The MAZDA3 comes with one of two engine choices, both of which utilize Mazda's SKYACTIV technology to increase fuel economy. The base engine, available on Sport trims, is a 2.0L 4-cylinder unit that makes 155 horsepower and is capable of up to 41 mpg on the highway. It's connected to either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. The optional engine, equipped on Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring trims, is a 2.5L 4-cylinder making 184 horsepower. Despite the extra power, the MAZDA3 is still able to achieve up to 40 mpg on the highway with the more powerful engine when equipped with Mazda's i-ELOOP regenerative braking system. This engine, too, is mated to either a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.
A recent addition to the MAZDA3 lineup is G-Vectoring Control, an exclusive technology that uses the engine to refine steering and handling to match driver input.
The MAZDA3 is available in two body styles -- 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback -- while each body style is available in several different trims. The sedan is offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, while the hatchback adds a Touring 2.5 as well.
The MAZDA3 Sport in either sedan or hatchback guise offers 16-inch wheels, halogen headlights, body-colored outside mirrors, power door locks and windows, keyless entry and push-button start, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 7-inch color touchscreen, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with illuminated steering wheel controls, and a 60/40 split rear folding seat. The hatchback adds a rear window wiper.
The Touring trim adds heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, a leather steering wheel and shifter, a rear armrest and cup holder and a blind spot warning system. Also available on the touring trim is the Technology Package, which adds a navigation system, a rearview camera, a 9-speaker sound system, two USB ports, voice recognition, Internet and satellite radio integration and a compartment for sunglasses. Buyers who order the MAZDA3 Touring 2.5 with the more powerful engine will get all of the features included in the Technology Package as well as a few extra goodies like bi-xenon headlights, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, a 6-way power adjustable driver's seat and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The Grand Touring trim adds leatherette seating to the equation, along with a moonroof and heated front seats. Like the Touring trim, buyers opting for the more powerful engine will get even more features in Grand Touring form. Items such as automatic headlights and windshield wipers, an auto-dimming mirror and leather seats come standard on Grand Touring trimmed MAZDA3 s models.
Safety features are plentiful and include six standard airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control. The MAZDA3 also features a collapsible steering column to help minimize damage in front-end collisions and a hill-start system to minimize rollback when starting on a hill. Optional safety features include rear view cameras, a blind spot warning system and Smart City Brake Support, a system that uses a laser to detect forward collisions.
A road trip from New Jersey's Newark Airport back to Detroit at the wheel of the updated 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring 5-Door proves to to be not only fun, but also an educational endeavor. You can learn an awful lot about a car while covering 628 miles over the course of 8 hours and 53 minutes.
In past experiences with the third-generation Mazda3, I've always walked away impressed with its excellent handling capabilities, but the Mazda previously came up short in some other areas, including ride quality, cabin noise isolation and interior build quality.
However, for 2017 Mazda makes some revisions to address some of the 3's weak points and bolster its technology offerings. Oh, and this is Mazda we're talking about here, so of course they've also done some work to make the car even more fun to drive.
The Good The Mazda3 features best-in-class handling dynamics, a strong four-cylinder engine, handsome looks and excellent ride comfort.
The Bad The Mazda Connect infotainment system still lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.
The Bottom Line Even with newer hatchback rivals arriving on the scene, the Mazda3 remains one of the segment's best options with great styling, a nice interior and an involving drive character.
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