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Every time an automaker launches its latest model, the experts line up to take these vehicles for a spin. Once they’ve driven and experienced the ride, they’ll offer up a review, to help consumers make their purchasing decisions. But some reviews, like those offered by MotorTrend, offer some perspective over time, with their “long-term updates.”

The MotorTrend gurus offered some stellar feedback regarding the impressive little 2020 Mazda3. It may be proving to be a luxurious and reliable option for the compact sedan segment.

A first look at the 2020 Mazda3

Based on the opinions of many auto experts, the Mazda3 is one compact car worth a look. New for 2020, Mazda has added the full suite of driver assistance features as standard across all trim levels. It’s a fun to drive ride and offers premium interior materials, making it feel more upscale. The audio systems are brag-worthy as well.

A few cons listed in the reviews include limited leg and headroom for rear passengers, along with less cargo space than others in its class. Some also cite a slight visibility hindrance out the rear, due to trunk lid and roof pillars.

How the 2020 Mazda3 measures up to its competitors

Mazda is trying to transition the brand away from that former, sporty “zoom, zoom” feel, to be more luxurious. Compared to the Honda Civic, the plushier features are noticeably better in the Mazda.

However, the Civic wins in the interior space dimensions. The 2020 Toyota Corolla is redesigned and impressive, in styling, features, and value. But, some suggest it’s not as fun to drive as the Mazda3, and it offers about the same rear headroom.

The Kia Forte is another worthy contender, with its incredible value and unbeatable warranty coverage. However, it’s stiffer around corners than the Mazda3. And much like the Corolla, it doesn’t offer much more rear space than the Mazda3.

What MotorTrend likes in its long-term update

Most of the time, experts spend a few days or even a few weeks with a vehicle, before offering consumer-facing reviews. MotorTrend likes to engage a car for the long-term, with a long-distance road trip and for a year of driving.

When they cruised with the Mazda3, they had some pretty positive experiences. While head and legroom aren’t this car’s strongest suit, three adults were comfortably able to load up their carry-ons and bags for the trip.

On the highway, the Mazda is quiet, and over a long period of time, the seating remains supportive and comfortable. There were also high marks about the audio system and luxurious feel to controls and tech. According to the gas mileage logbook, the Mazda3 crushed the EPA’s ratings of 35 mpg highway. The MotorTrend crew averaged 42.7 mpg.

Trading in the sporty image for a more luxurious one

As previously mentioned, Mazda is trying to pivot its focus on becoming a more luxury brand. In this MotorTrend long-term review, the experts agree there is strong evidence of this shift with the Mazda3.

Many of the compact-car contenders tend to feel less upscale. The features are genuinely enhancing to the driver, including the 8.8-inch touchscreen, LED swiveling headlights, and the Bose sound system.

But it’s still a peppy, fun drive, despite losing some of its former “bite” in performance. Consumers will have plenty of choices to configure their best versions of this car as well. Whether sedan or hatchback, AWD, or manual transmission, you’re sure to find the best balance of sport and luxury.

Based on the longer test drive endeavors, the MotorTrend gurus suggest that the 2020 Mazda3 is certainly on its way to proving itself in both luxury and reliability. It’s the real-life, behind-the-wheel experience like this, that can be a good indicator of what new car buyers can expect.