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  • Writer's pictureCory Fourniquet

2023 Mazda3 Hatchback: Better than an Audi???

Mazda is not the brand I once had them typecast in my head as being cheap fun. The brand is moving upscale with all their product offerings and our time in this 2023 Mazda3 Hatchback had us thinking back to the Audi A3 we had last summer and just how this much more affordable small car compared.

My introduction to the brand was the first car I ever remember my dad owning, a red 1988 Mazda 323. It had hand-crank windows and black vinyl seats that would sear your rear when you first got in and stick to your legs holding you prisoner as you tried to leave. This is not that Mazda.

In my formidable high school years the brand wanted to be known as the Zoom-Zoom brand, a commercial tagline that still sticks in my head when thinking of the brand nearly two decades later. We got MazdaSpeed versions of their ordinary cars that made driving more fun for an inexpensive but fun car. This is not that Mazda.

The brand has been on a mission to bring the brand perception up in the eyes of the consumers, and now it is clear to see that they mean business. No longer content with going after the Toyotas, VWs, and Hondas of the world, Mazda is now taking aim at their premium counterparts in Lexus, Audi, and Acura, respectively. The 2023 Mazda3 Hatchback is no exception, boasting an impressive combination of looks, build quality, and driving fun, at an affordable price.

Let's start with the engine. Our Mazda3 Hatchback employs a 2.5L SKYACTIV®-G Dynamic Pressure Turbo 4-cylinder engine that delivers an impressive 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. If you use 93 octane fuel, those numbers jump up to 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. I found myself opting for 93 while refilling the smallish 12.7-gallon tank. The engine is the same one we have found in almost every other Mazda product we have driven lately. With a curb weight of 3,393 lbs, it was perhaps the most thrilling pairing of engine and vehicle we have tested from the brand. The engine is paired with a Skyactiv-drive 6-speed automatic transmission you could let do the work or use the paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel. Sport Mode would hold gears longer, leaving the engine in the meat of the power longer.

But power isn't everything, and Mazda knows that. That's why they've included advanced features like i-Activ all-wheel drive and their G-Vectoring Control Plus. We didn’t spend any time on the track, but in our twisty backroad driving, this car felt planted and sure of itself. The independent MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam rear axle gave a firm, sporty ride, but it was not harsh by any means.

Inside the cabin, the Mazda3 Hatchback offers perforated leather seats for five, with heated front seats and steering wheel for added comfort. The power driver's seat comes with 2-person memory, making it easy to find your ideal driving position every time you get behind the wheel, no matter who drove it last. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen is getting a little small by modern standards, though it did feature wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Controls for the infotainment and the Bose premium 12-speaker audio system are in the center console behind the shifter for quick access while driving.

The Mazda3 Hatchback also comes packed with advanced driver assistance features, including a 360º camera system, front and rear parking sensors, traffic jam assist, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist system, and traffic sign recognition.

Of course, all of these features come at a cost however, this is where our comparison to the Audi A3 we tested last year really comes into play. We really enjoyed that Audi, it was fun to drive while being a somewhat affordable premium-branded car. This Mazda3 has more features, a better design inside and out, and better materials inside with more features at an $8,000 savings over the Audi. The Mazda3 Hatchback starts at a price of $35,300 for the Premium Plus trim, our tester had a few options bringing its MSRP to $36,895.

When thinking back to our time with the Audi, what we liked and did not like, this Mazda3 addresses everything at a significant savings. Sure it comes from a brand still working to establish itself at this level of luxury in the marketplace, meaning it won’t help you keep up with the Joneses (at least for appearance’s sake), but it will make you happier overall thanks to its balance of power, comfort, and quality that's hard to beat.

2023 Mazda3 Hatchback Specs:

  • 2.5L SKYACTIV®-G Dynamic Pressure Turbo 4-cylinder Engine

  • 227 Horsepower (250hp with 93 Octane)

  • 310 lb-ft of Torque (320lb-ft with 93 Octane)

  • Skyactiv-Drive 6 Speed Automatic Transmission with Sport Mode

  • I-Activ All Wheel Drive

  • 4 Wheel Disc Brakes

  • G-Vectoring Control Plus

  • Independent MacPherson Strut Front Suspension

  • Torsion Beam Rear Axle

  • Seating for 5

  • Heated Front Seats

  • Perforated Leather Seats

  • Power Driver’s Seat with 2-Person Memory

  • 18-inch Black Alloy Wheels

  • 215/45 R18 Tires

  • 20.1 Cubic Feet of Trunk Space

  • 8.8-inch Infotainment Screen with Apple CarPlay® & Android Auto™

  • Bose Premium 12-Speaker Audio System

  • Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control

  • 360º Camera System

  • Front & Rear Parking Sensors

  • Traffic Jam Assist

  • Adaptive Cruise Control

  • Lane Keeping Assist System

  • Traffic Sign Recognition

  • Proximity Key with Push Button Start

  • EPA Fuel Economy 23/31/26 (city/hwy/cmb)

  • Starting MSRP $35,300 (Premium Plus)

  • Price as tested: $36,895

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