There was a time when “hot hatches” were all the rage. Volkswagen had ‘em, so did Honda, Toyota, even Audi with its A3 hatch. As sport utility vehicles and crossover utilities took over, along with trucks, hatches lost their cool as (some) folks want to have higher seating positions and more visibility.
As drivers have rejected hatchbacks – sometimes out of hand – manufacturers have elected to forego them, for the most part. Not Mazda, whose Mazda3 hatchback is one of the most visually appealing cars available on the market for people who might not have a billion bucks to spend on the car of their choice. The 2022 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD HB with the Premium Plus package offers fabulous exterior styling, a delectable interior, excellent power and handling for what is, today, considered a doable price of $36,010 plus tax and license.
Dressed in machine gray metallic with elegant red leather interior, the 2022 Mazda3 hatch driven around Colorado during NHRA’s annual trip to Bandimere Speedway near Denver, was the perfect ride for the occasion. Picked up at Denver’s airport and taken directly to the city, it was great going through traffic. Mazda vehicles are known for their superb handling; this one fits that description. The 20.1 cubic-foot hatch area accepted all number of added goodies purchased to give to the two friends we’d be visiting before and after the race, leaving the interior empty and not available for thieves.
Power comes from the Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and extracts 310 lb-ft at 2,000 of torque. That’s on regular unleaded, but there’s more on tap using 93 octane: 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. Redline is 6,300 rpm. Mazda’s Skyactiv-G power mill is enhanced with its direct injection, which Mazda has been using for several years. Double chrome-tipped pipes announce the “loud” quotient. The six-speed automatic transmission offers sport mode along with paddle shifting and has great gearing, even when confronted by Colorado mountains.
Rack and pinion electronic power assisted steering (EPAS) gives this hatch a delectable 37.3-foot turning circle. MacPherson struts and torsion beam suspensions keep it happily acing corners, although we’d prefer an independent rear suspension. Vented and solid disc brakes do the deed impeccably and 215/45R Turanza rubber is kept on 18-inch, 10-spoke color-coordinated alloy rims. Because this is an all-wheel-drive machine, it’s not a lightweight at 3383 pounds, but it sure acts like one!
This was a nearly-new car when we picked it up, with just around 700 miles on the odometer. We added quite a few miles, going to Fort Collins Thursday night to visit a gal pal, and post-race to Monument, to visit another couple with whom we’ve been friends for about 40 years! Seeing these people adds to the pleasure of a race weekend and makes it more than a work visit to Denver. Mileage is rated at 23/31/26 mpg from the 12.7-gallon tank and we got close to that, especially over the road, when it wasn’t pedal to metal time.
Inside the premium-plus Mazda3 hatchback is a cabin filled with luxury. Everything feels like it belongs on a much more expensive vehicle, and Mazda has made its switchgear and all accoutrements the highest form of elitism at a pauper’s price. There are double seat memories for the driver, a head-up display that shows speed limit, current speed and the number at which cues is set. The multimedia interface that accompanies the 8.8-inch screen above the central console is easy to work and dictates all operations from climate control to navigation.
The steering wheel has driving info on the left, along with audio and phone controls, while the right side handles the radar-controlled cruise, which was used religiously over our stay. The only things lacking from the interior are wireless charging for the phone, power for the front passenger’s seat , lack of air to the rear seats and (this is getting picky) a rather small tilt-slide sunroof. Still, there are two USB plugs and a 12-volt in the slide-to-open covered storage that allow the phone to be placed at the base of the center console for charging, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto will take care of the rest.
The only added charge on this car is for the luscious gray paint at $595, so a buyer taking the option of purchasing the near, top-of-the-line Mazda3 has a starting fee of $35,415 including freight. You can go for a lesser model – and there are several in the Mazda3 hatchback’s lineup – but nearly everything on the premium plus AWD model meet the needs and desires of most folks in the market.
We’ve seen a lot of younger buyers opting for the Mazda3 hatchback over the past year or so and that’s a good sign. Younger buyers may realize their impeccable taste can be sated at less than a nosebleed price and that they can get eye-catching looks and performance without setting the bank account afire. We’ve always loved Mazda3 sedans and hatches, and actually owned one around the turn of the century. When a Mazda is offered as a loaner, it’s always first choice.And we’re never disappointed.
words and photos by Anne Proffit