When I got word that I’d be driving a Mazda 3 for a week, I didn’t really know enough to form an opinion. Sure, I’d driven the venerable MX-5, and a couple of the crossovers in their stable, but what about the four-door Mazdas? How would I like this one, their smallest offering? Once the car arrived and I spent some time getting to know it, its subtle personality and amenities charmed me right away.
Inside, passengers are treated to leather-trimmed sport seats. The driver’s seat features six-way adjustment and the gear shift knob and wheel are treated to leather trim too. Dual zone climate controls ensure that both driver and passenger can dial in their ideal level of comfort, which goes a long way toward matrimonial harmony on road trips. Heated front seats keep buns toasty in the winter months.
A seven inch touch screen is mounted Mazda-style in the dash, along with some controls in the console, it manipulates the Bose nine speaker stereo. This layout is pretty intuitive, and is not terribly distracting once you get the hang of it. Legroom is good up front and adults won’t need to be folded like laundry before being stowed in the back seats.
Outside, the Mazda 3 looks good. I like the no-nonsense styling of the profile. There are no extra bodylines added for the sake of “style.” The hood-to-trunk proportion is pleasing to the eye and the generous 18 inch alloy wheels fill out the wheel wells nicely. The rear side windows sweep up in a Hofmeister kink that lends a sporty look to them. I especially like the front grille treatment. It looks contemporary and clean. It’s not going for cutsey appeal or boy-racer cool. It’s handsome without being overly exagerrated.
I was lucky enough to drive the Mazda 3 as my daily commuter and grocery getter for a week. I also got to familiarize myself with its on-track capabilities during the Texas Auto Writers’ 2018 Texas Auto RoundUp at Eagle’s Canyon Raceway. This gave me the unique opportunity to spend ample time getting to know the car around town and on the interstate and to see how it reacted to chucking it around on a race track.
photo cred: Kevin McCauley
Around town, the Mazda 3 is docile and comfortable. The car sits pretty low, which might be a problem for folks with bad knees or hips. If that’s not a problem though, you’ll quickly adapt to pointing your backside at the seat and trust-falling in, and then scrambling out when you’ve reached your destination. At highway speeds, this car is a little noisy. Mazda could make this car feel a little more upmarket by adding some sound deadening. Blind spot assist and rear cross traffic alert are welcome safety features that don’t feel intrusive.
On the track the 184 horsepower 2.5 litre makes quick work of pulling the car up to speed between the bends. Electrically assisted steering offers good feedback and the suspension, brakes and chassis work together to make hammering the car in an out of corners a lighthearted game rather than hard work. And Mazda claims 36 mpg on the highway and 27 around town.
It’s not a muscle car. It’s not a sports car. It’s a family sedan that won’t flinch when you push it a little. It’s exciting to drop into a corner at speed and hear the tires protest, then lay the pedal flat after the apex to hear the four-pot go to work. In a word, it’s fun.
Even with the optional extras, this Grand Touring model is priced below the $30,000 mark. Which may sound steep for fancy trim on a compact option, but there are two more rungs on the ladder below it; the Touring and the Sport models. The Sport starts at $18,000.
Given the amenities and the quality of the drive, I’d say this car feels like a good value. Is it going to swathe you in ultimate comfort and serene luxury? Nah. But if you want a decent, efficient car that can haul the kids, talk to your phone, look good and is exciting to drive, the Mazda 3 is a good option.