2017 Mazda3: Affordable Fun with Four Doors

The 2017 Mazda3, now in the third model year of its third generation, brings a winning trifecta of price, performance, and personality to the sport-compact segment. Available in Sport, Touring, or Grand Touring (GT) trim levels, budget-conscious buyers can tune in the level of performance desired without spending a massive amount of money.

Mazda offers a choice between the enhanced utility of a hatch or the slightly more grown-up sedan. The Mazda3 sedan, while maintaining a civilized appearance, also makes drivers feel that they’ve sacrificed nothing in making their choice, sporting curvaceous styling with just the right amount of sharp edges. Hatchback buyers are treated to an aggressive angularity tastefully blended into smooth contours tracing the compact hatch’s body.

Inside the 2017 Mazda3

The Mazda3 feels like a much more expensive car than it is, and that’s due to Mazda’s unique technology and attention to interior details.

Attractive two-tone leather-esque seating is available in some trim levels, with full leather available on the GT models. Side bolsters are generous and provide ample support during spirited driving.

The Mazda3 is the only vehicle in this segment with an active heads up display, which is displayed on a small plexiglass panel ahead of the steering wheel as opposed to being projected directly onto the glass of the windshield. The small display pops up when the engine is started, providing convenient viewing of information without having to peek through the steering wheel while driving.

The seven-inch touch screen entertainment display is also a pop-up panel located at the center of the dash, and doubles as a simple backup camera. Media can be controlled through a European-style knob and a few easy-reach switches in the center console. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not supported by the system — one of the few reminders that this is a car designed to meet a budget. Auxiliary input as well as SD cards are supported.

A heated steering wheel keeps fingers thawed when temperatures dip, a welcome addition in this price-sensitive segment. The front of the cabin surrounds the driver and front passenger with a pleasant environment, on par with vehicles costing more. Soft-touch door panels and piano-black accents around the switch panel on the doors provide a touch of class. Lines are smooth and clean with only a few minor design infractions keeping the interior from being a budget-minded masterpiece.

The hand brake has been replaced with an electronic parking brake, freeing up space in the center console for stereo controls and additional miscellaneous doodad storage. A large cubby in the dash provides yet more storage, and a convenient phone and gadget charging station with two USB ports.

Moving to the rear of the cabin, buyers are reminded that this is a compact car, and that the Mazda3 is a low-cost vehicle. Rear passenger space is more limited than in some competitors including the Civic, Corolla, and Jetta. Leg space is limited in the back, but smaller passengers will have enough room on longer trips. There are no rear vents for climate control. However, this is a small car and circulation is adequate. Hard-touch plastic panels on the rear doors envy the soft touch panels found in front. Front and rear cabin areas feel distinctly different in regard to creature comforts and quality of materials, but neither should offend anyone in this price segment.

Rear seats fold down 60/40, with some models featuring a fold-down cup holder in the middle of the rear cabin. Usable trunk space can be slightly limited due to the shape of the trunk in both sedan and hatchback models. As expected, the hatch provides more versatility than the sedan in regard to the rear storage, at a small premium in price. Both the hatchback and sedan come with a temporary spare, a comforting choice when so many other models are providing a can of fix-a-flat to save money and space.

2017 Mazda3 Performance

Fans of manual shifting will fall in love with the six-speed transmission, which features short throws and a buttery smooth feel. Paired with the larger engine, the little Mazda can shift seamlessly between gears, pleasing the inner teenager that lives inside all car enthusiasts. Choosing the automatic transmission provides a boost in gas mileage, albeit without the fun of a manual shifter, and with a higher price tag.

The Mazda3 isn’t a true sports car, but Mazda spells Sporty with a capital S, delivering a sense-pleasing combination of road feel and stability with great steering and spirited acceleration. The Mazda3 isn’t the fastest compact in this segment, but it scoots with style and aplomb. The base engine in the Mazda3 Sport reaches 60 mph in 7.9 seconds.

For 2017, Mazda has improved sound deadening, reducing road noise and dropping transmission whines and engine grumbles to a more sedate level. Ride quality has also improved, finding an excellent balance between road feel and ride comfort. Steering is direct and unbashful, reminiscent of sport touring vehicles higher up the automotive food chain.

Unique to Mazda is the automaker’s G-Vectoring Control, which senses cornering actions and adjusts engine torque, shifting weight to the center and providing balanced handling. In short, the car feels well-planted and confident. Much of the grace exhibited by the Mazda3 can be attributed to this technological feature and Mazda’s just-right chassis tuning.

Image via autoblog

Five Door Hatchback Specs & MSRP

Sport
MSRP: $20,145
Engine: 2.0 liter 4-cylinder 155 HP
Fuel Efficiency: 37 Hwy / 28 City

Touring
MSRP: $22,245
Engine: 2.0 liter 4-cylinder 155 HP
Fuel Efficiency: 37 Hwy / 28 City

Touring 2.5
MSRP: $23,445
Engine: 2.5 liter 4-cylinder 184 HP
Fuel Efficiency: 35 Hwy / 26 City

Grand Touring (GT)
MSRP: $24,945
Engine: 2.5 liter 4-cylinder 184 HP
Fuel Efficiency: 35 Hwy / 26 City

Sedan Specs & MSRP

Sport
MSRP: $18,895
Engine: 2.0 liter 4-cylinder 155 HP
Fuel Efficiency: 37 Hwy / 28 City

Touring
MSRP: $21,495
Engine: 2.0 liter 4-cylinder 155 HP
Fuel Efficiency: 37 Hwy / 28 City

Grand Touring (GT)
MSRP: $24,195
Engine: 2.5 liter 4-cylinder 184 HP
Fuel Efficiency: 35 Hwy / 26 City

The MSRP quoted is with the automatic transmission. Buyers choosing the six-speed manual transmission can expect to pay about $1,000 less.

Engine choices available depend upon the trim level chosen, with the base 2.0 liter four-cylinder putting out 155 horsepower and the 2.5-liter powerplant making 184 horsepower. The latter is the same engine available in the Mazda6, putting out power on par with the Mazda3’s pricier sibling. The sedan version is available with the 2.5-liter engine only in the GT trim level.

Competitors

Honda Civic

Toyota Corolla

Volkswagen Jetta and Golf

Pros

Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control gives this small car the grace and balance of a larger and more expensive sports sedan. High-quality materials in the front cabin provide a pleasant driving environment.

Cons

The Mazda3 is slower than some other vehicles in this segment. Rear passengers have less space than offered by some competitors.

Verdict

Customers seeking stylish, sporty, and affordable transportation will find exceptional value in the Mazda3. Larger families won’t fit well into this compact, but individuals and smaller families will appreciate the Mazda3’s combination of affordability, fuel economy, and fun-to-drive character.

Image via Montrose Mazda of Kent