By Asian Journal Auto Editor

For 2019, the Mazda3 is revamped. Much loved for its sporty looks, and sprightly performance, the new 3 arrives with even sleeker sheet metal and a host of improvements. The new platform is both stiffer and lighter than before for better handling, and there is a new interior with improved technology.

Powertrains offering include the latest version of Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter I-4 with cylinder deactivation making 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, or the 2.0 liter four cylinder Skyactiv offering 155hp and 150lb-ft torque. There is the option of either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Also of note is the availability of the Mazda3 Sport with the option of All Wheel Drive via an i-Activ AWD system for the first time ever.

The 2019 Mazda3 sedan will start at $18, 000, for the GX trim and for that competitive price buyers gain: Vectoring Control plus (GVC Plus), 8-speaker sound system, Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™, HMI Commander switch, and LED front headlights and rear tail lights and host of other features. The Mazda3 Sport hatchback starts at $21,300.

We tested a 2019 Mazda3 GT sedan that came with such standard features as: SKYACTIV-G 2.5 engine with Cylinder Deactivation, Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode, Drive Selection switch and paddle shifters, G-Vectoring Control Plus, 18″ alloy wheels LED exterior lights, leather trimmed upholstery, power adjustable driver’s seat, heated seats and steering wheel, 8.8 inch color display for Mazda Connect, HMI Commander, Apple Carplay and Android, plus a rear view camera with 7″ LCD display.

Options included the Premium Package ($2,500)  that includes: Leather trimmed upholstery, power adjustable driver’s seat (10-way, includes lumbar support), driver’s seat memory function, windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display, Smart Brake Support Rear, Smart Brake Support, Rear Crossing , rear parking sensors, SiriusXM® Satellite Radio advanced keyless entry (proximity and ignition), navigation system, Traffic Sign Recognition System (TSR), front wiper de-icer, HomeLink® wireless control system, auto-dimming exterior mirrors with memory seat link. The sublime Machine Grey Metallic paint was a $300 extra.

Also on the safety front there was also Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring, and Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display, and host of other equipment.

The cabin’s new design is a step up from the previous model. Fit and finished is extraordinary with premium materials and thoughtful design throughout. The Premium package option model delivers outstanding leather seating and trim that would not be amiss in an Audi! The dash features an 8.8-inch infotainment display situated higher up and set angled towards the driver. The new “Commander” control knob on the center console, for the infotainment system is now simpler to use and quicker in reaction. The new design is much appreciated for less eye distraction. In front of the driver is a configurable screen showing a speedometer, fuel economy information, or active safety info. Premium models get a proper head-up display with featured speed and navigation data. The cabin also features specially designed seats and ergonomics that make the driver feel as if they are at one with the car, the front cabin is roomy enough, although it’s a squeeze to fit three large adults in the back.

On the road, the 2019 Mazda3 has an upgraded feel compare to the previous model. Noise, harshness and vibration are well taken care of, while the ride is just so much better.  The new seats and retuned suspension also insulate occupants from harsh potholes and bumps to a larger degree than before. As usual steering is wonderful, direct, and with nice modulation and feel. The supple suspension also soaks up highway imperfections and rough roads effortlessly

Despite the softer ride, the Mazda3 still remains fun, sporty and engaging to drive. The 2.5-liter L4 Engine never runs out of steam and is a lively willing performer—the transmission also offers well-timed shifts with smooth transitions. Not a lot to complain about, fuel economy for the 2.5 liter is 8.8 – City- 6.6 – Highway (L/100KM). The new 2019 Mazda3 will offer drivers of all stripes a fun-to-drive family car that will put a smile on everyone’s face. Highly recommended.

2019 Mazda3 GT: Base priced from $26,200. Price with options and delivery $30,695. More info at www.mazda.ca