2015 Mazda Mazda3 i Touring Review
How is this car still being overlooked?!
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: February 6th, 2015
For the calendar year 2014, the Mazda3 was the 10th most popular small car in terms of sales. The Corolla and Civic destroyed the others, followed shortly thereafter by the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford Focus. The Mazda3 ranked behind the Nissan Versa, Nissan Sentra, and Kia Soul. The only question I could muster is, "Why?" Why does the Mazda3 feel such little love from the U.S.?
We'll try to figure that out during the course of our review. Because we can't get over how good this little car actually is.
One of the biggest new-year inclusions for the 2015 Mazda3 is the high-center-mounted touchscreen infotainment system, which is now standard on all Mazda3 trim levels, save for the basest of base models. Its presence, seemingly floating there above the dashboard, commands most of the visual attention. The remainder of the interior is pretty no-nonsense; the climate buttons are clustered together on the lower dash, the infotainment buttons are clustered together behind the shifter, and additional functions can be accessed on the steering wheel - a place for everything, and everything in its place.
We also loved the quality of Mazda's cloth seats. No longer are economy-car buyers stuck with cheap-feeling fuzzy velour; nowadays, seats made of cloth feel more expensive than most leatherette seats on the market. The seats add to the premium feeling you get in the Mazda; unburdened by neither gross oversimplification nor gross complication, the Mazda3's interior has that feeling of just enough that makes the car feel like it should cost more.
Since its redesign, the Mazda3 has been easily the most attractive compact car on the market. From the large front grille and its chinstrap-beard silver trim, up over the prominent front-wheel arches, rising again for the rear fenders, and all the way back to the thin, sharp taillights, the Mazda3 has all its proportions in the right place. One could argue that perhaps Mazda went a little overboard on the styling, but if that's your opinion, then the milquetoast exteriors of the Civic and Corolla will likely resonate better with your lifestyle of dullness.
On the Road
Our Mazda3 was fitted with the smaller of two available engines - a 2.0-liter, 155-horsepower four-pot. What is lost in power (29 of those ponies, to be exact) is gained in efficiency, and my goodness, is the Mazda3 efficient. EPA estimates peg the car at 30 city and 41 highway; while the city number took some effort to reach, 41 mpg was not a problem at all on the highway. The 2.0-liter engine still has enough power for passing at highway speeds, but we found ourselves wishing for a little extra pep in our step, especially when navigating urban environments. The Mazda's six-speed automatic is about as tried and true as it gets (outside of Toyota's four-speed automatic, which, yes, they still put on new cars, including the Corolla), working mostly behind the scenes, choosing not to interrupt us with jostles and hesitation.
The real excitement with the Mazda3, however, takes place regardless of which engine is shoved under the hood. The money is truly in the banana stand here - by which, we mean the chassis. The car is very expertly sorted; it will tackle bumps and potholes like every other small car out there, but once you crank up the "drive like a jerk" dial a bit, the Mazda3 simply walks away from the competition. Your author has been lucky enough to drive nearly every car in this segment in the last year, and the Mazda takes the cake for driving dynamics.
It's like looking at what Toyota could do if they stopped repurposing decades-old technology for the Corolla.
The only thing we truly disliked about the Mazda3 was its pandering. On touchscreen vehicles not equipped with navigation, there is still a "nav" button by the infotainment's physical control knob. When you push it, the car explains that it doesn't have navigation, but it's all set for a $400 upgrade. If I were an owner, I'd be thinking, "Damn it, I just bought this car, the second most expensive purchase of my life. And it's trying to guilt me into driving back to the dealership and unlocking a new feature at even more cost? And that happens every time I accidentally push this button?" I would be livid after a week. It's like having a roadside panhandler in your car. Not a fan.
From our time spent with the car, we couldn't figure out why it isn't contending more closely with the industry stalwarts, because the Mazda3 really is one of the best compact cars you can buy. It's a perfect blend of sporty driving characteristics and efficiency that won't leave you clamoring for more. It's nowhere near as boring as the Corolla and Civic, but maybe that's the problem. Maybe folks are too scared of its racy looks and all that zoom-zoom crap they hear on commercials. After all, the enthusiast segment doesn't buy cars in droves.
Perhaps a tweaking of the Mazda3's ad campaign would help its sales. The focal points should be efficiency (there's plenty of it), space (there's plenty of that, too), and standard features (again, plenty). That's it. Don't talk about how fun it is to drive, because then buyers' significant others will get mad at them for buying a car that prioritizes fun over safety. Let the chassis be the poorly-kept secret, only appearing for those wise enough to buy one.
But since we've already ruined that secret throughout this review, we'll say it again: You should buy the Mazda3 instead of a Corolla or Civic. It looks better, and it drives better.
Specs & Price
Engine: 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-4
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Power Output: 155 horsepower / 150 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 30 city / 41 highway
Base Price: $20,645
As Tested: $23,410
Technology Package: Bose 9-speaker surround sound audio system, power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, overhead console, roof-mounted antenna, satellite radio
Appearance Package: Front air damn, side sills, rear diffuser, door mirror caps
Individual Options: Remote engine start, rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, interior lighting
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Mazda MAZDA3, click here: 2015 Mazda MAZDA3.