Here’s why the Mazda 3 was the best car of 2019

A​ Mazda winning car of the year? You better believe it.

2019 was a great year for the automobile. That said, it wasn’t a particularly surprising one.

Mercedes-AMG released the rousingly rapid A45 hyper-hatch which, in spite of its innovative pretensions still managed to come across as a little one-dimensional. And while drift mode sounds exciting, it doesn’t give the people what they really want: the ability to disengage the front driveshafts à la E63 S. It is staggeringly quick, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Porsche also had a bumper year, releasing the all-new 992 iteration of its famed 911 alongside the new the 718 Cayman GT4, and perhaps most notably, the all-electric Taycan. All of which were brilliant. Though I expected nothing less from the world’s most prolific sports car manufacturer.

Ferrari unveiled the Roma which is, undoubtedly, the best-looking Ferrari in 25 years. It could have won were it not for the fact that by the time it came round Ferrari had already shown off what felt like several hundred other new models, leaving the Roma looking a little generic. Seems like there’s a Ferrari for everyone these days. Is that unfair? Maybe.

Then there was the Mazda 3 hatch. No, it didn’t break any records, nor did it carve out a new niche. But – and this is important – it did surprise me. Not least because it was one of the prettiest cars released in recent times.

The 3’s real genius is it proves that everyday transportation doesn’t have to be boring.

W​ho could've guessed?

It’s not perfect, mind. The rear looks a little top-heavy, and the enormous C-pillar could hide a cruise-ship behind it, however, in terms of criticisms, that’s about it. It is an impressively graceful piece of design. If the last Mazda 3 was a prom queen, then the new one is a Miss Universe contestant.

The interior is equally elegant. It captures some of the class from the upper echelons of the automotive kingdom and makes it accessible to the everyday person. Yes, that means the 3 is a little more expensive than it was before, but it also comes loaded with kit. Standard equipment includes a 22cm display, satellite navigation, daytime running lights, auto-fold mirrors, Apple CarPlay, reverse camera, DAB, keyless push-button start and driver attention alert, among others.

It’s even properly innovative. In certain specifications, the 3 comes with a revolutionary 2.0 ‘Skyactiv-X’ engine which runs on compression ignition in order to deliver “the power of a high-revving gasoline engine and the fuel efficiency of a diesel” (Mazda’s words). I’ve not the slightest idea how it manages this, but it’s a staggering achievement nonetheless.

The 3’s real genius, however, is that it proves what I’ve long maintained to be true: that everyday transportation doesn’t have to be boring. Hyundai’s i30 and Volkswagen’s Golf are perfectly adept forms of transportation, however, they feel like white-goods. The Mazda comes across as something more: a machine to be proud of.

I doubt the younger generation of automotive enthusiasts will be pinning photos of Mazda’s top-selling hatchback on their walls, but those that buy one – petrolhead or not – will love it.

Which is why I have decided to award the Mazda 3 as my car of the year.

Surprised? Me too.

W​hat do you think? Get shouting in the comments!

P​hotography Credits: Manufacturers

Join In

Comments (33)

  • I think the Mazda 3 is an exceptional small car. It’s beautifully designed, built and finished. It’s REALLY well equipped. With the top spec models you’d probably have to buy an S Class to get a more loaded vehicle. It’s not perfect though. I found it maybe a little too refined as a driving experience. Some folks will appreciate that, but it feels just a tiny bit less “sharp” than I recall it’s predecessors. And, as good as it’s Skyactiv power plants are, it’s not quite as brisk as most of its (turbocharged) rivals. Maybe the upcoming Skyactiv-X engine option will address this?

    It’s having a problem in Aus though (where previous 3 generations have been top sellers). The public are baulking at the price point even though Mazda is building a better built, better quality, and better equipped product than its rivals.

      1 year ago
  • I strangely would prefer to spend my money on a KIA Stinger GT for the quality and the performance of them!!

      1 year ago
  • I was going to buy one....then I found out the infotainment screen isn’t a touch screen. Took the Mazda 3 from “ready to buy” to “no longer under consideration”.

    Their non-standard display position and other implementation features prevent any reasonable aftermarket solution that doesn’t look hacked in.

    So now I am stuck getting a Subaru. Thanks, Mazda!

      1 year ago
  • Forget what you've read. This is the best car of 2019. @tribe

      1 year ago
  • I haven't driven it but it really is a quality car. A huge step above the old 3. The interior is just a nice place to be and it's not overly complicated like some modern cars are.

    And knowing Mazda, it should be a nice and efficient car to daily and a hell lot of fun on twisty roads. That plus the fact that Mazda still uses an N/A motor makes it the perfect car for me. Well, almost.

    The only problem with it is that I prefer the size of the Mazda 2. Nothing wrong with the 3 in general but I have a bias towards superminis and I'd probably take the smaller 2 over the 3.

    I just hope the new Mazda 2 comes with the same interior quality and a Skyactiv-X motor.

      1 year ago
33