If you’re shopping for a compact hatchback, chances are good that your looking for a car that’s affordable. Perhaps your biggest criteria is that it be fun to drive, or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, as fuel efficient as possible. If you’re lamenting that no one builds a car that blends all three into a single package, then you obviously haven’t driven a 2013 Mazda3 withe the SkyActiv drivetrain and the six-speed manual gearbox.
The Mazda3 with the 2.0-liter SkyActiv-G engine may only make 155 horsepower, but it’s still entertaining when bolted to Mazda’s remarkably good six-speed manual gearbox. If an automatic is more to your liking, Mazda offers a six-speed automatic that doesn’t force buyers into a droning and joyless continuously-variable transmission. With fuel economy as high as 40 mpg on the highway, the Mazda3 is proof that you can can have your cake and eat it on the fly, too.
While the Mazda3 with the SkyActiv drivetrain may be the overachiever in the family, all models are worth a closer look. The range starts with the Mazda3 i SV, which gets the carry-over (non-SkyActiv) 2.0-liter four cylinder engine rated at 148 horsepower and a starting price of just $17,550 (including destination charge). Opt for the hatchback over the sedan, and the least expensive Mazda3 becomes the $20,795 Mazda3 i Touring, which gets the upgraded SkyActiv-G engine. The recommended SkyActiv-G engine is now standard on the Sport trim level, too, which is unique to the sedan. Rounding out the product mix, the Mazda3 s (available only in Grand Touring trim) gets a 2.5-liter engine, rated at 167 horsepower. If that’s still not enough for you, Mazda also serves up a turbocharged, 263-horsepower Mazdaspeed3, which is among the best performance values on the market today (if you can get past the ever-present torque steer).
No matter which version is right for you, all Mazda3 models deliver the same fun-to-drive factor that Mazda has become known for. The ride is on the firm side, but we’d still call it comfortable and a reasonable trade-off for the car’s crisp handling. Four-wheel disc brakes ensure that stopping distances are kept to a minimum, and the electro-hydraulic steering delivers a feel that’s among the best in the segment.
Inside, front seat passengers enjoy comfortable and supportive seats, as well as ample headroom. The rear seat can be on the snug side, but headroom (especially in the hatchback) is reasonable for average-height drivers.
Since the entire Mazda3 line was revamped for the 2012 model year, changes for 2013 are relatively minor (except for the inclusion of the SkyActiv-G engine at the Sport level). Sport trim models also get a USB port and a driver information display, two things that were previously included only on Touring level vehicles. If you can cover that level with your budget, The Touring models include such amenities as automatic climate control, push-button start and keyless entry. Opt for the Grand Touring trim, and you’ll get things like leather seating surfaces and a navigation system, while the “s” models also include rain sensing wipers and HID headlights.
Rounding out the range is the MazdaSpeed3, which carries over its 263-horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine but adds 18-inch gunmetal wheels, a blacked-out roof spoiler and and rear lower valance, blacked-out side mirrors with embedded turn signals and assorted minor interior upgrades.
For complete details on the range of 2013 Mazda3 models, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection