- c/d test data quantifies what's easily seen by the naked eye: a substantial drop in rear visibility in the latest mazda 3 hatchback.
- the nearest point on the road that the driver can see is 97 feet behind the 3's rear bumper, more than six and a half times the length of the car itself.
- that's nearly 50 percent worse than the previous-generation 3 and the worst in the compact-hatchback segment.
in the lengthy process to develop a new car, there's continuous tension between designers and engineers, as changes that improve the car from the perspective of one of those areas tend to do the opposite from the point of view of the other group. with the latest mazda 3 hatchback, it's clear that the designers won a lot of arguments, because the 3 took a huge step backward in terms of outward visibility.
we like the 3's styling, which certainly sets it apart from the compact-hatch crowd. but our visibility measurements show there's a reason that the view rearward from the driver's seat seems restricted, and that sitting in the back seat is now a bunker-like experience.
looking in the rearview mirror from the driver's seat, the nearest point on the road that can be seen through the 3's squinty rear glass is a whopping 97 feet (that's the length of more than six and a half mazda 3s). that's worse than some hulking suvs such as the cadillac escalade (64 feet) or the bmw x7 (73 feet) and up from 67 feet in the 2018 mazda 3. some competitors do even better, such as the hyundai elantra gt, which comes in at 50 feet.
the 3's c-pillars also grew substantially during the redesign and look downright massive from some rear angles. they contribute to a significant reduction in total visibility out the rear of the car; out of a total of 180 degrees, the driver can only see 104 of them versus 121 degrees on the previous 3. that's a reduction of 14 percent and the worst in the segment. the new 3 sedan, which didn't get as dramatic a stylistic overhaul, performs much better at 118 degrees.
the forward view didn't change nearly as significantly, with the a-pillars getting slightly chunkier; the view forward over the hood blocks is just one additional foot of pavement ahead of the car.
the sales results throughout the 3's life cycle will indicate whether or not mazda made the right tradeoff.