rear seatbacks or 1,334 when they’re fully folded.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The steering wheel is a thing of beauty, and very comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While we’re inside, I should talk about some key Mazda3 attributes, interior quality and refinement. The theme is minimalist, albeit impressively finished for the class. In fact, few mainstream volume-branded compact models come as close to delivering a premium product. The 3’s entire dash top and all door uppers are finished in a higher grade of padded composite than usual, while the instrument panel and door panels just below are covered in an even plusher stitched leatherette, one of my testers’ interiors even dyed in a rich crimson red to match its perforated leather upholstery.

I’ve liked the newest Mazda3 since first testing it in the aforementioned sedan body style, particularly the horizontal dash design theme that’s visually strengthened by a bright metal strip of trim spanning the entire instrument panel from door to door. It cuts right through the dual-zone automatic climate control interface, and provides a clean and tidy lower framing of the vents both left and right. This top-line model adds more brushed metal, including beautifully drilled aluminum speaker grilles plus plenty of satin-aluminized trim elsewhere. Mazda continues its near-premium look and feel by wrapping the front door uppers in the same high-quality cloth as the roofliner.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
A new 7.0-inch partially digital display modernizes the 3’s gauge cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Framed by a lovely leather-clad sport steering wheel, the rim held in place by stylishly thin spokes endowed with high-quality metallic and composite switchgear, the primary instrument cluster is a mix of outer analogue dials and inner digital functionality, organized into Mazda’s traditional three-gauge layout. The speedometer is at centre, and therefore part of the larger 7.0-inch screen that doubles as a multi-information display. It’s not as fully featured as some in the industry, but it certainly serves its purpose well.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The narrow display limits the size of the camera, but it’s high in quality and generously equipped. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The 8.8-inch centre display is a tablet-style design sitting wide and low, yet due to a narrow profile it makes for a relatively small screen compared to most currently on the market. This will either be a positive or a negative depending on how much you like big screen infotainment, or not, and only required some extra attention paid to the backup camera when reversing. The camera is nice and clear with a high resolution, while active guidelines are provided, but it’s a bit on the small side.

The rest of its functions work very well, with Mazda once again going with a white on black background for the majority of interface panels, except of course navigation which is bright and colourful, as is the satellite radio display that shows attractive station graphics. The system is solely controlled by a rotating dial on the lower console, which once again gives the car a more premium look and feel than the mainstream segment’s usual touchscreen centre display, but I would’ve appreciated the ability to also tap, swipe and pinch the screen for various functions. Nevertheless, I was able to do most things easily with this infotainment system, including connecting my smartphone via Android Auto (Apple CarPlay is also included).

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The Mazda3’s switchgear is very high in quality, as is most everything else in the impressive cabin. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I should probably itemize everything in the previously-noted upgrade packages, the GS trim’s Luxury package featuring the 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory mentioned earlier, plus leatherette upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a powered glass moonroof with a manual-sliding sunshade, whereas the GT comes standard with the auto-dimming centre mirror and moonroof while being available with a Premium package that exchanges the faux leather upholstery for real hides and including the power/memory driver’s seat, plus it links the exterior mirrors to the memory seat while adding auto-dimming to the driver’s side.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The infotainment system is operated by this rotating dial and surrounding buttons. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Additional GT Premium package features include 18-inch alloy wheels in a black metallic finish, a windshield wiper de-icer, proximity-sensing keyless entry, a windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display (ADD) (a.k.a. head-up display), rear parking sensors, a HomeLink wireless garage door opener, SiriusXM Satellite Radio (with a complimentary three-month trial subscription), SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link services (with a complimentary five-year trial subscription), the aforementioned navigation system, Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), and a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems including Smart Brake Support Rear (SBS-R) that automatically stops the car if it detects something in the way (like a curb, wall or lighting standard), and Smart Brake Support Rear Crossing (SBS-RC) that does the same albeit after detecting a car or (hopefully) a pedestrian, these last two features complementing the Smart Brake Support (SBS) and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) automatic emergency braking from the GS, plus that mid-range model’s Distance Recognition Support System (DRSS), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), forward-sensing Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Driver Attention Alert (DAA), High Beam Control System (HBC), and last but hardly least, Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go. Incidentally, the base GX model features standard Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), meaning the occupants of a Mazda3 GT with its Premium package are as wholly protected as in any luxury branded alternative.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The 3 GT’s 10-way powered driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I could go on and on talking about GX, GS and GT features, such as the GX trim’s standard LED headlamps, LED taillights, LED interior lighting front and rear, pushbutton ignition, electromechanical parking brake, three-way heatable front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, SMS text message reading/responding capability, and more, plus I really appreciated the sunglasses holder in the overhead console that comes standard in the GS, which protected the lenses of my Ray-Bans thanks to its soft felt lining, not to mention the GS model’s auto on/off headlights (the base model only shuts them off), rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, two-zone auto HVAC, and heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim (I love this feature in the depths of winter).

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The red leather seats really make the Mazda3 Sport’s interior pop! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The GT’s standard Adaptive (cornering) Front-lighting System (AFS) with automatic levelling and signature highlights front and back made for clear night vision, plus its upgraded 12-speaker Bose audio system provided excellent sound quality, and the 18-inch alloys on 215/45 all-season rubber were no doubt an improvement through the corners when compared to the GX and GS models’ 205/60R16 all-season tires on 16-inch alloys, the fact that Mazda doesn’t offer steel wheels with covers like most of its rivals being a bonus nevertheless.

Speaking of wheels and tires, the sportier Mazda3 GT produces a slightly firmer ride than the two lesser trims, but it certainly never felt rough. On the positive it handles sublimely, always feeling stable and in control despite its rather remedial front strut and rear torsion beam suspension setup, the aforementioned 2020 Corolla, the Civic and others coming standard with fully independent chassis designs.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
Rear seat roominess is good, and the level of quality is just like the front seating area. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Additionally, the more potent 2.5-litre engine provided a lot of get-up-and-go, while its Sport mode made a significant difference in performance off the line and during passing manoeuvres. The automatic’s manual mode only requires the flick of the shift lever to engage, while as previously noted Mazda provides the GT with shift paddles on the steering wheel that work best when manual mode is chosen, but they’re not needed in order to change gears. Then again, the manual shifts so nicely you may want to save $1,300 and swap cogs on your own, which would be my preference being that I don’t commute daily.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The 3 allows for a lot of cargo when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are upright … (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The AWD system, incidentally, makes response off the line immediate with zero to very little front wheel slip, which isn’t the case with the FWD version, particularly in wet weather. I also noted more high-speed control in both wet and dry conditions with the AWD car around corners, although I must say that my manual-equipped FWD tester provided its own level of control that an automatic simply can’t match when really pushing hard. I’d personally go with AWD, however, just to save me the hassle of chaining up on my way to the ski hill or when traveling up country mid-winter, as I’m sure this feature would turn the Mazda3 into a little mountain goat when matched with a good set of winter tires.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
…. or all the way down. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

All in all the Mazda3 is a great driver’s car, as well constructed as many luxury-branded compacts, more than adequately filled with features, popular enough so that its resale value remains high, impressively reliable, and safe according to the IIHS that gave the U.S. version a Top Safety Pick award for 2019. Added to all this it’s one of the best looking models in the compact segment, once again providing a premium appearance that seems pricier than its reasonable window sticker proves. I can’t help but recommend the Mazda3 to anyone wanting an excellent compact car at a great value.