Year after year, the Mazda3 continues to take a home a lion’s share of awards in its class. In the United States as in Canada, it is still for the most part the category reference against which others compare themselves. Why? Because of its harmonious styling, highly pleasant driving dynamics and ability to sip and not guzzle fuel, for starters.
The 2017 edition received a few design tweaks and mechanical revisions (notably to the programming of the engine to make it more efficient and linear), but most notable is the new technology known as G-Vectoring Control, developed to enhance the driving experience. Add to that a revamped interior, the introduction of an electronic parking brake and a few other improvements, and competitors might despair at being faced with an even more competitive model than before.
Long-term road test
Evaluating a car after a few days of driving it is fine, but it doesn’t really compare with trying it out for a few months, which allows for putting it through its paces in all sorts of conditions as well as collecting opinions of different people who take the wheel during that time. We were provided with a 2017 Mazda3 Sport (hatchback version) to test out for an extended period; by the time we were done, 8,000 km had been added to the odometer. Always a good sign: during all that time we encountered no mechanical issues whatsoever.
Our test model was a GT version, the most luxurious in the model lineup. This car delivers enough luxury and sophisticated drive assist systems that most people would be entirely satisfied with the level of coddling it offers. What’s more, the hatchback setup means that cargo capacity is much more generous than in the sedan version. Although, it must be said that the latter does provide a quieter ride than the five-door model.
The leather-covered seats and steering wheel are other well-appreciated luxury touches. But the most striking, and most important, high-end feature is the general presentation of the dashboard, featuring an overhanging infotainment screen as well as a smart head up display. The seats themselves are also impressively comfortable. On the other hand, for taller back-row passengers to benefit from acceptable comfort and room requires some cooperation from those in front.
On the mechanical front, owners of the 2017 Mazda3 GT will find little to quibble with. The 2.5L SKYACTIV-technology-equipped engine produces 185 hp; in our model it was twinned with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Given the car’s weight, performance was more than adequate, and can be further enhanced by activating the Sport driving mode via a knob on the central console. The standard manual transmission is one of the best available in the category, but the fact is that the automatic gearbox is prompt about changing gears when called upon and is easily and deftly managed using the paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel or using the manual mode on the gear shifter.
Blind Spot Monitor, Lane-Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control: these and other active safety systems present in the 2017 Mazda3 Sport are usually associated with costlier models. Added to these, of course, is G-Vectoring Control, a system that calls on the engine’s torque to adjust the car’s weight to its front section when cornering in order to optimize road handling and the precision of the steering. This system is so efficient it operates virtually imperceptibly.
A car of many talents
Lest you think you’re reading a sponsored advertorial, we do want to note a few areas where the 2017 Mazda3 Sport comes up a little short. First off, some drivers have found the engine to be on the noisy side; we felt that this was attenuated once the engine warmed up. In general, the noise level inside the cabin is somewhat higher than in the majority of the car’s competitors. This does take away from fully enjoying the Bose audio system, itself not particularly outstanding compared to what’s out there on the market. The navigation system, meanwhile, did lead us astray on a couple of occasions. Nothing, as they, is perfect.
Among the strong points of the Mazda3? Its general balance on the road and, unquestionably, the driving experience it offers. The engine’s capabilities, working in tandem with a highly effective transmission, mean that acceleration is notably above average, and we also appreciated the precision of the steering. But it was the more discreet qualities of the mechanics that really made us enjoy the car. The G-Vectoring Control system works marvellously well; that it is basically undetectable takes nothing away from its effectiveness at guiding the car through corners. Its usefulness also extends to the highway as it improves steering stability.
By the end of the extended road test, all those who had taken the wheel of the 2017 Mazda3 Sport came away impressed with its overall handling, luxurious interior and stingy fuel consumption (an average of barely 7.0L/100 km, achieved in a variety of conditions and at different speeds).
For our part, the 8,000 km we racked up behind the wheel confirmed to us that those awards that have been bestowed on the Mazda3 are amply deserved.