SEATTLE, May 1, 2017 — While the current design language of Mazda objectively looks great, it’s what Mazda has been able to pack into its vehicles at their respective price points that’s something to consider. Additionally, they’re the only Japanese auto maker that hasn’t gone the route of the dreadful, uninspired CVT transmission and in fact, offer a six-speed manual in this “3” model.
There are a number of great changes for this 2017 model years, keeping the 3 hatchback one of the better cars available for the money. It looks great, is fun to drive and offers up quite of bit for such a value-priced vehicle.
Under the hood, Mazda is still using its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with “SkyActive” technology that helps it obtain better fuel economy in this Grand Touring model. It develops 184-horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque which kicks in at only 3250 rpm so the car actually has quite a bit of pep to it. EPA ratings for 25 around town and 33 on the highway with the manual transmission.
The 2017 model year introduces a standard G-Vectoring control as well as the 2.5-liter engine on the Grand Touring models. Additionally, there’s been some minor changes to the front and rear fascia as well as newly designed 18-inch wheels
G-Vectoring falls in line with Mazda’s Jinba-Ittai pursuit – which is the symbiotic relationship developed over time by a horse and rider. This technology automatically adjusts engine torque according to steering input in order to optimize the vertical load of each tire. The end-result is a more smooth transition around corners and overall handling.
Inside, we see the same top-notch, class-leading interior that subjectively blows away the competition. The stark contrast of colors, attention to detail, tech and comfort leave the 3 in a class all its own in this price segment.
The Bose-powered infotainment center provides great-sounding audio with door-jarring bass response and uses a center-channel speaker to provide a convincing soundstage. There aren’t many Bose systems we’ve heard in new cars that impressed us much but this one is among the better of them. Audio sources include, CD, MP3, Bluetooth audio, Satellite radio, AM/FM/HD FM, Pandora and Stitcher.
While there’s no Google Earth mapping system for the on-board Navigation, there is the option to go between a top-down “2D’ mode and a more angled look-down or “3D’ mode. Regardless of your preference, you’ll find that using the on-board navigation is rather easy to use, thanks for the center column control knob and intuitive interface.
Thanks to the way Mazda has laid-out the interior of the 3, there’s actually quite a bit of legroom for the rear passengers – even for adults. Of course the main barrier may be the slope of the roofline for taller rear passengers.
Of course the seats fold down for more storage capacity than what the standard hatch area provides – when the seats down, the car provides a spacious 96.4 cubic feet. That’s quite a bit of Costco packs of toilet paper.
Like all autos, what ultimately matters as the end of the day is how it drives and to that end the 3 is a joy to drive. The shifting on the 6-speed manual transmission is easy with a decent feel of the clutch that provides a good balance between too heavy and too light.
The way it handles feels “light on its feet” and the engine does an admirable job of providing good power for this somewhat heavy car that tips the scales at 3046 pounds. There’s minimal body roll, the braking is solid – never feels as if it fades and you’ll have a good feeling of being in command of a car that is very responsive to all of your commands.
There’s not a lot to dislike about the new 3 and frankly, it’s be an easy editor’s pick if we were doing a round-up of available cars in its price range. It’s been a joy driving this car over the past several years and watching it mature to what it is today.