2019 Mazda3: Hate the infotainment, love the car [Retake]

2019 Mazda3 Sedan 28.JPG
2019 Mazda3 Sedan (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

I’m just going to state this up front: I’m a huge Mazda fan.

Its designs are beautiful, the interior appointments are bordering on luxurious, and all the vehicles are fun to drive.

Mazda is the one automaker (IMHO) that knocks it out of the park with every vehicle it produces.

In my first-look review of the 2019 Mazda3, I had a hard time finding any flaws in the all-new vehicle – except maybe the new, steep price tag.

However, after a week-long test, I did find one.

Or, at least, my husband did.

Figuring out how to change the radio station is a pain in the keester – and not at all intuitive.

On a long drive out to the suburbs, my husband decided to fiddle with the audio system. He pressed the music note on the upper right quadrant surrounding the info dial, but when he turned the dial, he got a blank screen.

It took both of us a while to realize you had to press the info dial to get the menu screen, which would let you select the radio tuner, which would then let you scroll through the radio stations.

Ok. Not intuitive, but not disastrous.

There are a lot of taps and twists to get from point A to point B, which could be distracting. But I suggested to my husband that once you got your favorites set up, you wouldn’t have to go through this rigamarole. You’d just hit the star icon below the volume dial and be done with it.

Then I tried to set my favorites.

I managed to get two stations programmed before pressing and holding the info dial stopped working. And I have no idea why.

I gave up.

I had previously tried to defend the Mazda infotainment system against naysayers, stating owners would get used to it and only having the car for a week makes it difficult for me to judge ease of use over a long period of time.

But I also don't listen to the radio much. I’m more of a podcast girl, using Apple CarPlay.

So, Mazda, I'm going to say this in my out loud voice: Your infotainment system needs help.

Outside of that, my only other “miss” is the lack of a manual transmission. The automatic is fine – better when you tap the vehicle into sport mode and use the paddle shifters. But there’s just something special about a Mazda manual. And I missed it.

For 2019, the only way you can get a manual is on the hatchback in the top-tier trim. As a bonus, however, it’s a zero-cost option vs. the automatic transmission, but you will have to spend almost $30K to get it.

For its first model year, the new Mazda3 only has one engine option: a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder that delivers 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. This is good power for urban stops and starts as well as highway merges.

There is currently no word whether the Mazda3 in the U.S. will get any additional engines, but other parts of the world will see diesel, turbo and even the new fuel-sipping-but-powerful Skyactiv-X.

Not that the current engine isn’t fuel-efficient. I often find the EPA estimates to be off the mark, and I rarely fall between the city/highway numbers. But the Mazda3 Hatchback test vehicle with all-wheel drive had a decent showing.

EPA estimates it should get 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. I had a solid mix of driving and averaged 26.4 mpg.

Living la vida urban, I had plenty of tight turns, narrow roads and parallel parking endeavors, and the petite Mazda3 handled them well.

The turning radius and backup cameras work together to make urban maneuvers easier. In fact, my crowning moment was fitting into a parallel parking spot that was about 3 inches bigger than the vehicle – with nary a tap or bump of surrounding vehicles.

The Mazda3 is available as a sedan or a hatchback, with available all-wheel drive throughout the lineup.

At a base level, the Mazda3 comes standard with LED headlights and taillights, cruise control, push-button start, an 8.8-inch center display [comma] and 2 USB ports.

There are four trims for 2019, and they’re a bit different than what you’re used to from Mazda.

Pricing below is noted as sedan/hatchback, except for the Select trim, which is only available as the sedan.

  • Mazda3: $21,895/$24,495
  • Select: $23,495
  • Preferred: $25,095/$26,095
  • Premium: $28,795/$29,795

The weird thing Mazda has done is include the hatchback as a base model, when it really should be Select. It includes all the up-level content of the Select, as well as the price tag. It would make more sense to have the base model stand alone as a sedan, then position the hatch starting at Select.

The nice thing Mazda has done is starting at Select, you get a whole host of amazing features including 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, passive entry, leatherette seats, leather shift knob and steering wheel, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, city brake support with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, driver attention alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and high beam control.

Pricing above is for the front-wheel-drive models; AWD adds $1,400 and is available on every trim and every model, except the Premium hatchback with the manual transmission.

The Bottom Line:

I still love the new Mazda3. The audio system is an annoyance, but for someone like me who will use CarPlay or Auto more than the indigenous audio system, it’s a non-issue.

This newest evolution of Mazda’s compact sedan and hatchback is close to a work of art with amazing attention to detail, stunning exterior lines, sporty driving dynamics – and a steep new price tag to match.

Beginning with the 2019 Mazda3, Mazda is starting to take the brand up-market. Expect more luxury and price increases across the entire lineup coming soon.

For more information, be sure to read our full first-look review.