Creating a softer side of sporty

Updating cars year after year means no two updates are often alike. Sometimes, you'll get a new paint color. Other times, you'll end up with a whole bunch of new stuff, even though it's not a proper midcycle refresh or an introduction of a new generation. Mazda's updates to the 2017 Mazda3 rest in the latter category. Everywhere you look, there's something new. Except the tires. Don't look at those.

I'll start with the exterior. It's largely unchanged, save for a new grille and a new rear bumper on the Mazda3 hatchback. If you are willing to drop some coin, you can also upgrade the 3's peepers to LEDs, which is a nice touch that saves you from having to replace bulbs ever again. Now, you just replace the whole headlight.

(This is where the flat-affect emoji would go if I were allowed to put emojis in stories, which I am not, because apparently I work with professionals.)

2017 Mazda3

Mazda

Inside, the 3's rocking a new steering wheel, which has been nicked from the CX-9 crossover, and can now be heated. The door cubbies have an extra 10 inches of opening, the cup holders now have a sliding cover, and an electronic parking brake is now standard. The optional HUD has been upgraded with full color, and the LCDs inside the gauge cluster have been tweaked to provide higher contrast.

Driving has been improved in several ways, or not, depending on how you view improvement. The most obvious addition is G-Vectoring Control, which adjusts torque output at the front axle to provide better handling for most drivers. The suspension features increased damping at lower speeds and softer roll-bar bushings. There's also a new Sport Mode for automatic-transmission models, and the car is 3 decibels quieter at 25 mph thanks to more insulation and redesigned weather-stripping.

So, the car is softer than before, and more in tune with the needs of drivers that aren't exactly chasing sporty characteristics. I reviewed the 2016 Mazda3, and I liked it specifically because it was an unabashedly sporty drive, so we'll see how things change with this new model.

Its safety suite receives some upgrades, as well. A new front camera extends the operating speed for its autonomous emergency braking, and Mazda's traffic-sign recognition system will read traffic signs and display them on the HUD.

The 2017 Mazda3 goes on sale in September, and pricing will be announced closer to its release date.

2017 Mazda3

Mazda

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