It’s not terribly often one gets the opportunity to test two models from the same lineup, but that’s exactly what’s occurred with our test in July of the 2022 Mazda3 hatchback and a drive from our Southern California home to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES finale on the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey this September, when we drove the 2022 Mazda3 sedan.
Both cars offered the Premium Plus AWD packages, which makes it even easier to look at both and see what appeals and what doesn’t. As a friend said when we pulled into his driveway near WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with the Platinum Quartz Metallic Mazda3 2.5L Turbo AWD sedan with the premium plus package: “Mazda makes the best Italian cars. Difference is that they work!”
Ah yes, they do, and this particular sedan pretty much changed our minds about the preference of a hatchback. It feels tidier, tighter and being able to hide about $15,000 worth of camera gear is always a major benefit, especially these days when thievery is rampant (particularly in our neighborhood).
Mazda cars don’t look like anyone else’s, which is a plus when you’re in a crowded parking lot. The elegance of design, the fluidity of looks, the black mirrors that bring out the luscious paint, along with the black 10-spoke alloy rims (on P215/45/18” all-season tires), and a small, black spoiler at the trunk, give this Mazda elegance way above its price point. Everything Mazda has done with this sedan is well-executed. Yes, the Mazda3 is handsome, and even more important, it’s fun to drive, with enough upscale features to warrant a hard look at purchase time.
The drive up to Monterey from Long Beach, starting about 6 in the morning, was fraught with issues, none of them having to do with the car. As we made our way towards the 5 Freeway, intending to take it part of the way before turning for 101 and the Monterey Peninsula, there was a sign that said the freeway was closed. Thankfully we saw it before the 101 turnoff and made our way onto that road. It was a clear shot until just before Santa Barbara, when construction brought us to a complete halt.
The Mazda’s inline, turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with its 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 – redline is 6,250 rpm – helped us cut-and-thrust through traffic, using the six-speed automatic transmission, with sport mode and paddle shifting allowed us maneuverability that was truly excellent. With its struts and torsion beam suspension, this is a fun, fun, fun car to drive and stops just as quickly as necessary, thanks to its vented front and rear disc brakes. Curb weight is an excellent 3,379 pounds.
What should have been a 5-6 hour trip ended up taking more than seven hours – with stops – but Mazda’s seats, which offer heating to driver and front passenger – along with a heated steering wheel (unnecessary in California’s September heat) – were filled with proper support and comfortable enough not to cause any strain on the back. Rear seating is a bit on the spartan side, without any air flow or outlets, but I’m sure passengers can survive back there. My host had no problems for our drives around the area.
This vehicle’s Premium Plus package is included in a list price that tops out at $34,115 including $1015 for freight. The package includes leather trimming for the seats, front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree monitor, traffic jam assist (we did fine using Apple CarPlay), auto-dimming driver side mirror, Homelink, Mazda’ navigation system, traffic sign recognition (more about that later), SiriusXM with three years of traffic and travel advisories, smart brake support for the rear, together with rear cross traffic with braking, and that black rear lip spoiler.
Beyond that, Mazda equips the 2022 Mazda3 AWD Premium Plus sedan with a heads-up display, lots of soft touch plastics throughout the cabin, high-beam control, that traffic sign recognition that shows limits in black on the dash – until they’re exceeded, at which point they turn red (and pretty much stayed that way during our tenure), adaptive full LED lighting, a driver attention alert that advises the driver to stop and rest after several hours and the niftiness of a smallish power slide/tilt moonroof. Did we mention there are 12 Bose speakers with the audio system that makes this sedan into an auditorium of surround sound?
There’s 13.2 cubic feet of capable cargo containment and, with a sedan, it’s not visible – ever – to prospective thieves. The trunk’s finish is, like most Mazdas, well-executed and handsomely done. Like nearly everything else on this sedan, the Mazda3’s trunk appears to have more value added than the car’s overall cost would suggest.
The Mazda3 with premium package and the delightful 2.5L turbo four has been rated at 23/32/27 from the 12.7-gallon tank. Using premium fuel gives better fuel mileage, but during our trip, fuel was so expensive that we kept to regular unleaded. For the more than 800 miles extracted from this Mazda over a seven-day period, we averaged about 30mpg with a high of 35 witnessed on a few occasions. The ride up was one of those banzai runs, but we took our time on the return, so your mileage could be better than we saw.
Mazda makes great cars, and while its infotainment system gets thumbs down from most reviewers, those aren’t the things this writer thinks about first and foremost. With the ability to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the need for nav systems is becoming less of a necessity and more of an addition to what we carry with us everywhere.
For visual elegance, mechanical performance and overall value, this 2022 Mazda3 2.5T AWD sedan with the premium plus package is quite a good bet. And for those who like their vehicles to be handsome as well as competent, well, Mazda is right here for you. As a former Mazda owner, this sedan hits the spot. Who knows, maybe it might do the same for you?
story and photos by Anne Proffit