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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Review: 2020 Mazda3 2.0 Speed Sportback

Mazda says the time for buying a compact car for practicality is now over; that role now goes to crossovers and SUVs which are the new-age family cars. With that, compact cars are all about style, emotion, individualism—things which are innate in the all-new Mazda3. Above all, it’s impressive because of how everything comes together. It’s a cohesive, unified whole—as if designers and engineers were always in sync and in the process, creating a car that’s best described as, “art that you can drive.”

The Mazda3 is a sight to behold, especially when decked in a signature color such as Soul Red Crystal. The long hood, slightly tapered waist, and absence of needless plastic trimming make it one of the most evocative cars of any price. It commands a second look whenever it’s parked for the night, and will truly standout of any carpark. Its design is also the first reminder on how far Mazda would go on its quest to create automotive art. The thin A-pillars necessitated the world’s first application of ultra-high strength steel; the cleverly-hidden wipers integrate the washers and uses a new type of motor; the door handles are of a single piece; and the lighting units serve as both headlights and front fog lights. A slight deviation in any of these would have altered the design, so it’s very clear that Mazda took no shortcuts whatsoever.

The very same uncompromising approach can be said about the Mazda3’s interior. Open the door, get in, and take a deep breath—the smell of leather permeates every inch of the cabin. The seating is low, the dash high—it’s all a bit cocooning, personal, and different. As cohesive as its exterior is, the interior is even more so. Not a single button, stalk, or control is out of place. It’s come so far that the Mazda3 feels like the product of one company, Mazda, as opposed to an assembly of a dozen or hundreds of different suppliers. The name of the game here is minimalism and with that, controls are hidden from plain sight. Yet, unlike efforts done by anyone else, remains easy to use and understand. Functions in the Mazda Connect system are not more than two menus deep, and even so, pictograms and explanations in Plain English make them immediately understandable.

The low driving position and thick C-pillars may conjure up images of terrible blind spots, and to some degree, there are (especially from the back), but the wide mirrors and frameless rear-view mirror do minimize them. Even so, front and rear sensors, and a high-resolution 360-degree camera help in tackling tight situations. That said, the sensors are sensitive, and this may cause some irritation as motorcycles filter through stop-and-go traffic. For sanity’s sake, it’s best to turn off the sensors except when parking. Also, in this Speed guise, it’s worth noting that the front is noticeably lower than the previous model. With that, expect it to scrape through steep driveways.

The steering wheel offers a wide range of adjustment and together with the highly supportive seats, is posture-perfect, making driving an entirely fatigue-free affair. Even more surprising, the same supportive seat design is present for those at the back as well. However, those seated in the back will have to be content being squished by the lack of knee- and headroom; and that’s after getting their heads banged up upon entry.

In creating the new Mazda3, engineers say they didn’t seek out the competition. Instead, they sought the help of psychologists and ergonomists to find out how the human body behaves, and how things like movement elicits feelings of joy and happiness. It’s come to a point that Mazda’s gotten it down to a mathematical formula; a formula so accurate that when they did decide to drive the competition, they managed to come out on top.

Admittedly, a round-the-block test drive isn’t enough to convince anyone about all this human-centric design. As a matter of fact, the ride can come across as firm. It’s only when its driven or ridden more when it starts to feel different.

Traditionally, engineers reduce the suspension rebound to improve the ride, in the Mazda3, it’s all about controlling it. By unifying the development of the body, suspension, tires, and even seats, it reduces secondary shake and vibration to near zero. Anyone would be skeptical at first, but try this simple exercise: read the contents of the heads-up display, or as a passenger, a text message or Facebook status update—it’s possible without getting dizzy. Why? Because the head is kept steady. It’s similar to walking—the body never gets dizzy when walking because its balances itself. It’s this sense of innate balance that the Mazda3 taps into.

This same sense of balance happens when you drive it spiritedly. Again, it’s not about power or even overcoming a power deficit against its competition; rather, it’s about predictability. In a straight line, a handful of compact cars will smoke it; they might even be faster around a race track. But every inch of the way, it’ll be a struggle with an unplanned mid-corner correction or whatever else. Not so much with the Mazda3.

It’s all about natural progression. For one, the steering is precise and linear. Then, the chassis is also willing to rotate, with no traces of float and no excess lateral motions from the rear. It even has torque vectoring control, but unlike in other applications, it’s not here to maximize traction; rather, it’s there to smooth out cornering, specifically the transitions between roll and pitch. As a result, it’s easy to know the Mazda3’s limit, and even when it’s crossed, it’s always easy to catch. A caveat is that the chassis engineers have done it so well that they’ve eliminated the forward pitching during heavy braking resulting in a rather wooden brake feel.

The same story goes with the Mazda3’s engine. On paper, the Skyactiv-G engine doesn’t pull off mega numbers: 154 horsepower for the 2.0-liter. In reality though, it’s a well-matched engine to the chassis. Plus, it’s pleasant and refined. It helps achieve impressive NVH levels even at speeds in excess of 100 km/h. Dig deeper, and it’ll be more than happy to sing at wide-open throttle its entire life. The 6-speed automatic is a willing accomplice, happily revving the snot out of the engine, while staying smooth and intuitive. It always seems to know that a spirited drive is coming up, and will downshift through multiple gears to keep the pace up. Paddle shifters and a Sport mode are standard, but they’re almost always unused. Interestingly, when it comes to fuel economy, the Mazda3 achieves 10 km/L—a great number, but is actually lower than the previous Mazda3. The reason? The new one makes do without the i-ELOOP kinetic energy regeneration system.

Impeccably crafted and mechanically impressive as it is, the Mazda3 delivers its final ace with value. Aside from the 360-degree camera, this 2.0 Speed adds adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, red leather seats, a sunroof, dual zone climate control, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory, 12-speaker Bose sound system, and Mazda i-Activsense which bundles radar-based active cruise control, blindspot monitoring, front and reverse smart brake support, and front cross traffic alert—all for P 1.590-million.

Others may see the all-new Mazda3 as overcomplicated and overengineered—filled with engineering details which will escape the usual buyer. However, by realizing that Mazda sees the compact car buyer as being personal and emotional—they’ve designed and engineered the Mazda3 to fulfill that exact role. Design fads fade and technology can always be replaced, but by tugging at the heart, Mazda hopes for a long-lasting emotional bond. It’s a different strategy in the compact car segment for sure, but because of that, it also makes the Mazda3 all the more unique.

2020 Mazda3 2.0 Speed Sportback
Ownership 2020 Mazda3 2.0 Speed Sportback
Year Introduced 2019
Vehicle Classification Compact Car
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door hatchback
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 154 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 200 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 10 km/L @ 14 km/h,
13.33 km/L @ 18 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,660
Width (mm) 1,795
Height (mm) 1,435
Wheelbase (mm) 2,725
Curb Weight (kg) 1,346
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Bridgestone Turanza T005A 215/45 R 18 W (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front and Rear, with Camera
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Front and Rear Smart Brake Support
Driver Attention Alert
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active
Fog Lamps Headlamp Integrated
Auto Lights Yes, Auto High Beam
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 10-way with memory
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 6-way
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Dual Zone, with Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 12, Bose
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Was first concerned about the torsion beam but after doing comprehensive research, it's not an ordinary torsion beam. After a test drive and more research, I've sold my 2017 3 hatch and bought the 2020 sedan. The sportback is just too compromised in the rear if you'll have rear passengers and is the more elegant choice.

    Best car around the 1.5m price if you want to enjoy everyday owning it and driving it.

    1. congrats on the car bro, can you tell us a bit more about it. especially the drive say on a day to day basis and our ever so exhausting metro manila traffic?

    2. Best car to drive around the city. Excellent soundproofing, top notch sound system, best car seats in the market, premium material cabin design and materials. The negative is you'll spend slightly more on fuel. Avg'd 5km/L in heavy city traffic.(Odo is less than 500km). Overall, best choice in the segment. Regarding space, I'm 5'10 and I have no qualms seating in the back. The sportback however, is a bit tighter in rear headroom and has a darker feel inside due to the black headliner.

  2. I don't like this review, seems more like a promotional.

  3. At that price you're better off getting the hybrid corolla. They both look nice and sharp but after you own either for a year it all goes down to fuel economy. Besides all Mazda looks similar

    1. Depends on your priorities. If you want to satisfy the heart, pick the Mazda. Pick the corolla if you prioritize fuel economy. For me, the feeling of satisfaction that the Mazda 3 gives to the owner everyday is priceless.

    2. if you don't care about your rear passenger's comfort. maganda naman i-drive kase

    3. Mazda Philippines should reintroduce the slick manual version of the mazda 3 and 6 as this is the main selling point of mazda's if you find enjoyment in driving.

  4. if they adjusted the c pillar window size, it could have been the modern Brera

  5. previous gen has tight second row knee space , is there an improvement?

  6. what features do you lose if you opt for the Base Hatchback compared to this TOTL variant?

  7. I bought a Mazda3 speed2.0 in early 2015 as they first appeared in the market.... it was a head turner then and ti
    ll now. It is beautiful inside out, I also owned a corolla prior to that, comfortable ride is beyond compare. If you are after driving pleasure choose Mazda but if you are looking for a tough car then... Corolla is for you.


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