The latest Mazda3 series sets the pace for all other compact cars with great looks, impressive powertrains and a comfy cabins.
The thrifty 155-horsepower 2.0-liter “SkyActiv” engine is augmented by an optional 184-horse 2.5-liter four-cylinder version; No sign of the top performing Mazdaspeed3 . . . yet.
Mazda’s redesigned sedan and hatchback models now emulate the mid-size Mazda6 sedan and the CX-5 wagon, which means they no longer wear Cheshire-cat grins affixed to their snouts. Instead, both have adopted Mazda’s latest Kodo (Japanese for “Soul of Motion”) design approach that includes an attractive, but less gimmicky grille. The rest of the sedan and hatchback’s bodywork is equally tasty from any vantage point. Like its Mazda6 and CX-5 brand mates, the Mazda3 benefits greatly from the SkyActiv suite of structural and powertrain enhancements. The former includes a stiffer platform and finely tuned suspension and steering components geared sports-car-like precision. But the real show stoppers are the base and optional powerplants; there’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque; the optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder peaks with 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Both are available with six-speed manual transmissions (a mid-season addition for the 2.5, however), while six-speed automatics are optional. Interestingly, both engines are closely matched in fuel consumption, with the nod going to the 2.0′s official 30-mpg city/41-mpg highway rating with the auto box. The 2.5 rings up 28/39, but both numbers improve by one mpg with the optional “i-Eloop” capacitor that stores electricity generated under braking. The system provides power for the 3′s various electrical components for extended periods while disengaging the alternator, which reduces drag on the engine. The driver is unaware that i-Eloop is operating. Mazda3 prices start at $17,750 for the base i SV sedan that includes the usual air conditioning and power-operated accessories plus push-button start. The base s Touring hatchback is priced at $25,400 but, along with the lustier 2.5-liter engine, there’s considerably more content. Mazda will also sell you a top-line S Grand Touring edition with enough standard and available up-level and safety gear to rival many so-called luxury vehicles. Regardless of your choice, the new Mazda3 is an impressive piece of work that will be appreciated by those who really enjoy driving something sporty, but without the space limitations that traditional sports cars impose.
Base price (incl. destination): $17,750
Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive compact sedan and hatchback wagon
Base engine (hp): 2.0-liter DOHC I4 (155)
Optional engines (hp): 2.5-liter DOHC I4 (184)
Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt.)
MPG (city/hwy): 28/39 (2.0, AT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags (opt.); anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 2,800