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2018 Mazda 3

The 2018 Mazda 3 defies our sensibilities. A venn diagram of compact cars on sale today has contrasting orbits of “affordable” and “fun” with very little overlap in the middle.

Bummer, man. We’d implore automakers to make their first forays into owners’ driveways be their best, but we’re not sure they’ve read our letters yet about stashing burritos in fun-to-find areas.

We think Mazda has been reading our minds, then. The 2018 Mazda 3 is proof that cheap can be cheerful, budget can be a blast, economical can be entertaining…and so on.

Review continues below


p dir=”ltr”>This year, Mazda has added active safety features that help bring its small sedan or hatchback up to a 7.3 on our overall scale. Its good looks and bright performance are reason enough to consider the car, but this year’s safety upgrades help seal the deal. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Standard on all Mazda 3 models this year is an automatic emergency braking system, dubbed Smart City Brake, which can prevent low-speed collisions. The independent IIHS rated the system as “Advanced” and noted that the system prevented forward collisions up to 12 mph. A secondary, more advanced system called Smart Brake is available that can stop the car at higher speeds.

Not all of the improvements to the Mazda 3 this year have been additive. The automaker quietly shelved a regenerative braking system from earlier years that had little impact on overall fuel economy.

Mazda has also limited its standard 2.0-liter inline-4 to only base Sport models this year. The higher output, 2.5-liter inline-4 is now available on Touring and Grand Touring sedans and hatchbacks, which brings a discernible bump in power (155 horsepower vs. 184 hp) and it’s paired with better interior materials.

Base models don’t skimp on equipment, though. Every Mazda 3 comes equipped with 16-inch wheels, keyless ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 7.0-inch infotainment screen—that’s what you can see. What you can’t see is a clever system that dabs the brakes to shift weight forward onto the front wheels to carve a tighter line around corners.

All of that starts at just under $19,000, including destination, which makes the Mazda 3 a compelling value that happens to be fun to drive. Thanks for listening, guys.  

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