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The Mazda3 looks like the bell of the ball with its sleek, modern design. With a low, wide stance and a bold front grille, either the sedan or hatchback version is achingly attractive. Apparently, the car-buying public doesn’t think so. It’s the least-popular compact sedan, and that’s worrying because it’s a fantastic vehicle.

The Mazda3 is a well-equipped car, but no one is buying one
Mazda Mazda3 sedan (left) and Mazda3 hatchback (right) | Mazda Newsroom

Mazda3 sales slump

Mazda’s Mazda3 is the worst-selling compact car of 2023, plain and simple. Reports from GoodCarBadCar indicate just 9,914 models were sold through the year’s first four months. In comparison, the following five cars fared much better:

Make and modelSales through April 2023
Honda Civic61,865
Toyota Corolla 59,704
Hyundai Elantra45,709
Kia Forte41,708
Subaru Impreza12,398

Some could say that Americans are hopping out of their compact sedans and into crossovers and SUVs. However, every model in the segment posted double-digit increases from 2022, apart from the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda3. Korean sedans like the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte saw the most growth, with 39% and 25% year-over-year gains.

For the Mazda3, the poor numbers are nothing new. In nearly five years, Mazda pushed out more than 5,000 units in a month only once. But why? Is there an issue hiding under the seats?

Is the Mazda Mazda3 a well-performing car?

It may not get the love it deserves, but the compact Mazda is a real driver’s car. Each trim level comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel propulsion is a $1,400 optional extra in the Carbon Edition and above. The Mazda3 punches above its segment in terms of performance dynamics. Not only will it smooth out potholes and bumpy urban surfaces, but it’ll remain fairly flat around a tight backroad bend.

EngineTransmissionHPTorque (lb-ft)
2.5-liter four-cylinderSix-speed automatic or manual191186
2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinderSix-speed automatic or manual250320

The new base engine for 2023 offers an additional 36 horsepower over the 2.0-liter four-pot it replaces. Despite the power increase, fuel economy improves with added cylinder deactivation. The current Mazda3 has an EPA-rated 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. That’s one mpg better on the highway than the 2022 sedan. But it’s not all about efficiency.

With the spicy turbo-four, the Mazda3 will hit 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.6 seconds, Car and Driver reports. But remember, those figures are had by using 93-octane fuel. Mazda says 87-octane at the pump will drop the horsepower to 227 and torque to 310 lb-ft.

How’s the interior?

Mazda’s Mazda3 also goes far beyond its competitors with its high-quality cabin. Although it’s a minimalist design, it’s packed with plenty of soft-touch points and advanced technology features. In the center stack, drivers are welcomed by an 8.8-inch touchscreen integrated into the dashboard. The base Mazda3 S comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay playing through an eight-speaker stereo, but the range-topping Premium Plus adds in a bespoke Bose 12-speaker audio system.

Otherwise, the Mazda3 is one of the most spacious compact cars, even if the low roofline may sacrifice a bit of rear headroom and slightly obstruct the driver’s line of sight. The sedan provides a somewhat subpar 13.2 cubic feet of cargo space, but the five-door hatchback has a much-appreciated 20.1 cubes.

The newest version of Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE safety system is the most well-stocked yet. Standard driver assistance features include:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Driver attention monitoring
  • Forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Rearview camera

Above the S, the S Select will gain blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Mazda’s Premium Plus will include front and rear parking sensors, rear crossing brake support, traffic jam assist, and a 360-degree camera.  

Why is the Mazda3 so unpopular?

One of the downsides of the Mazda3 is that the six-speed manual isn’t offered with the all-wheel drive configuration. As well, the turbo-four is a pricey add-on. Nevertheless, there’s a trim level to suit every need with six. The following are Mazda MSRPs without destination fees and equipped with front-wheel drive only:

Trim levelsSedanHatchback
S Select$23,950$24,950
S Preferred $25,550$26,550
Carbon Edition$27,200$28,200
S Premium$29,400$29,150
Turbo Premium Plus$34,000$35,300

With reasonable prices off the showroom floor, one may suspect that the Mazda3 is an expensive car to maintain. But it isn’t. RepairPal explains that myths about high-price Mazda maintenance are unfounded. With an average annual repair cost of $433, it ranks ninth out of 36 compact cars and has a lower probability of needing a significant fix.

The slump in Mazda3 sales is hard to explain. Mazda is pushing to roll out a modular and scalable EV platform by 2025, but the compact hasn’t taken a back seat. The mid-cycle refresh came in 2022, and it’s an unbelievably well-furnished car. Even though it’s one of only two mass-market compact sedans to offer all-wheel drive, maybe all the customers migrated to crossovers instead.


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