Believe it or not, people do still actually buy small cars in this country. Yes, there’s a continuing mass exodus for SUVs and crossover-type vehicles but a few level-headed souls remain who choose to open their wallets for an affordable compact machine.
This migration of buyers has pushed several major automakers to put their efforts into this segment In The Bin which, fortunately for us, means the remaining competitors are some good’uns. One of the best? The little Mazda 3.
One’s first selection in this Choose Your Own Adventure is selecting between sedan and hatchback models of the 3. The latter is priced roughly $2,000 higher than its brother, not an insignificant chunk of change at this end of the market. In fact, it represents about a 10 percent hike, as if someone added five grand onto the sticker of a Tahoe. In numbers most shoppers will understand, that’s about $10 extra biweekly.
Still, the hatch’s practicality can’t be denied and it is the better-looking of these fraternal Mazda twins to this author’s jaundiced eyes. Some reviews carped about that massive D-pillar creating a large blind spot and, after having seat time roughly one year ago, this is a valid complaint. But it’s one with which I would be willing to live given the extra cargo capacity and dose of style.
This sets the floor at $22,750 for a Mazda 3 2.5 S entry-level trim. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter, naturally-aspirated engine making 186 horsepower and a like amount of torque. That power is funneled through the front wheels at this price, and the sole transmission option is a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive (or the manual transmission) doesn’t appear until further up the food chain.
Economies of scale ensure kit like an eight-speaker audio system and infotainment with all the expected gubbins are included in the base car. Even radar-guided cruise control is on board. But remember that giant D-pillar mentioned earlier? Blind-spot monitoring is absent from the S, making those lane changes on the 405 trickier than they need to be. Suddenly, upgrading to the Select trim for an extra $1,350 seems wise. It brings those eyes in the back of yer head (or at least on the tips of the mirrors) plus niceties like dual-zone climate control and leather touchpoints in the interior. There is no change to the powertrain.
Which brings us to the most important question of all: how much for the Turbo? Deploying 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels in this attractively styled package is a treat that will set you back $31,550 plus destination. A ’22 GTI S is about two grand cheaper, albeit with half the driven wheels, though it undercuts the (also FWD) Veloster N by roughly $1,000.
But if you’re seeking a hatch, not necessarily one that’s hot, the old advice about selecting wine at a restaurant applies: Choose the second least expensive option.
Please note the prices listed here are in American dollars and are currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less (obscene market conditions notwithstanding). Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.
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