Model Tested: 2017 Mazda3, four-door Grand Touring
Engine: Skyactiv 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder
Transmission: Skyactiv six-speed automatic
EPA Ratings: 27/city, 36/highway, 30/combined
Base Price: $24,195
As Tested: $27,930
Overview: The front-wheel drive Mazda3 offers superb driving dynamics coupled with refreshed styling for 2017. The combination makes this fun-to-drive compact serious competition for rivals like the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and VW Golf. The styling refresh features a new nose and hatchback rear styling. The interior gets a cursory update, plus additional sound insulation.
Walkaround: The 2017 Mazda3 comes in sedan and hatchback body styles in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring versions. Our test driver was the four-door Grand Touring model. With its long hood, raked windshield, cab-back design, sweeping roofline and high tail, the Mazda3 projects an athletic appearance. The fascia has been lowered, the grille raised, and foglamps and signal lamps made smaller for 2017. The sedan actually looks more like a rear-wheel-drive than a front-wheel-drive car.
Interior: The cockpit is driver-focused, with instrumentation symmetrically positioned around the driver and a head-up display available. Mazda’s standard touchscreen controls infotainment and other functions but could use an upgrade to Apple CarPlay.
The best-in-class front seats are comfortable and supportive, with redesigned seatbacks offering a more natural sitting position and greater lateral support. Cloth, vinyl and leather — with perforated leather in the Grand Touring — are all available.
Rear legroom is sparse so passengers might be cramped, and there’s only 12.4 cubic feet of trunk space in the sedan.
Behind the Wheel: A 155-horsepower, 2-liter engine is standard, with an optional 184-horse, 2.5-liter available. There’s a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Optional safety equipment includes active lane control and automatic headlights.
While all-wheel drive isn’t available on the Mazda3, a new engine-management system called G-Vectoring Control modulates front-wheel torque based on steering input to improve stability and reduce body roll. The ride is fairly smooth but the electric power steering — like most other steer-by-wire systems — doesn’t deliver much driver feedback. It does, however, offer a strong, centered feeling at lower speeds and when accelerating out of corners.
Whines: The standard 2-liter powerplant is spunky but has a high-torque curve, so power doesn’t really throttle up until about 4,000 rpm.
Bottom Line: The Mazda3 delivers a lot for the money — functionality, reliability, style, comfort, economy and safety — and pure driving fun.