The 2020 Mazda3 Is the Best Compact Sedan People Aren’t Considering

In a world where consumers have been increasingly favoring SUVs and pickup trucks, small cars like the Mazda3 have quietly become more premium and technologically advanced. However, with so many people’s circumstances changing recently, there’s more of an emphasis on cost and reliability than ever before. Compact and small cars are in the spotlight once again.

Icons including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Nissan Sentra crowd the compact car segment, and rightfully so. Take a look at any Best Compact Car” list and you’re certain to find the “Big Three” — or, more fittingly, the “Little Three.” For decades, they’ve dominated in fuel economy, cost of ownership, and reliability, giving car buyers little reason to even consider other models. Until now.

The 2020 Mazda3

Fresh off of a 2019 redesign, the 2020 Mazda3 looks and behaves like a luxury car, but its small footprint and price tag suggest just the opposite. It’s safe to assume that the Mazda3 is a book routinely judged by its very sleek cover. 

It only comes in 4-door models, but in keeping with its zoom-zoom roots, Mazda also made a sporty hatchback version of the 3. While the Mazda3 didn’t change much on the exterior for 2020, it did get several exciting updates everywhere else.

Safety and technology

The most notable change to the Mazda3 for 2020 is that the I-ActivSense driver-assist suite is now standard on all trim levels. Previously, buyers had to purchase a premium trim in order to have these features. I-ActivSense highlights include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, rain-activated windshield wipers, and automatic high beams.

Another useful feature of I-ActivSense is its driver attention monitor. The system monitors driving patterns and sends out visual and audible alerts if it detects worrisome changes that may indicate the driver is getting tired.

The 2020 Mazda3 has a premium, borderline-luxury interior, but its focal point is the large 8.8-inch MazdaConnect infotainment system. Curiously, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration do not come standard. 

Impeccable performance

Mazda has a reputation for crafting athletic, fun-to-drive cars, and the 3 is no different. There are four trim levels to choose from: Base, Select, Preferred, and Premium. Regardless of which you choose, the 2020 Mazda3 comes with a peppy 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Skyactiv engine with best-in-class 186 hp standard.

All-wheel drive is available on all but the Base model 3, while a manual transmission is only available for the hatchback in the Premium trim. Manual-loving drivers may be genuinely intrigued by this option as the Mazda3 is one of the very few cars that still offer a manual at all. 

The Mazda3’s fuel economy falls right in the middle of the compact segment with a respectable 27 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg combined. All-wheel-drive models achieve 1-2 mpg less. 

The 2020 Mazda3’s awards and accolades

In comparison to many other well-known compact cars, the Mazda3 is a relative newcomer. The Corolla was introduced in 1966, the Civic in 1972, and the Sentra in 1986. The Mazda3 was unveiled in 2003. Despite that, the 2020 Mazda3 has won a number of industry awards. It won the prestigious 2020 World Car Design of the Year award, Kelley Blue Book named it to its list of Best Small Cars of 2020, and U.S. News ranked it No. 2 in its Best Compact Cars for 2020 behind only the 2020 Volkswagen GTI.

The 2020 Mazda3 is exceptionally safe as well. Actually, the entire brand is. It scored a five out of five stars in overall safety from the NHTSA, and the IIHS named the Mazda3 a Top Safety Pick+.