|Positives: Attractive exterior and interior, superb steering and handling, good infotainment system.|
|Negatives: Cheap looking heads up display, lightweight doors and somewhat of a hallow feeling.|
|Bottom Line: The Mazda3 is an excellent car. For the money, this is the best driving compact sedan out there. It's also comfortable, has plenty of technology and looks fantastic, too. Mazda has refined the model even more for 2017. Still, Mazda had to go cheap on some things to keep the price down and that leads to annoyances like lightweight, hollow-feeling doors that don't want to close on an initial push close and a wimpy-looking head-up display.|
|View Our 2017 Mazda MAZDA3 Overview|
The Mazda3 has some seriously tough competition, but it manages to outdo pretty much everybody it comes in contention with... in spite of less than pack-leading sales. Mazda has worked hard to combine a stylish exterior, great driving dynamics, a comfortable, seriously attractive and very functional interior into a package that’s still quite reasonably priced. While cars like the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford Focus are all formidable opponents, the Mazda3 manages to stand out by just being better at most everything. We recently got to spend a week with this car to see just how good it actually is.
The Mazda3 is one of the best driving cars in its segment. Its steering is crisp and precise, it handles like a sporty car that’s well beyond its price point and it has plenty of get up and go. The model we tested had a 6-speed manual gearbox and we’d urge you to get the car equipped that way. The clutch is light and easy to use, the gear box snappy and fun. However, we understand that many people don’t know how or don’t want to rope their own gears, so if you must, the automatic makes for a great choice as well.
Ride Quality: The ride of the Mazda3 leans towards firm rather than plush, but at no time did we find it jarring. This compact sedan handles bumps well.
Acceleration: The car is reasonably quick off the line and has enough power to make passing at highway speeds easy. You won’t win any drag races, but then again, you’d never bring this car to a drag race.
Braking: The brakes are smooth and progressive with good pedal feel.
Steering: Light and precise. It takes practically no time at all to get a feel for how the car steers. It feels very natural and in the twisties, the car drives beautifully. The new G-Vectoring Control that Mazda has installed makes the steering and cornering even better than before.
Handling: The Mazda3 is completely comfortable cruising in a straight line, but where it really shines is on a curvy road. There is minimal body roll and just a bit of understeer and that occurs only when you seriously toss it into turns. Our only regret was that we didn’t have a better road to really put this car to the test. To drive it is to love it, thanks to superb chassis dynamics.
Mazda’s does a good job of equipping its vehicles with the latest technology and the new Mazda3 is no exception. The car features Bluetooth, Mazda Connect, Sirius XM Satellite radio and much more all accessible via an easy to use infotainment system with intuitive controls. While this car’s infotainment system might not be as robust as some premium brands, it’s also not as confusing. When you look at the technology and the controls for that technology in relation to the immediate competitors, Mazda has one of the best systems out there by far.
Infotainment System:The 7-inch full-color touch screen display is well-positioned on the dash and large enough for this car. The touchscreen function isn’t always accessible (when your moving you have to use the other controls), so we stuck to using the system's controller or the steering wheel controls.
Controls: The controller for the infotainment system located between the front seats is one of the best in the business. While it’s not quite as simple as Kia and Hyundai’s layout of buttons, the controller takes a page from the premium German luxury brand’s book and utilizes a dial/joystick function that makes navigating the system easy on the fly or while parked.
Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone proved easy and our phone reconnected upon re-entry.
Voice Call Quality: Calls were crisp and clear, with no issues on either end.
As far as styling goes, the Mazda3 beats the competition. Mazda’s Kodo Design language makes some seriously good looking cars with flowing lines and attractive fascias. The Mazda3 looks much the same as it did last year, with only a few minor cosmetic changes. Most people won’t be able to tell the difference.
Front: When you first look at the Mazda3 the hood length is the first thing you notice. It looks longer than much of the competition, but it really isn’t that much longer and certainly doesn’t feel it when driving. That’s the magic of Mazda’s styling. The swooping lines that start at the nose of the vehicle make it seem longer and lower than it really is.
Rear: The rear does a good job of ending the flowing lines of the car without cutting them off or the rear appearing truncated. From some angles, the five-door version of the car can seem to end abruptly but in sedan form everything flows nicely.
Profile: You can really see how the lines of the front fenders and hood move down the side of the car to give it its shape. Overall, the Mazda3 strikes a pretty recognizable profile without being polarizing.
Cabin: The inside is almost as refined as the exterior. The Grand Touring model features higher quality materials and the cabin has a kind of simple elegance. There are a few things that stand out to break up the flow of the interior, like the dinky heads-up display.
Ergonomically, the Mazda3 does a wonderful job. Everything is within reach and easy to use. The seats, steering wheel and controls all feel like they belong. Sitting in the car you come to appreciate the simplicity of the interior. Mazda has done a good job of reducing unneeded or distracting elements from the car making the cabin a great place to be.
Front Seats: The seats in the Grand Touring model that we drive were leather clad and very comfortable. They featured plenty of adjustment and we had no issues getting comfortable.
Rear Seats: In the rear seats there’s plenty of room for two adults and the seats are just as comfortable as the front. If you tried to put three adults in the rear, it’d be a little tight.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Mazda3 is a quiet car and road noise is at a minimum. We did notice, however, if the tires kicked up something, like stones or dirt, we could hear the debris being flicked around. Mazda has done a good job mitigating most noises, but some things still get through.
Visibility: Front, side and rear visibility is good and what ever you can't see out the rear, the camera picks up.
Climate: The dual-zone climate control does a fine job of heating or cooling the cabin of the car. Assisted by heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, the Mazda3 is ready to brave any temperatures.
The 2017 Mazda3 has not yet been rated by the NHTSA or the IIHS. The 2016 Mazda3, which is essentially the same car received a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS and the NHTSA awarded it five stars overall. We fully expect the 2017 Mazda3 to have similar if not better safety ratings due to the fact that Mazda has added additional safety technology.
IIHS Rating: This car has not yet been rated.
Standard Tech: ABS, hill launch assist, stability and traction control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, smart city brake support rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system, 24-hour roadside assistance, anti-theft engine immobilizer and airbags all around.
Optional Tech: LED headlights with automatic on/off, daytime running lights, adaptive front-lighting system, high-beam control, lane departure warning system and lane-keep assist, smart brake support, Mazda Radar cruise control and traffic sign recognition.
The Mazda3 does a decent job of providing storage options for a small sedan. There’s ample room for storage in this package despite the car’s overall compact size. Mazda has won rave reviews for its interior, and that includes using the limited available space for ideal purposes.
Storage Space: The center console offers a few different places to stow everyday carry items and whatever doesn’t fit there should fit in either the glove box or the door pockets.
Cargo Room: As far as trunk volume goes, the Mazda3 packs 12.4 cubic feet of space. That enough for most, but there are cars in its segment that are better, including the Honda Civic and the Hyunda Elantra.
The EPA estimated numbers for the Mazda3 come out to 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. Those are pretty impressive numbers but the competition can do a little better than that, with some cars managing to pull out over 40 mpg on the highway.
Observed: We saw an average of 29 mpg during our week with the vehicle.
Driving Factors: We drove the car both in the city and on the highway. In most cases, we were not too heavy on the throttle.
The 9-speaker Bose audio system in the Grand Touring version of the Mazda3 is a very good system and plenty loud enough for the car. You get a good range of sound from the system and the easy to use controls make operating the system easy. Playing music from our phones was quick and easy and switching back to the radio simple.
Overall, the Mazda3 is one of the best vehicles in its class, not just for its driving abilities but also for its amenities and styling. Some of its competitors have better storage space and others utilize fuel in a more efficient manner, but none can compete with the car’s driving dynamics. If you’re looking for a compact sedan that you’ll actually enjoy driving, this is the car for you. Also, you can get it with a stick, which is a major plus in a time when most automakers are skipping manual transmissions altogether.