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I’ll admit it. I’m typically sweet on Mazdas. I don’t own one and nobody’s paying me to say that, I just like the down to earth functionality designed into them. I also like that you can push them a little carder than comparable cars before they cry uncle. In a word, they’re fun. How does the Mazda 3 AWD stack up?

A-number-one, I dig the aesthetic. Angry headlight and nose-down posture lend an air of aggression to the relatively mild Mazda. I even think its little overbite is dreadfully charming. The black 18″ alloy wheels go wonderfully with the “polymetal gray metallic” paint. Some may find the proportions of this hatch a little unusual; perhaps a little rump heavy. But they work for me. Of course, I think the second gen Cadillac CTS Coupes are among the most gorgeous cars designed in the 21st century, so consider that when weighing my opinions on a car’s good or bad looks.


The deep red leather seats, which Mazda refers to in their build sheet as simply “red”, look stunning in both quality and color. The dash is wrapped in the same “red” and features laser straight French seams. In fact, all the upholstery in the car is above average, especially when you consider this is not a luxury car. I’m a fan of the way Mazda puts their media controls in the console. There’s a learning curve, but they’re logically laid out and above all you can use them without taking your eyes off the road. Bluetooth connectivity is remarkably fast, like instant, and there’s a handy dandy QI charger for all your resonant inductive coupling needs.

Laying the rear seats down pinches front seat leg room a little, and you’re going to have trouble operating the console lid. However, it does open up the back end to haul a surprising amount of junk. Or just one old dirty compressor.
This is not an easy car to see out of. The back window looks tiny from the drivers seat and the blind spots created by the c pillars are some of the biggest I’ve seen. This car might be more fun with a manual shift rather than the six speed “sport mode” automatic, but I don’t know if it would be better per se.

Under the hood, a 2.5 liter naturally aspirated four banger churns out 186 horsepower and equally as many torques. An electric emergency brake will prevent you and your no account buddies from sliding around the parking lot behind the movie theater. Mazda does a good job of prioritizing the driving experience of their cars. Even the humble 3 has above average feedback from the brakes and steering. It’s fun to push the car through curves. One issue I noticed is that the A/C struggled a little on warmer days. It made me wonder how it would do during the Texas summers

It could be a little more fun, and at $31,470 it could be a little less expensive. Of course you could save some scratch if you elected to forego the 425 dollar illuminated sill plates. There’s nothing wrong with the car though, and this AWD model is sure to be a hit with folks that experience snow and ice each year. The Mazda 3 delivers a typically Mazda experience. Maybe not the fastest, but great feedback from the brakes and steering wheel and enough zip from under the hood to keep us engaged.


Aaron V Starnes
Aaron V Starnes

Car guy, small business owner, award-winning writer and proud papa.