Perhaps one of the most under appreciated and overlooked cars in the compact segment is the Mazda 3. Styling is uniquely Mazda inside and out and this particular Grand Touring model that we got to spend a week with was decked out with power leather seats, navigation, keyless entry, push-button start and a ton of other options that I’ll get into below. All that isn’t free, the as-tested price of this 3 is almost $30,000. So how it is then?
From the driver’s seat I took one look at the well defined gauges, slid my fingers over the touch surfaces and immediately got a sense the Mazda3 was designed with a higher purpose. I don’t mean like a deity of some sort, it’s just a feeling you get when you see an interior that is so simple and clean, with elegant lines and well orchestrated use of contrasting metal and glossy black finishes. Similar to the Mazda6 Signature we tested last week, Mazda has invested a lot in their interior designs and production.
The infotainment system, integrated into the heads up display, has a dedicated volume and interaction dial felt cohesive, easy to use and feature rich. It was not just a thrown together afterthought to tick a checkbox (Toyota, looking at you). The Mazda3 isn’t going to wow you in the cabin like a high end luxury car but what you do get simply feels a cut above a lot of other options in this segment.
From a features standpoint, the Grand Touring 3 comes pretty well loaded. Here are some of the highlights of what just under $25,000 gets you:
- Perforated leather-trimmed sport seats
- Bose 9 speaker surround sound system with Centerpoint and AudioPilot
- SiriusXM Satellite Radio
- Full-color Active Driving Display
- Analog tachometer and digital speedometer
- Power sliding-glass moonroof with one-touch-open feature and interior sunshade
- 7-inch full color touch screen display
Our tester came with the Premium Package which adds:
- High Beam Control
- Adaptive Front-lighting System
- Heated steering wheel
- Paddle shifters (AT only)
- Mazda Navigation System
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink
- Lane Departure Warning System
- Lane Keep Assist
- Mazda Radar Cruise Control
- Smart Brake Support
- Traffic Sign Recognition
That’s a ton of stuff. And in the back, it’s pretty roomy.
This is the last year of this body style, and it’s still a handsome car. This tester also had the Appearance Package which adds:
- Brilliant Black Front Air Dam
- Side Sills
- Rear Diffuser
- Door Mirror Caps
So it’s got a very smart front air dam!
The same goes for the driving experience, you get a lot. The Grand Touring comes with Mazda’s SKYACTIV-G 184-hp 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. There isn’t anything masterful about the engine or the 6-speed automatic transmission but it’s peppy and lively enough that I wanted to drive it harder through turns and take the long way home. Maybe it’s the “SKYACTIV-VEHICLE DYNAMICS and G-Vectoring Control”, whatever that is, or maybe it’s the zoom-zoom. Regardless, it’s not something that you typically get to experience with a small economy car that most buyers choose as a conveyance instead of something they enjoy.
Dare I say it’s the Miata of front wheel drive? I won’t, but you see where I’m going.
At a touch under $30k sticker, the Mazda3 has serious competition if you want performance. That’s Golf GTI money with change to spare. But what’s most impressive is all the other features that’s in this car. Our Editor-in-Chief William Byrd spent $40,000 on a Jeep Wrangler that doesn’t have half (OK 1/4) of this stuff. It’s a testament to what you get in the small car market these days. If you’re looking to indulge in a comfortable commuter and value the driving experience, look no further. Mazda has delivered a winner.