There is no shortage of stylized, tech-centric compact cars on the road today. And rightfully so, as driver mindsets are evolving on a number of different levels. As always, there is a universal consciousness of fuel economy. But these vehicle designs are not tailored to the generations of drivers who have endured the ebb and flow of gas prices.
Cars such as at the 2017 Mazda 3 are designed for generations of drivers who have grown to maturity looking on as their parents endured the ebb and flow of gas prices. They have been raised with a greater understanding of global ecology (as opposed to their parents who have had to adapt their understanding over a lifetime). Whether commuting long distances, or living and working within the city, they want a vehicle that speaks to efficiency. They are conscious of their personal finances, often resulting from the burden of repaying student loans. And they are connected, utilizing all facets of technology in nearly all parts of their daily life. With that in mind, is there any surprise of the wealth of offerings within this segment?
And while there are plenty of options to choose from, the Mazda 3 is certainly a standout. An example of a car that beat several trends to the punch, the Mazda 3 has steadily evolved over the course of the past fifteen years. Now at the tail end of its third generation, it remains timely and relevant, deserving of your consideration (regardless of your generation).
The Mazda 3 is available in two different stylings: that of a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. The sedan is priced to start at around $17,845 MSRP and the hatchback at $19,095. Regardless of which configuration you opt for, you can choose between four different trim levels: Sport, Touring, Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring.
The former trim levels (Sport and Touring) are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual or (optional) automatic transmission. Delivering 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, fuel economy is estimated at 32 mpg combined (37 highway, 28 city). Sprinting 0-60 mph in 8.3 seconds, it is quicker off-the-line than most of the segment’s base engine configurations.
Under the hood of the latter trim levels (Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring) is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that can be paired to the same six-speed manual or automatic transmission. This configuration serves up 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, along with 28 mpg combined (33 highway, 25 city). With this upgraded engine, the Mazda 3 clocks in at 7.5 seconds, a standout within its class, and surprisingly close to some turbocharged competitors.
The Mazda 3 conveys all of the sportiness you’d want in a compact offering but manages to refine it with some of the luxury-inspired characteristics you’d expect in a mid or full-size sedan. This is one of the characteristics that make it stand out amongst its contemporaries, many of which seem to be fighting over who can come across as being more innovative or ‘funky’.
With light tweaks make to the front and rear fascia, the Mazda 3 has no trouble keeping up with the times. Aesthetically, it marries classic sedan styling with innovative design notes but stays true to Mazda’s KODO design initiative. This is not a vehicle that piggy-backs on the successful styling of its competitors; standing confidently beside them, it may even stand somewhat above.
Color choices range from the stirring Soul Red Metallic to the cool Deep Crystal Blue Mica are bookended by Snowflake White Pearl and Jet Black Mica. With various Silver and Gray hues falling in between, even the color choices convey the blend of intention and artistry that are indicative throughout Mazda’s styling.
Look at the Inside
The Mazda 3 is renowned for having one of the most praiseworthy cabin designs in its segment. Consisting of rich materials, it is deceptively upscale with its leather interior (or imitation-leather, depending on trim) and luxury-inspired layout of controls and displays. Spacious, especially for driver and front-passenger, the Mazda 3 fold-down seating serves up above average storage. So, whether you’re hauling people or materials, it has you covered.
Even at the (base) Sport trim level, there is not a shortage of amenities included in the Mazda 3. Right off the bat, you receive an infotainment system based on a 7-inch touchscreen and six-speaker audio system. This is an important distinction, as so many base trims serve up a smaller (non-touchscreen) display and a four-speaker stock system. Right off the bat, Mazda looks to offer you more.
Bluetooth-enabled, the system includes USB and auxiliary imports, which enables the HD Radio to stream music. The Mazda 3 is also easy to use, providing both voice controls and a console-mounted control knob, as seen more frequently in the likes of BMW and Audi offerings.
Jump trim levels and the amenities abound. In addition to enhancing the sound system (up to a nine-speaker BOSE audio) and the inclusion of digital gauge clusters, you get a barrage of safety-inspired driver assist features. These include adaptive cruise control, low-speed forward collision warning (and mitigation) and lane departure warning (and intervention).
If the interior of the Mazda 3 didn’t provide a compelling enough argument, its tech offerings should.
If compact offerings are designed with a specific kind of driver in mind, the execution of the Mazda 3 allows for them to aspire to something greater. This is the perfect marriage of the luxury and performance valued by one generation, to the efficiency and technology that is valued equally by its successor. All this, with a price tag that is both accessible and competitive, makes the Mazda 3 almost ‘too-good-to-be-true’.
It doesn’t matter which generation you belong to, the Mazda 3 should be on the must-drive list of anyone in the market for a compact sedan or hatchback.