by Chuck Giametta
What changes will make the 2022 Mazda 3 different?
Freshened styling, perhaps some authentic luxury appointments, maybe even new engine technology. We’d advocate for more standard safety features, too. Those and other changes would headline a midcycle update to this impressive but identity-conflicted compact car. They’d build on the model-year-2021 addition of a cost-cutting base trim and top-of-the-line turbocharged editions.
The 2022 Mazda 3 will return four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles, a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD), and one of the most powerful engines in the compact-car class.
The possible new engine could employ Mazda’s innovative Skyactiv-X technology intended to boost fuel economy without sacrificing performance. Styling changes will be minor, but more lavish interior materials are likely. That would support Mazda’s aim for the 3: refinement a tier above the compact-car class. It’s part of the Japanese automaker’s campaign to take its entire brand upscale — an objective that might better fit its larger, more expensive cars and crossovers.
Indeed, addition of the 2021 base trim, which lowered the 3’s entry price $1,000, hints at the challenge selling a premium aspirant in the price-conscious compact-car segment. Compounding the issue: the buying public likely doesn’t yet consider Mazda an upscale brand on the level of, say, Acura or Genesis.
The ’22 changes will be the Mazda 3’s first refresh since the current generation bowed for model-year 2019. They should sustain the car without substantial alterations to its next full redesign, likely for model-year 2025.
Should I wait for the 2022 Mazda 3 or buy the 2021?
Wait if you want the very latest look, a potentially fancier cabin, and possibly new the engine technology. Wait also if you wish to compare the revamped 2022 Mazda 3 with the fully redesigned edition of the segment’s best-selling car, the 2022 Honda Civic.
Buy a 2021 Mazda 3 if you like this comely compact’s basic design, good road manners, and already-chic interior. All will carry over for ’22. And buying ’21 avoids the inevitable model-year price escalation. It should also let you exploit clearance sales as dealers make way for the freshened model.
In any case, you’ll be among the shrinking audience for cars of any sort as buyers flock to crossover SUVs. Mazda 3 demand fell a sobering 35 percent for 2020 and it was quickly overtaken in sales by Mazda’s own CX-30, an impressive new small crossover that uses the 3’s running gear – including the available turbo engine — but boasts a raised suspension and bolder body cladding.
Expect the ’22 Mazda 3 lineup to generally mirror that of 2021. It should again be grouped by alpha-numeric grades describing engine type and size. For ’21, the entry-level 2.0 Base trim was exclusive to the sedan. Both body styles came in 2.5 S and in 2.5 Turbo guise. Depending on what engine it might replace, introduction of a Skyactiv-X four-cylinder for ’22 could cause Mazda to rebadge the 2.0 or 2.5 S. Expect any Base model to continue with front-wheel drive only. The 2.5 S grades should offer both front-drive and AWD. The Turbos should remain AWD only.
Will 2022 Mazda 3 styling be different?
Yes, but not dramatically. Figure a subtly revamped nose and tail details, with no change in basic shape or dimensions. Some form of the artfully sculpted grille will return. So will smooth body contours that should continue to eschew trendy faux scopes or vents. It’s an understated and, yes, upscale approach. Still, the hatchback’s appearance should remain an acquired taste: its thick rear quarters can seem featureless and disproportionate, its rear side windows awkwardly shaped.
Trim-level differentiation should again run mostly to wheel size and design. For ’21, the Base sedan was available in just two colors – black and gray – but other models came in more, including the automaker’s popular Soul Red Crystal (a $595 option) and Machine Gray Metallic ($495). The 2.5 Turbo hatchback should again offer aero kits that tack on a front air dam, rear roof spoiler, rear diffuser, and side sill extensions.
Alloy wheels should again be standard across the board, though Mazda could increase diameter. For ’21, the Base sedan and the 2.5 S models came with 16-inchers. Factory 18s were optional and standard – finished in black — on the Turbos. Expect handsome BBS gloss-black forged 18-inch alloys to again be optional for all models.
Inside, the 2022 Mazda 3 should continue to earn points for materials quality, infotainment usability, and premium feel. Organic forms and an abundance of soft-touch surfaces will remain the order of the day. Even on the Base model, the design and action of every knob, button, and lever should remain worthy of cars costing far more.
If taking the 3’s cabin further upmarket is Mazda’s plan, it could add a new option group with, say, real aluminum accents. It might even launch a new flagship inspired by the Signature grade that tops its CX-5 and CX-9 crossover lineups. A 2022 Mazda 3 Signature could get brown Nappa leather, real wood trim, unique steering-wheel stitching, ambient and LED lighting, and other luxury-segment signifiers. The question is whether Mazda believes such opulence, and the price tag that comes with it, is a realistic fit for its smallest car.
In any event, beautifully rendered round main gauges should remain a classy nod to tradition. The “analog” speedometer and secondary readouts are actually LCD displays for which more customizable settings might be nice but aren’t essential.
The 2022 Mazda 3’s infotainment system should continue to merit praise. We’d support a central dashboard screen larger than today’s 8.8-incher. But even with no change, the tablet-style display should return with crisp graphics and benefit from a terrific interface via a cluster of control knobs and buttons on the center console.
We’d advocate Mazda give the 2022 Base model Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto support: it’s already standard on the other grades. Imbedded navigation that doesn’t depend on a cell signal for real-time GPS mapping should return for the 2.5 S and 2.5 Turbo as part of their optional Premium Packages. All ’22 3 models should again include a 3-year trial of Mazda Connected Services, which includes an in-car Wi-Fi hot spot and an app to control certain vehicle features.
Look for 2022 Mazda 3 Base and 2.5 S models to continue with cloth upholstery as standard. Leatherette should remain optional for the 2.5 S and standard on the 2.5 Turbo, with leather optional on both.
Given carryover dimensions, there’s likely little Mazda can do to increase the 2022 3’s passenger room. But we hope it carves out a bit more interior storage space.
Expect the driver and front passenger to again enjoy good overall seat support and adequate legroom. Six-footers won’t have excess headroom, particularly beneath the housing of the power moonroof that should again be standard on the Turbos and optional for the 2.5 S. In back, passengers over 5-foot-8 or so would again want for knee clearance, especially if a front seater slides more than halfway back, as lots of adults are apt to do.
The 2022 Mazda 3’s center console could use a rethink. Space at its front accommodates a smartphone but is too narrow for a plus-size model. A large phone fits inside the console’s armrest box (where a wireless charging pad should remain available), but the box is too shallow to be used for much else. If Mazda redesigns the console, it might also think about fitting a conventional hinged lid rather than one that slides fore and aft.
Cargo volume probably won’t change much. At 13.2 cubic feet, the 2022 Mazda 3 sedan’s trunk would remain below average for the segment. So would the hatchback’s 20.1 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks. However, at 47.1 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded, the hatchback would remain competitive in the segment – and beat Mazda’s CX-30 crossover by 2 cubic feet. All but the Base sedan should return with 60/40 split/folding rear seatbacks.
Any 2022 Mazda 3 mechanical changes?
Yes, if the automaker equips the 2022 Mazda 3 with its innovative Skyactiv-X engine. Employing both gasoline-spark and diesel-type compression ignition, this naturally aspirated four-cylinder is designed to deliver fuel-economy gains of up to 30 percent over a traditional gasoline engine. Mazda launched Skyactiv-X in Europe in 2019 and promises a version for North America but hasn’t committed to a host vehicle or a release date.
How much extra cost might be associated with the Skyactiv-X technology has a baring on the Mazda 3 engine it might supplant. One scenario: Mazda retains the Base model’s budget-friendly 2.0-liter and replaces the 2.5 S-model engine with the Skyactiv-X, counting on it to deliver similar performance using less gas.
If model-year-21 engines carry over, the Base 2.0 would return with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder of 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving.) The 2022 Mazda 3 2.5 S models would reprise a 2.5-liter four with 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque.
The ’22 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbos would again have a turbocharged 2.5-liter with 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque — using 93-octane gas. Mazda says output is 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque using 87 octane.
The trend in this segment is toward continuously variable automatic transmissions and even to dual-clutch automatics. Expect the 2022 Mazda 3, however, to stay with a conventional six-speed automatic as standard – with one exception. For ’21, the front-wheel-drive 2.5 S hatchback was among the few cars in the class available with manual transmission, here a six-speed.
All ’22 3’s with automatic transmission should again come with a console toggle to engage a Sport mode for a slight but useful tightening of powertrain behavior. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual-type gear control were included on the Turbos and optional for 2.5 S models.
Alongside the Subaru Impreza, for which all-wheel drive is standard, the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 S and Turbo models were the only compact cars available with AWD. The traction enhancing feature was another nod to Mazda’s class-above ambition for the 3. Be confident the 2022 Turbo models will retain it as standard. No word on whether AWD would be available with a Skyactiv-X engine.
How a Skyactiv-X Mazda 3 might perform is unknown, but if Mazda returns the other engines, expect acceleration generally commensurate with competitors of similar power. With adequate pickup off the line and good-enough response once underway, the 2.0-liter is a perfectly reasonable entry-level engine.
Imbued with some 20 percent more power, the 2.5 S models improve acceleration all around, with additional reserves especially useful in highway merging and passing. Most 2022 Mazda 3 buyers should find a 2.5 S the optimal balance of performance, price, and fuel economy. We’d urge Mazda to again offer manual transmission as a nod to fans who relish the involvement that comes with shifting this smooth six speed.
Mazda used a previous generation of this car as the basis for the MazdaSpeed3, a rowdy 263-horsepower, turbocharged, front-drive, manual-transmission hatchback. Today’s Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo 3 is a different animal. Its goal is premium-car smoothness. The engine is tuned for a linear delivery of power, its automatic-transmission-only rule and AWD grip intended to further consolidate a grown-up approach to performance. The effort is largely successful, with ready power and a composed manner — but without the punchy excitement its specs might suggest.
Previous Mazda 3s also had more playful handling. The model-year-2019 redesign
exchanged an independent rear suspension for a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus, standard across the line, attempts to compensate by subtly retarding torque to rebalance the car for better grip in turns. But instead of carving corners with impressive precision, today’s 2.0 and 2.5 S change direction competently if unenthusiastically.
Stiffer suspension tuning should again help the ’22 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbos restore some of the missing handing verve. Like the other models, however, they can be perturbed by mid-turn bumps. The Turbos’ Sport mode is calibrated to automatically downshift under braking and minimize gear changes mid-corner. But like the powertrain logic, it’s in service of driving character that’s more mature than fast and furious.
Whether or not Mazda uses the model-year-2022 refresh to restore some of the 3’s zoom-zoom handling we hope it retains the pleasingly absorbent ride quality that’s part of the current generation’s focus on finesse.
A cabin free of intrusive wind noise should remain another upmarket cue. But until there’s more isolation from engines that sound gruff during even mild acceleration and reduced coarse-road tire noise, the 3 won’t exhibit the all-around refinement expected of a premium-segment pretender.
Will 2022 Mazda 3 fuel economy improve?
Best chance for better mileage would come with introduction of a Skyactiv-X engine. It would be Mazda’s stand-in for the gas-electric hybrid powertrains offered in the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Toyota Corolla. And if it delivered the promised 30-percent increase in fuel economy, it could help elevate the 2022 Mazda 3’s overall mileage above midpack.
Mazda could use the model-year-’22 refresh to improve the efficiency of carryover powertrains, potentially beating their model-year-’21 EPA ratings. For reference, the ’21 Base 2.0 sedan rated 28/36/31 mpg city/highway/combined.
The 2.5 S sedan rated 26/35/30 mpg with front-wheel drive and 25/33/28 with AWD. EPA ratings for the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 S hatchback were 24/33/27 mpg with manual transmission and front-wheel drive. With automatic transmission, ratings were 26/34/29 with front-drive, 25/31/27 with AWD.
With AWD standard, the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo sedan rated 23/32/27 mpg and the hatchback 23/31/26 mpg.
Will there be new 2022 Mazda 3 features?
Mazda would do well to consider strengthening the 2022 3’s upmarket dreams by adding features aspirational buyers rightly expect. Beyond the luxury of a possible Signature-type flagship, enrichments would logically include ventilated front seats, a power front passenger seat, heated rear seats, and rear USB ports.
Far more important would be a more generous approach to standard safety features.
For model-year 2021, the automaker’s i-Activsense suite of driver assists was standard on every Mazda 3. It contained autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically stop the car to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian. Lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction was part of i-Activsense. So was drowsy-driver alert and automatic high-beam headlights.
Included as well was adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead (though it wasn’t available on the 2.5 S manual-transmission hatchback). The basic system can also stop the car, then resume the set speed when the way clears. The more advanced system in the Turbos incorporated Mazda’s Traffic Jam Assist, essentially low-speed cruise control and an appreciated convenience in stop-and-go congestion.
However, the important safeguard of blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert was optional on 2.5 S models and standard on the Turbos. The Turbos were also the only 2021 Mazda 3s available with rear- and rear-cross-traffic autonomous braking and with a 360-degree monitor.
Making at least blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection standard on all trim levels would bring the 2022 Mazda 3 abreast of key compact-car rivals that include it across the board. And it would further underscore this car’s premium-class reach.
Expect the entry-level version of the 2022 Mazda 3 to again come with niceties such as standard LED lighting and rain-sensing windshield wipers. You’ll likely need to move up the 2.5 S range to get such standard features as remote keyless entry, plus the aforementioned Apple and Android support and folding rear seatbacks.
The ‘22 refresh might also migrate to the 2.5 S models some features that were exclusive standard items on the Turbos, including a power moonroof, steering-linked headlamps, and a heated steering wheel.
Will 2022 Mazda 3 prices be different?
With Mazda 3 sales slumping and prices already near the top of the segment, this small Japanese automaker is faced with a daunting balancing act. It must cover expenses associated with the model-year-2022 refresh, keep the Mazda 3 reasonably affordable, and cast it as an alternative to cars like the Audi A3 and Acura ILX.
Tall order. Expect some price increase, but only its manufacturer knows how far the ‘22 Mazda 3 might push into premium territory. Happily, Mazda can point to its No. 1 ranking in the influential Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Survey for 2020. It’s the first time the brand has topped the list, a win attributed in part to a conservative pace toward full redesigns, which minimizes the introduction of problem-prone new technology.
For reference, here are 2021 Mazda 3 base prices, including the $945 destination fee.
The Base 2.0 sedan started at $21,445, the 2.5 S sedan at $22,445, and the 2.5 S hatchback at $23,445. The ’21 Mazda 3 2.5 S hatchback with manual transmission came only with the Preferred Package (see below) and front-wheel drive; it was priced at $27,850. All other 2.5 S models were available with AWD for an extra $1,400.
With AWD standard, base prices for the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo were $30,845 for the sedan and $31,845 for the hatchback.
Adding the BBS wheels to any 2021 Mazda 3 cost $3,676. But Mazda probably will again group most options into packages reserved for the 2.5 S versions.
For model-year ‘21, for example, the $1,200 Select Package added the gray 18-inch wheels, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather steering wheel and shift knob, black leatherette seats, rear armrest with cup holders and door mirror turn signals.
The $2,850 2.5 S Preferred Package built on that with the moonroof, heated front seats, power driver’s seat with power lumbar and memory, leatherette, and a gloss black grille.
The $6,750 2.5 S Premium Package contained all the above, plus leather upholstery, imbedded navigation, Bose-brand 12-speaker premium audio with aluminum speaker grilles, satellite radio, a head-up instrument display, the steering-linked headlamps, black 18-inch alloys, and unique LED accent lighting.
The 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Premium Package cost $2,550. It finished some exterior trim in black and added imbedded navigation, perforated leather front sport seats, front and rear parking sensors, the 360-degree monitor, Traffic Jam Assist, rear- and rear-cross braking, and a frameless automatic-dimming rearview mirror. The Turbo aero kit cost $1,900, or $1,075 with the Premium Package.
When does the 2022 Mazda 3 come out?
Expect a 2022 Mazda 3 release date in fall 2021.