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2017 Mazda MAZDA3 Overview
Introduced as a 2004, the Mazda3 was an immediate hit. It was better looking, more fun to drive, and for the most part just as reliable as the equivalent Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, and buyers responded. It’s consistently been a top choice ever since, and a third-generation Mazda3 was introduced for 2014. While largely the same car, the 2017 Mazda3 incorporates a number of changes, including subtle exterior tweaks to the grille, available LED headlights and taillights, and a different rear bumper on hatchback models. There is also a new G-Vectoring Control system, under which the engine works with the steering and suspension for “sharper chassis control,” meaning the driver will supposedly need to make fewer steering corrections in a corner.
Mazda’s SkyActive engines don’t make the most grunt in the class, but they’re more than powerful enough and work well with the 3’s great chassis to make a great driver. The base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque, and the optional 2.5-liter makes a noticeably higher 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. Transmissions are a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters or a 6-speed manual.
Fuel economy, of course, varies by engine, transmission, and body style. Sedans with the 2.0-liter get 29 mpg city/41 highway/33 combined with a manual gearbox and 30/41/34 with an automatic, and hatchback models will get one fewer mpg on the highway. The 2.5-liter sedans, meanwhile, get 25/37/29 with a manual and 28/39/32 with an automatic. Hatchbacks lose an mpg or two. The 2.5-liter Grand Touring trims are also available with a Tech package, which includes regenerative braking and active grille shutters to boost fuel economy to 29/40/33 in the sedan and 28/39/32 in the hatchback.
The current Mazda3’s electronically assisted power steering reportedly isn’t as good as the old electro-hydraulic system, but it’s still a chuck-able little car, and a Sport button enables more aggressive throttle response and delayed shifts in automatic trims. The 2.5-liter Mazda3s also come with paddle shifters, and damping has reportedly been improved for 2017 as well.
While not a luxury car, the Mazda3 is nevertheless available with things like perforated leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with optional heating elements). An electronic parking brake is standard, and there’s added practicality thanks to lots of storage space in the door pockets and a sliding covered center console. This year’s Mazda3 is also reportedly quieter than last year’s model thanks to tighter panel gaps and better weather stripping. A moonroof is another available feature, but this will cut down on the already less-than-stellar headroom.
The current Mazda3 has gotten Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and it has received 5 stars on all federal tests other than a 4-star result in the calculated rollover test. As for features, new choices include blind-spot monitoring and traffic-sign recognition as well as a full-color active driving display. These come in addition to the already impressive I-ACTIVESENSE suite, which includes radar cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and smart brake support for both city and highway driving. Really the only thing to pick on safety-wise would be a visibility issue that's due to the rear side windows, which curve up at the back, and the thick door pillars.
The appeal of the Mazda3 is the same as always. It’s arguably the best-looking car in its class, and the added emphasis on driving pleasure is a refreshing bonus, particularly at this price point. The availability of a hatchback adds to practicality, and fuel economy is stellar. The new Honda Civic is a tempting alternative, though, as the tenth-generation car is massively improved, fun to drive, and also soon to be available as a hatchback. The Mazda, though, remains a solid choice.
Andrew Newton first got into cars through vintage racing a 1969 Lynx Formula Vee. After receiving two degrees in history, he followed his passion for cars and became a contributor for sites like Sports Car Digest, BoldRide.com and JamesEdition.com in addition to serving as Education Manager at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA. Andrew currently covers the collector car market full time as Auction Editor for Hagerty Classic Car Insurance.
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