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Comparison Of Top Mazda Sedans

Small sedans with all-wheel drive aren’t many, but the latest player, the 2022 Mazda3 with i-Activ AWD, certainly shakes up the field dominated by Impreza in the Subaru lineup. The Mazda 3’s optional AWD recently proved unflappable while driving through a dumping of fresh snow as well as slushy, mixed surfaces. Let’s dive into the comparison of this Mazda Sedan lineup.

Mazda 3 vs. Mazda 3 AWD: Performance

The Mazda 3 transfers its power to the rear wheels, meaning the car drives like it has permanent AWD. As much as 50% percent can go to the rear wheels when called for, but even when it’s biased to the front, Mazda is sending a little torque to the rear differential to remove backlash that would otherwise create a delay or jerk during AWD engagement.

Unique to the Mazda3, Mazda does this through new gear ratios in the power takeoff unit (the unit connected to the transmission that sends power to the rear wheels via a driveshaft). The new PTO gear ratios create a small speed differential at the clutch pack part of the fast-acting electromagnetic coupling that controls torque split to the rear wheels, and is attached to the rear differential.

This is slightly different from the way Mazda 3 AWD works, where about 2% of power is preloaded to the rear wheels, and the new way claims to reduce drag and help with every last bit of fuel economy. Non-WRX Impreza models with continuously variable automatic transmission split power 60/40 front/rear as a default, and it’s Subaru’s CVT that likely plays a big part in its improved fuel economy compared with the Mazda3’s dated, yet direct and responsive, six-speed automatic.

Mazda’s i-Activ AWD predictively sends power to the rear wheels in anticipation of wheelspin by monitoring various vehicle systems beyond just powertrain. It reads when the wiper blades are on, which means during rain, snow, or when the external temperature is low and roads might be slippery.


The MSRP Mazda3 Select Package with AWD is over $21,000, and Mazda 3 Sedan costs over $20,000. The Mazda 3 also loses 2 mpg in combined ratings (30 to 28 mpg) with the optional all-wheel drive, which is typical of most sedans with AWD and adds an estimated $100 per year in fuel costs.

Other cars leverage some form of this logic, though within this price range, Mazda seems to be using unique data points to keep its AWD on its toes.


It’s clear that AWD is best for people who live in areas with hills and regular snowfall. While small sedans with AWD are rare, it’s also worth noting there are about a dozen top sedans available at a great price, including the Mazda 3.

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