2017 Mazda3 Grand TouringPosted on January 25th, 2017
Five-door hatchback is the perfect ten
By Nina Russin
I don’t know how Mazda manages to consistently get everything right, but they do, with a line of vehicles that resonate a distinct personality. Mazda’s compact five-door hatchback proves that in a time of escalating new car prices, it’s possible to get something quite attractive for less than $25,000.
Not only is the Mazda3 stylish, it’s fuel efficient, offers excellent performance and a quiet, versatile cabin. All in all, the Mazda3 is the perfect ten.
The test car is the upscale Grand Touring model priced from $24,945 excluding destination. Options include a pearlescent paint, cargo mat, rear bumper guard, a lighting package that includes adaptive LED headlamps, LED tail lamps and daytime running lamps, navigation, paddle shifters, heated steering wheel and active safety features including lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, radar cruise control, traffic sign recognition, high beam control and smart brake support. Final MSRP is $28,980.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
The third week of January is Arizona auction week in Scottsdale, bringing thousands of tourists into the valley. While the weather this time of year is typically sunny and dry, a series of fronts brought rain to the valley, making the traffic even worse: the perfect environment for testing a daily driver.
Skyactiv is the name Mazda gives to its fuel-saving technology that includes the engine, transmission and vehicle aerodynamics. Skyactiv is not a magic bullet but rather a series of refinements to the rolling chassis that collectively make the car more efficient, among them a high compression ratio, modified intake system, an automatic transmission that utilizes a wider lock-up range for better torque transfer, more rigid, lightweight body and functional suspension improvements.
At a time when nine out of ten cars equipped with electric power steering have poor on-center response, Mazda breaks away from the pack with excellent steering feel at all speeds. The engine’s high compression ratio not only reduces emissions and boosts gas mileage; it also enhances throttle response. The automatic transmission delivers crisp shifts with no obvious shift shock during normal driving conditions.
Engineers enhanced the hatchback’s interior quiet for 2017, along with a few styling tweaks to front and rear fascias. The safety package on the test car is also new, along with expanded infotainment offerings.
Mazda prides itself on driver focus throughout the model line-up. Features such as a standard heads-up display, small-diameter steering wheel, blind spot monitoring and rearview camera give drivers all the tools they need to navigate the everyday jungle with ease. Traffic-clogged Scottsdale was relatively easy to move through, thanks to the car I happened to be driving.
A dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine develops 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Peak torque comes on at mid throttle for seamless acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto the highway.
The heads-up display is easy to read without being invasive. For 2017, it also includes stop signs.
Standard vectoring control uses engine timing to control chassis dynamics, enabling the driver to corner more efficiently. Using the engine rather than brakes to control wheel speed makes the technology invisible to the driver. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels and tires provide fat contact patches for high-speed driving. A four-wheel independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front with a multilink setup in back does a good job of absorbing bumps along the way while maintaining a nimble feel. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The lane departure warning system is one of the few I’ve experienced that does its job without being invasive. LED headlamps project long beams of light that are closer to daylight than halogen for good night-time visibility. The headlamps swivel according to steering inputs to light dark intersections where pedestrians may be waiting to cross.
Designers did an excellent job of making the Mazda3 interior ergonomic and versatile. I found driver’s seat adjustments easy to use, with plenty of lower lumbar support for longer drives and was able to adjust the steering wheel for a clear forward view.
Dual-zone climate control enables both front occupants to stay comfortable in temperature extremes. The hatchback configuration adds room to the cargo area as compared to the Mazda3 sedan. Fitting a road bike inside would be a stretch, but there is plenty of room for luggage, moderate size camping equipment, skis and snowboards. The car’s low stance makes it easy to reach a roof-mounted bike rack.
The Mazda3 comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist, rearview camera with cross traffic alert, heads-up display, blind spot monitoring, tire pressure monitoring and smart city brake support.
Mazda builds the Mazda3 at its Hofu, Japan assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, affordable compact hatchback with excellent fuel economy and advanced active safety technology.
Model: Mazda3 Grand Touring 5-door
Base price: $24,945
As tested: $28,980
Horsepower: 184 Hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 185 lbs.-ft. @ 3250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 26/35 mpg city/highway2017, Urban 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Mazda3, performance, pricing, standard safety