by Jay Kana
Having driven the first generation Mazda 3 for four years and the second generation for six years, I know a thing or few about this compact car that’s wildly popular, attractive and doesn’t bore you behind the wheel.
While I prefer the styling of the second generation overall, the current iteration certainly looks good, both the sedan and the hatchback.
What’s smart is that the Mazda 3 is offered in both body styles, which is something not all competitors in this market do. For those of us who want the extra cargo space and functionality of a large rear opening, the hatch is wonderful. For those who lean towards the non-rear wiper option, the sedan is the way to go.
Both have their benefits as there’s still the same drive quality, excitement and “zoom zoom” factors present.
The 2016 offering I had for a week was the mid-line offering, the GS. Usually, press cars come in the top trim level with every available offering jammed into it, which is a good way to experience everything the vehicle has to offer.
Having toted around town for a week in what’s been the highest seller in the Mazda 3 lineup, which accounted for 46.1% of all 2015 Mazda 3 Canadian sales, was a different yet good experience. Sure, everyone wants to have the best of everything but sometimes it’s just not feasible. Besides, the GS trim now comes with plenty of standard features that erases the “I drive a mid-trim level car” feeling.
The entry level GX was chosen by 43.7% of drivers and the top level GT trim came in at 9.9%.
A new entry level G trim chimed in a 0.3%. So clearly, the Canadian masses prefer their entry and mid-level Mazda 3’s, as they came in at a combined 89.8%.
The styling remains the same as the outgoing 2015 model, maintaining the KODO “Soul of Motion” appearance of smooth design lines, an athletic stance, all the right curves in all the right places plus an aggressive front fascia. Even the stock 16” wheels look good. While I do love my old 2010 GT model, the smiling front end was something I’m happy didn’t carry over into this generation.
The turn indicators are housed beneath the headlamps opposed to beside them but they’re high enough that they’ll be seen when used.
The GS (and base model GX) comes with a 2.0L 4-cylinder SkyActiv motor putting out 155 HP and 150 lb-ft. of torque. And while it’s not the strongest in its class, it really doesn’t need to be. Between fun and agile versus powerful and bland, I’ll always chose excitement over bragging rights.
I had the six-speed manual gearbox which shifted smoothly and accurately both up and down.
There’s a bit of road noise that bleeds into the cabin at higher speeds but it’s nothing that turning up the radio won’t fix.
Ride quality is smooth, nimble and enjoyable, with the standard leather wrapped steering wheel reacting accurately to the driver’s commands.
It’s a shame that manuals are dying a slow death but perhaps there’ll be a resurgence at some point that’ll save the manuals from car heaven.
Fuel efficiency rates quite well for a 50 L tank of regular fuel at 8.2 city and 5.9 highway for L/100 km. My 700+km on the vehicle scored me at 6.7 combined for both styles of driving. And that was over Christmas where I was carting people in the car with me along with cargo.
Not too shabby, Mazda.
Inside, you’ll find more of the same, with a seven-inch touchscreen centre console mounted on the dashboard. I do like that it’s at eye-level with the road but would like it more if was inset, similar to the CX-5.
The HMI Commander Switch acts as your control mechanism if you don’t want to muck up the touchscreen with your fingerprints. The learning curve is short and you shouldn’t have any issues in navigating through the menus.
Seating is comfortable and is manually adjustable six ways (four way manual for the passenger seat)
As is the case with many compact cars and even some full sized ones, the rear seats aren’t on the envy list. With the longer hood, the Mazda 3’s rear seating is a bit tight but not completely unbearable.
Bluetooth come standard on all trims, along with steering wheel mounted controls.
The drawback to choosing against the top line GT trim is that none of the advanced safety features are available (blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, smart city brake support, rear cross traffic alert). I’d like to see these made available as optional on at least the GS trim for a nominal fee.
Overall, the interior is well laid out, ergonomic and there’s no fiddling/fuddling for any of the controls for the driver. Which gives more time to enjoy the stellar drive the 3 offers.
The $900 moonroof options really opens up the interior and to me, is money well spent.
Cargo wise, there’s 572 L with the rear seats up and 1,334 L with the seats down, so huzzah for the extra storage space that comes with a hatchback.
For a bit over $20,000, there’s high value to be had in this popular import. It’s got the looks, adequate power, functionality, great fuel efficiency and is just plain fun to drive.
It’s priced right, which is a key factor in its popularity among Canadians and this generation of the 3 keeps building and improving on its past successes.
2016 Mazda 3 GS: $20, 850
Power moon roof: $900
Price as tested: $23,445