Allow me to elaborate somewhat. It’s actually very simple: The latest Mazda3 is bloody brilliant. It’s fun to drive, quick with the 2.5L, and stunningly good looking for a compact car. What more can you ask for?
Mazda’s addressed their rust issues (or so it seems) and they now have an unmatched warranty that revolves around the 3-year unlimited mileage basic coverage. Again, I put to you the question: What more can you ask for?
Let’s then talk about pricing. The Mazda3 is aggressively marketed as an affordable compact road car with typically good incentives and rebates. What’s more, ownership costs are average and resale values are quite good. Do I need to repeat the question?
I know this reads like an advertorial, but sometimes it’s just simpler to throw in facts and not try to tear something apart because, as an auto critic, that’s what I’m paid to do. The Mazda3 can be a number of things to a vast majority of small-car buyers.
More than just basic transportation
At $15,995, the GX sedan’s got all the necessary kit to make owning this car the farthest thing from a chore and a compromise. For $1,700 more, the Comfort package will add A/C and a tachometer. You’re all set.
The base 155-hp 2.0L 4-cylinder engine will satisfy 95% of the average commuters’ needs with brisk acceleration and very good fuel economy.
At the other end of the Mazda3’s trim spectrum is my tester or the Sport GT with the Luxury and Technology packages and the automatic transmission with a grand total of $30,995. This is some serious money for a compact hatchback, but the list of goodies is on par with a car costing $40k and more.
The GT trim involves the 184-horsepower 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and 185 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the said 6-speed automatic, the GT is downright speedy. I’d hoped for the manual ‘box, but actually enjoyed dropping the shifter into “D” having at the throttle. The 6-speed manual box is a great tool for driving, and the 6-speed automatic is impressively efficient. Shifts are nothing short of rapid as well as seamless. Wheel-mounted paddles would have been nice but again, for the average consumer, this car’s SKYACTIV powertrain is more than adequate.
If you want to surprise would-be traffic light racers (not that we condone the behaviour) the 2.5L makes the 3 downright fast. The unassuming hatch has plenty where it counts. Pushing on the “Sport” button located next to the lever realistically makes the 3 feel livelier, and far more responsive. Another “+” for the 3.
A winner on all counts
Immediately upon its arrival, the Mazda3 was not compared to the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, no, it was compared to the Volkswagen Golf and Jetta. If Civics from the ‘80s and ‘90s were great to drive, the then current Civic was a bore while the new Mazda3 was dynamic, nimble and a blast. The car’s steering is sharp and the assistance is well judged, and I love the brakes; they’re powerful with a responsive pedal.
It continues to be an impressively competent little car, now equal and in parts superior to other compact cars. The overly used “fun to drive” expression truly applies here. The ride quality is on par with the Germans, and that’s still saying much as the latest generation Golf still stands as a reference point.
Small and attractive
The next argument in its favour is undoubtedly the KODO styling. Once more, the Mazda3 eclipses its Japanese counterparts. It matches and surpasses the Germans and will age better in time, in contrast with the highly “designed” Koreans. If you’re not convinced, take a moment to admire the car’s front end. Yes, that is wow. Oddly though, this is a rare car where the sedan outshines the hatchback.
Then we move into the roomy and stylish cabin: There’s beauty in simplicity, and Mazda’s figured this one out. There are two exceptions to this rule and they are the two protruding screens. The head’s up display, although useful, looks flimsy and the centre screen should fold away when not in use. Otherwise, the dashboard is clean, very well put together, and user-friendly.
The GT’s loaded with all kinds of goodies, namely a voice-activated navigation system, Bi-Xenon HID headlights and 18" alloys among many others. The seats are supportive and comfortable and there’s plenty of room for five and loads of gear.
The Mazda3 or… ?
As you can see, one would be daft to ignore what I think is one of the best compact cars in the business, along with the previously mentioned Golf and the Subaru Impreza. The latter two cars may not be at the top of the bestsellers list, but they are good drivers and plenty versatile.
After a week of hard driving (the car made me do it), I managed a returned fuel consumption average of just over 8L/100km. This much fun, this much kit, and this much styling in the category are a rare thing. If it wasn’t for the absence of AWD (I’m crazy, unreasonable, whatever…), there would no good reason for me not to have one.