Yeah, It Really Is That Good!
If you have no interest in owning a fun-to-drive car that gets mid-thirties fuel economy, feels and drives larger than its compact classification and looks great in the process, then please stop reading. Because you will see, as did Clean Fleet Report, that the 2017 Mazda3 ranks at the top of compact sedans or hatchbacks you can buy, with prices starting under $18,000.
Still interested? Okay, let’s go!
Driving Experience: On the Road
The front-wheel drive 2017 Mazda3 is powered by a smooth and responsive 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 184 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque. While a six-speed manual transmission is available, Clean Fleet Report’s Mazda3 was equipped with a six-speed Sport automatic–with paddle shifters and Sport mode. The EPA rates the Mazda3 mpg at 27 City/36 Highway/30 Combined (it goes up to 28/37/32 in its most efficient model). In 384 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report averaged 32.5 mpg, which means we were able to exceed the EPA numbers, especially on the highway. That means with the right powertrain combination and driving style, the Mazda3 should be able to join the 40 mpg Club.
It is important to note that the fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific. They represent the reviewer’s driving experience, but should be similar to most drivers living in our reviewer’s cities. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.
Through its Skyactiv engine and vehicle design philosophy, Mazda has the highest fuel economy in the industry without having an EV or hybrid vehicle. Among its technologies used to accomplish this, Mazda utilizes slick-shifting automatic and manual transmissions, aerodynamic exteriors and, on certain models, the optional I-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system with active grille shutters.
The Mazda3 feels more like a midsize car, a size up from its compact classification. This is most noticeable from the confident and solid driving feel, especially on long stints of open highway. Starting with dynamic stability and traction control, there is nearly no body roll even on the tightest corners or high-speed freeway onramps. Both the sedan and hatchback Mazda3 have the same suspension—MacPherson struts and rack-and-pinion with electric power-assisted steering up front and an independent multi-link suspension in the rear. Coil springs and sway bars are found at both ends. Clean Fleet Report’s model had 18-inch alloy wheels and 215/45 R18 all-season tires, which are standard with the Grand Touring trim level.
To take the handling up a notch Mazda has added Skyactiv Vehicle Dynamics with G-Vectoring Control. Those are fancy words that translate into a system of integrated controls Mazda says “brings the movements of the car more in line with the driver’s intentions, reducing the need for steering corrections, including many that are made unconsciously.” Mazda calls it “Jinba Ittai – a sense of connectedness between car and driver”
Simply put, this car is a joy to drive and is close, if not on equal, to another of our compact favorites, the Volkswagen Golf.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Following its Kodo—Soul Of Motion—design language, the 2017 Mazda3 received subtle tweaks that only improved an already class-leading design and style. The small exterior changes begin with revised bumper and fascia lines that have softened the grille. So while remaining the prominent front end design feature, the grille is no longer so dominant. Clean Fleet Report’s Mazda3 had the optional Premium Package that included LED headlamps and daytime running lights that are adaptive, as in they pivot when cornering. The sweptback and sleek headlights lead into bold, sculpted fenders, giving the Mazda3 an in-motion look even when sitting still.
The sedan and hatchback share the same roofline and stance through the C-pillar, at which point the sedan roofline gently drops to a short trunk lid with an integrated spoiler. The hatchback has a spoiler over the rear window (which has a wiper). Both models share slim LED taillights and twin bright exhaust tips. Cladding and chrome are either non-existent or kept to a tasteful minimum.
Driving Experience: Interior
Noticeable immediately when sliding into the 2017 Mazda3 is how the interior has an upscale look and feel for a compact car. The driver-focused cockpit has been lightly but nicely restyled with a redesigned, heated steering wheel with a more comfortable grip. The dash is clean with very easy-to-read gauges. Switching to an electronic parking brake is a small but important change from a pull-up handle brake as it frees valuable space on the center console.
Mazda added noise suppression through insulation and even a retuned suspension to reduce cabin noise. As mentioned earlier, the Mazda3 rides and handles like a midsize car, which is partly due to the quiet cabin while driving on all surfaces.
Our Mazda3 Grand Touring came equipped with a power moonroof and leather-trimmed seats. The driver and front passenger had heated seats; the driver’s was six-way power adjustable. The 60/40 fold-flat rear seat, which comfortably seats two up-to-six-foot adults with good headroom, has a center armrest with two cup holders. Our 3 had a heads-up display, a clear panel that magically appears from atop the instrument cluster hood to show speed, turn-by-turn directions and other information.
The infotainment (information and entertainment) system includes an excellent nine-speaker Bose Centerpoint sound system with AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX HD radio, USB input, SiriusXM (four-month subscription), Aha and Stitcher Internet radio integration. The seven-inch color display houses the Mazda Connect connectivity system with navigation. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for Bluetooth that offers hands-free telephone and voice control. To manage the radio, Mazda has a wheel on the center console for changing channels. We found it cumbersome as it required multiple steps to control a single function and diverted the driver’s eyes from the road. Maybe in time it becomes a seamless operation, but after a week and almost 400 miles in the 3, we did not get the hang of the system.
Convenience starts with radar cruise control with traffic sign recognition, power automatic keyless door locks, power windows with one-touch up and down, rearview camera, push button on/off, keyless entry, power and heated side mirrors with turn indicators, carpeted floor mats and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Those rain-sensing windshield wipers are a nice feature. After activating the stalk, the wipers will speed-up and slow down based on the amount of water hitting the windshield. When you first notice they are operating at-will, you realize how convenient and helpful this technology really is.
The 2017 Mazda3 comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features including eight airbags, Homelink rearview mirror, four-wheel power disc ABS braking system, dynamic stability control, traction control, hill launch assist, tire pressure monitoring system, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and rear cross traffic alert.
In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2017 Mazda3 received five stars (the highest rating) for overall crash protection, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Mazda3 its top rating of Good.
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring sedan, with optional equipment, had a MSRP of $27,095 excluding the $835 Destination and Handling Charge.
Base MSRP for the 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring sedan models, excluding the $835 destination and handling charge, is $23,145 with the manual transmission and $24,195 for the automatic transmission-equipped model.
The 2017 Mazda3 comes with these warranties:
Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
Bumper-to-Bumper – Three years/36,000 miles
Roadside Assistance – Three years/36,000 miles
Observations: 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring
Mazda is known for designing cars that are fun to drive…and they are. With a well-engineered combination of handing, smooth power delivery and comfort, the attraction of Mazdas also extends to their great design. The 2017 Mazda3, especially the hatchback, is one of the best-looking compacts you can buy. The Mazda3 is versatile and practical with a long list of standard features. The hatchback offers a bit more cargo space.
It is a shame that more people are not buying Mazdas; those who do have good things to say about their cars. Clean Fleet Report has reviewed several Mazda models and is overwhelmingly impressed. Hopefully you will be too.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.