Motorists, at least the enthusiasts among you, rejoice! The Mazda3 is now available with all-wheel drive. There are two factors that make this important:
- The Mazda3 offers the best driving dynamics in the crowded compact class and
- The new AWD system’s sophistication and operation makes it an all-season friend.
The 2019 model is the fourth generation of the Mazda3. Built on a new platform, it offers familiar but updated styling, a more upscale interior and updated infotainment. It is available in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback configurations.
The drivetrain is carried over from the previous generation. Depending on trim level, it includes a 155-horsepower, 2.0-litre four with a six-speed manual transmission, or a 186-horsepower, 2.5-litre four with cylinder de-activation, coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission and front or all-wheel-drive. The addition of all-wheel-drive makes it only the second vehicle in the class with this feature. The Subaru Impreza is the other.
Mazda has always been an engineering-led company. It takes a different path than mainstream brands. Innovation and technology are at the top of the development list. The path is to tackle problems head-on with innovation and technology rather than work around them.
The new platform provides room for a driveshaft to the rear wheels, necessary for all-wheel-drive. But, it comes as no surprise that the AWD system offered on the new Mazda3 is more than an extra prop shaft.
Early and still predominant “slip and grip” AWD systems, monitor wheel speed. Once the front wheels lose grip, and they spin faster than the others, power is sent to the other end of the vehicle.
More sophisticated pro-active systems rely on input from a variety of sensors. They are able to predict a loss of grip and send power to the rear, preventing that from happening. Mazda’s i-Activ AWD combines the two and adds an additional level of assistance. Sensors monitor steering wheel, throttle and brake input, individual wheel speeds and the G-Forces (acceleration, braking and turning) acting on the vehicle. Decisions are made every five milliseconds and power dispersed appropriately with up to 50 per cent going to the rear.
The AWD system is also incorporated within the company’s G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus) system. This uses a combination of subtle throttle and brake input to adjust the load on the front tires when entering a corner and again when leaving.
We are straying into some serious technology here. Suffice it to say the Mazda3 with AWD works seamlessly summer or winter to provide exemplary grip, feedback and response to driver inputs.
The additional $1,700 for the AWD system will be appreciated in summer as well as winter. The $30,700 (before delivery) as tested price of the tester is at the high end of the “regular” compact segment, which is shrinking in size. But it includes all-wheel-drive is thousands less than the entry-luxury segment.
That is significant because research shows that many people leaving the compact car segment are switching to crossovers because they want the security of AWD. It also shows that some who want to stay with cars are moving upmarket into the compact luxury segment to access AWD. The Mazda3 in GT trim with AWD offers exceptional dynamics, similar levels of luxury and additional standard features for thousands of dollars less.
The 2019 Mazda3 AWD is another example of Mazda sweating the details to present an attractive, fun-to-drive vehicle with a degree of luxury befitting a much more expensive vehicle.
That makes it an interesting alternative to moving into the luxury segment.
- Model: 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, 186 horsepower, 186 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
- Transmission: six-speed automatic
- NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.2 / 7.0
- Length: 4,662 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,726 mm
- Weight: 1,479 kg
- Price: $26,200 base, $32,295 as tested, including freight
- Standard equipment: 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, Adaptive Front-lighting System with automatic levelling headlights, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 22-cm colour display with Mazda Connect, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wide angle rear view camera, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, radar cruise control with stop and go, Smart City brake support, power moonroof and automatic dual-zone climate controls
- Options on test vehicle: Premium Package - $2,500; Includes: Leather trimmed upholstery, power adjustable driver's seat (10-way, includes lumbar support), driver's seat memory function, windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display, Smart Brake Support Rear, Smart Brake Support Rear Crossing , rear parking sensors, satellite radio with three-month trial subscription), remote keyless entry, navigation system, Traffic Sign Recognition System (TSR), front wiper de-icer, HomeLink wireless control system, auto-dimming exterior mirrors with memory seat link; i-ACTIV AWD, $1,700; machine grey metallic paint, $300