$14,518 - $19,285

2018 Mazda Mazda3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 Mazda Mazda3 was new.


Performance: 8.9

Performance is where the 2018 Mazda3 stands out. It has two energetic four-cylinder engines, and it has sharper handling than virtually every class rival. It also has sharp steering and sturdy brakes.

  • "Thanks to Mazda's innovative Skyactiv powertrain and chassis design, the 2017 Mazda3 is both fun to drive and fuel-efficient. You'll have to rev the engine high to get the most from its limited power, but the Mazda3's precise steering, finely honed suspension and strong brakes assure a good time once up to speed." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • "The Mazda3 is a lot of fun to drive, too. Its acceleration is excellent, especially with the optional 2.5-liter engine. The real fun comes in turning corners, where the Mazda3 boasts some of the best driving prowess around." -- Autotrader (2015)
  • "The 3 is, without question, the best-driving car in the segment." -- Autoblog (2014)

Acceleration and Power

A 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard in the Mazda3, as does a six-speed manual transmission. This engine has plenty of pep for all driving situations, but it’s a bit loud at highway speeds.

A 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission are available. This bigger engine is noticeably more energetic than the already-adequate base engine, and it provides quick acceleration.

With the base engine and an automatic transmission, the 3 gets an EPA-estimated 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway – good ratings for the class. The larger engine is nearly as efficient. It earns 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

  • "While the 2.0-liter is a capable performer, it trades a measure of enthusiasm for better fuel economy -- 37-mpg highway and 28-mpg city with the 6-speed automatic transmission. … The 2.5-liter won't stretch a gallon of gasoline quite as far, but it's close and notably amps up the car's sporting character. Both engines are smooth, vivacious and they like to rev. Manual-transmission lovers will appreciate that Mazda offers an excellent 6-speed manual in both body styles, and with both engines." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The base 2.0-liter engine in the Mazda 3 sounds a bit raspy under hard acceleration but provides better-than-average acceleration and has useful midrange torque output, making it a completely viable pick. Nevertheless, it's still tempting to stretch your budget for the larger 2.5-liter engine. It's quicker, smoother and slightly quieter, and there's a minimal impact to overall fuel economy." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "Acceleration isn't exactly strong in the base 3 i, but the 155-hp engine has enough muscle to pull itself to freeway speeds without eliciting any worry from the driver." -- Car and Driver (2014)

Handling and Braking

If you’re looking for a compact car that expertly blends handling and ride quality, look no further. The front-wheel-drive Mazda3 is one of the most fun-to-drive cars in the class thanks to its nimble cornering and sharp steering. It also provides a cushioned ride and strong brakes.

  • "Unlike the VW GTI or Ford Focus ST, the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback don't sacrifice a smooth, comfortable ride at the altar of great handling." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • "Strong brakes reign things in when needed, while the s model's 18-inch alloy wheels impact ride quality only slightly." -- Left Lane News (2017)
  • "The 2015 Mazda 3 is one of the most engaging vehicles to drive in its price range, as it handles well and offers responsive and precise steering. And for the most part, the 3 has a refined, substantial-feeling ride quality." -- Edmunds (2015)

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