2019 Mazda3 First Drive Review

by Lawana Perkins | Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Fun to drive. The phrase gets blasted from seemingly every car commercial, magazine ad, and influencer account – overused that it has lost all meaning. So when Mazda, a small firm that actually does make cars that are fun to drive, talks about their most compelling trait it gets lost in the cacophony of ad spends.

2019 Mazda3

However, we’re here to tell you that yes, while it’s difficult to quantify, some cars are objectively more fun to drive than others, and the all-new 2019 Mazda3 is — and this is a very technical term — a freakin’ blast. At Mazda’s behest, we took a 2019 sedan up Angeles Crest Highway just outside of L.A. With plenty of yellow signs, tight sequences of banked curves and elevation changes, it’s the platonic ideal of those serpentine mountain roads you see in car commercials.

The instant the Mazda3 reaches the windy roads, it glides in like an otter diving into the sea. Lively and graceful, it dances along a ribbon of asphalt more naturally than any compact sedan we’ve driven since the advent of drive-by-wire. The steering is not only direct and true, but possesses an extraordinary ability to maintain trajectory. From the moment you turn in, you never need to make adjustments to the steering wheel until the front tires are straight again. The car goes exactly where you intend, always.

That’s not hyperbole, but an amazing feat of engineering. In nearly every other vehicle, even those that purport to be sports cars, unless you’re incredibly familiar with the machine and know the road like the back of your hand, minor mid-corner corrections are an inevitability. With the 3, you get it right on the first try. Now imagine you’re on strip of canyon pavement with lots of short switchbacks in varying radii coming up fast, one right after another. The 3 links them all together with pure ease, and soon you’re developing a rhythm through the curves. While other cars charge, the Mazda flows.

The car’s poise is particularly evident as momentum shifts from one direction to another, what Mazda chassis engineer Dave Coleman termed “transience.” In most cars passengers are tossed around the cabin like mannequins, but the 3 cuts out the turbulence, its body engineered to move in a smooth undulation. At the midpoint of the transition, there’s even a moment of weightlessness before the car tucks into the next turn and the seat seems to scoop you up and carry you onward.

You don’t have to be Yoshimi Katayama to finesse this Mazda, and some might think that means it’s somehow lesser than a hardcore sports car. Quite the contrary. It’s actually much more difficult to engineer a car that does what the Mazda3 does because they’re not just throwing horsepower and grip at it to meet benchmarks. Perhaps the best example of this philosophy was illustrated by a piece of Japanese exercise equipment.


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