While the revamped Mazda3 is a far better vehicle with extensive “premium” features such as optional leather in the interior and all-wheel drive, it’s also a relatively small car with a price that has risen a couple thousand dollars.
Mazda says it’s a better value based on the additional content, but consumers in the segment remain highly sensitive to price.
“It’s no secret that the entire passenger-car market is struggling,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds. “That said, the compact-car segment still has a base of consumers who are looking for new, basic transportation at an affordable price. Unfortunately by moving the 3 upmarket, Mazda has alienated a big part of that very consumer base.”
With a transaction price hovering around $25,000, Caldwell said, “the 3 is not only more expensive than its compact car counterparts but encroaching on small SUV pricing. This will only limit Mazda’s pool of consumers. An upscale, small car from a mainstream brand is a fun idea, but it will likely not move beyond small volumes in current market conditions.”
Mazda also touted its new Skyactiv-X gasoline engine, which uses compression ignition like a diesel and offers a better combination of power and efficiency. But Mazda isn’t yet bringing the engine to the U.S. So far, it’s slated for use in Europe first. Mazda is offering only a carryover engine on the Mazda3 with no big gains in power or miles per gallon.