2016’s best fuel efficient compact: Road Review of the Mazda3

On a weeklong road test of a 2016 Mazda3 Grand Touring, we discover why this is one of the year's best buys.


LOS ANGELES, January 27, 2016 – If you are seeking an affordable new car that gets great fuel economy and wows you every time you drive, then look no further than the 2016 Mazda3. On a weeklong road test in the Hollywood Hills, we discovered why this hot hatch (also available in four door) is one of the year’s best new car buys with a lower price and more added features than ever before.

It’s no wonder Mazda3 is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle with its low price, sexy exterior, high quality comfortable interior, fun-to-drive performance, loads of standard luxury features, cool in-car technology and, if all that wasn’t enough, excellent fuel economy.

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2016 Mazda3 Behind

The base 2016 Mazda3 has a MSRP of just $17,845. However, it is the Mazda3 iSport model that has decreased in price by $600 and added ever more features for an almost unbelievable $18,895.

Additional standard equipment on the iSport model includes: power windows, power door locks, 16-inch steel wheels, dual power-folding exterior mirrors, tilt-and-telescoping adjustable steering wheel, air conditioning with pollen air filter and 60/40 split-fold rear seats. Other standard features on the iSport are a six-speaker audio system, push button start, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, audio streaming, cruise control and Mazda’s “Connect” infotainment technology. That’s a whole lotta car for 19 grand, right?

But let’s start with looking at fuel economy. Available in two power plants (2.0- and 2.5-liter) with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, the 2016 Mazda3 gets up to 34 mpg. We road tested a tricked out Mazda3 S Grand Touring with the top-of-the-line 2.5-liter 185 hp engine, which gets a whopping 27 mpg city and 31 mpg hwy.

At $30,665 (including the $1,750 “appearance package”), our racy red Grand Touring was a real beauty. Somehow, this low-riding compact gets under your design skin with is 18-inch alloy wheels, bulbous hood, huge black matte grille ringed with chrome, body-colored lower fender, sleek headlamps, halogen fog lights, straight side lines and bootylicious back hatch.

2016 Mazda3 Side View

We definitely felt Mazda’s racing heritage in this next gen Mazda3’s exterior and felt that rush of excitement each time we walked up for yet another ride.

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Inside, the Mazda3 is exciting too. Mazda vehicles just have a high quality build and utterly ergonomic interior design that just cannot be matched by most other near luxury car companies.

2016 Mazda3 Interior

Our road test Grand Touring came with ventilated leather seating. These two-toned bucket seats are supremely comfortable for heads, backs, hips and thighs. The leather-wrapped steering wheel fits perfect in your hands and is made even more utilitarian with its thumb-based controls for cruise, audio and other hands-free tech applications.

The matching leather-wrapped shift knob with contrast red stitching and burnished chrome accents fits perfectly in your right hand. The digital gauges behind the steering wheel are easily viewed as is the top-of-the-dash touchscreen. Just under the screen is the climate controls and below that is the convenient smartphone resting and charging niche, which perfectly fit my oversized LG G4.

2016 Mazda3 TelematicsThe space between the two front seats is masterfully designed with an emergency brake, two cup holders and Mazda’s “Connect” controls.

Much like the right-hand dials in luxury vehicles such as Mercedes’ COMMAND system, Mazda’s “Connect” controls make for an even better and more safe driving experience.

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Without taking your eyes off the road, the “Connect” system easily allows drivers (and passengers for that matter) to control volume, music, navigation and other hands-free features.

Back row seating is equally comfortable and has lots of legroom even for tall adults. We were even impressed with the saddle-stitched red door trims with its many textures including a bright chrome-ringed vent and door handle along with leather insert and lower bottle holder.

2016 Mazda3 Front Door Trim

What about performance you say? Our 2.5-liter, six-speed Grand Touring model definitely lived up to Mazda’s “zoom zoom” philosophy. Acceleration is quick through all gears and most especially jumps to fast speeds in third and fourth gears.

Braking, steering, handling and suspension are top notch and made a Sunday drive through LA’s windy and scenic Laurel Canyon into a thrilling joy ride.

As for safety, the 2016 Mazda3 received a hard-to-get, five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Our Grand Touring model was loaded with advanced safety tech such as radar-based cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure and forward obstruction warning systems.

Unfortunately, buying a Mazda3 can be confusing. Available in a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback models, the 2016 Mazda three also comes in two engine types (2.0- and 2.5-liter) and can be outfitted with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Here’s a detailed price breakdown along with available option packages:

Four-Door Mazda3 i 2.0-liter

–Mazda3 i Sport six-speed manual: $17,845

–Mazda3 i Sport six-speed automatic: $18,895

(Preferred Equipment Package: $1,000)

–Mazda3 i Touring six-speed manual: $20,045

–Mazda3 i Touring six-speed automatic: $21,095

(Popular Equipment Package: $1,100)

–Mazda3 i Grand Touring six-speed manual: $22,545

–Mazda3 i Grand Touring six-speed automatic: $23,595

Four-Door Mazda3 S 2.5-liter

–Mazda3 s Touring six-speed automatic: $24,795

–Mazda3 s Grand Touring six-speed manual: $24,745

–Mazda3 s Grand Touring six-speed automatic: $25,795

(Technology Package: $2,600)

Five-Door Mazda3 I 2.0-liter

–Mazda3 i Sport six-speed manual: $18,545

–Mazda3 i Sport six-speed automatic: $19,595

(Preferred Equipment Package: $1,000)

–Mazda3 i Touring six-speed manual: $20,745

–Mazda3 i Touring six-speed automatic: $21,795

(Popular Equipment Package: $1,100)

–Mazda3 i Grand Touring six-speed manual: $23,245

–Mazda3 i Grand Touring six-speed automatic: $24,295

Five-Door Mazda3 S 2.5-liter

–Mazda3 s Touring six-speed automatic: $25,495

–Mazda3 s Grand Touring six-speed manual: $25,445

–Mazda3 s Grand Touring six-speed automatic: $26,495

(Technology Package: $2,600)

Ready for a new racy ride that’s also fuel efficient? Consider the 2016 Mazda3 as this fuel-sipping compact sedan or hatchback has everything and much more at a great price.

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Sheryll Alexander
LA-based Sheryll Alexander is a professional writer, editor at large, extreme social media journalist and media consultant. She occupies a global tell-the-truth, Earth-first news service on her Facebook and Twitter accounts. Alexander is a longtime lifestyles writer, travel editor, automotive journalist, professional road test reviewer, food writer and restaurant critic.