Road Test: 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring

Road Test: 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring

A Zooming David

Mazdas are synonymous with zoom. Though this verb was a marketing declaration, it still correctly describes the zippy acceleration and sporty handling offered by models like the 2017 Mazda3. Offered in either four-door sedan or five-door hatchback body styles, the updated 2017 3 has taken the approach of not altering a winning formula of sharp looks, solid build quality, impressive engines and great value.

2017 Mazda3

The David of compacts

Fuel efficiency is a big deal in the price-sensitive compact class, and the Mazda 3 acquits itself well. The base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission earns an EPA estimated 28-mpg city/38-mpg highway/31-mpg combined. The manual transmission pays a city and highway fuel economy penalty of one mpg.

For those who want more zoom, the 2.5-liter four has an EPA rating of 27 city/36 highway/30 combinded with the automatic, while the manual shifter registers 25 city/34 highway/29 combined.

Mazda3’s model range consists of three trims:

  • Sport, $18,720 including destination charges;
  • Touring, $21,320; and
  • Grand Touring, $24,020.

Automatic transmission models add $1,050.

Mild 2017 Refresh

An all-new 2013 Mazda3 with flowing curves, sculpted surfaces and shrink-wrapped body volumes replaced the bluff and ungainly looks of the second-generation car. For the 2017 refresh, however, those expecting any sweeping exterior shift will be disappointed as nothing stands out as new unless you know specifically what to look for. Updates to the exterior include a new front grille, the integration of LED headlights, altered fog lights and redesigned bumper.

Underneath the bodywork, there are no engine changes for the 2017 Mazda3. Mazda’s range of high-compression SkyActiv engines have gained praise for their strong performance for displacement, overall reliability and fuel efficiency. The base engine is a direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which has 155 horsepower and 150 pounds-feet of torque—enough zoom to quickly get up to speed.

2017 Mazda3

The hatch option

For an even livelier ride, the Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring trims use a 2.5-liter four, boosting output to 184 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque. As before, either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission is available regardless of engine choice, something that can’t be said about many of the 3’s rivals, which limit manual-transmission availability to the basement models.

As for the 3’s mechanicals, the most significant addition is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, which helps improve handling and reduces driver fatigue. The system eliminates a small amount of engine torque while turning to load the outside front tire, increasing cornering force. Full power comes back on after the steering wheel straightens, effectively transferring weight to the rear of the vehicle and adding stability.

Interior Revisions

Inside the 2017 Mazda3, updates are a bit more noteworthy. A new steering wheel similar to that in Mazda’s CX-9 crossover can be heated. An electric parking brake now frees up center-console storage space and nicer materials grace the door panels and seats The optional head-up display is now full color rather than monochromatic.

2017 Mazda3,interior

A touch of tech

Drivers of all shapes and sizes should have no problem getting comfortable behind the steering wheel of the 3. There’s a good range of adjustment on the seat, and the steering wheel moves in and out as well as up and down. Lumbar adjustment is standard on the driver’s seat, even on entry-level editions, while a centrally mounted armrest can be used by both front occupants.

The driver stares down the barrel of a trio of instrument cowls: a clear, classic speedometer flanked by digital screens showing engine speed and a fuel gauge. There are dense, soft-touch plastics on most of the dashboard, and smart enough finishes and flourishes of chrome in the right places. All of the major controls are within easy reach and the touchscreen can also be operated via a dial positioned between the front seats. All of the major controls are within easy reach and the parts of the cabin you routinely touch—heater controls, door handles, gearlever and steering wheel–feel solid and well-finished.

Rear passenger space isn’t anything to complain about, but won’t win any accolades either. The Mazda3 is a compact car, so hauling three adults in the back seats for long distances isn’t recommended. However, the rear seat is split 60/40 and it folds to a pretty flat position, making it easy to slide in longer loads. Behind the seats there’s a respectable 12.2 cubic feet of cargo space, enough to hold a week’s worth of groceries.

Mazda3 Model Lineup

The Mazda3 Sport comes standard with a rearview camera, push-button start, two USB ports, Bluetooth phone and audio, a six-speaker sound system, HD Radio and a voice-controlled Mazda Connect infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen.

2017 Mazda3,interior

Good accommodations up front

Stepping up to the Mazda3 Touring brings standard dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats and leatherette upholstery. Also standard are pre-collision braking and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The top-of-the-line Mazda3 Grand Touring model comes standard with leather seats and a head-up display. Adaptive headlights, a heated steering wheel with paddle shifters and navigation can be added for $1,600.  For $1,100, a safety package adds lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and traffic sign recognition.

2017 Mazda3 on the Road

I found the 2017 Mazda3 to be an honest, old-fashioned, quiet kind of driver’s car with a clean, coherent, uncorrupted agility about it. There were no tricks in its armory; it didn’t manipulate my perception of its handling with darting directness, sudden changes in the rate of response or excess control weight. It had a taut, but progressive body control and medium, well-balanced grip levels, and was unerringly consistent in its replies to my inputs.

2017 Mazda3

Not for long-term habitation

I was able to familiarize myself with it in an instant, knowing immediately where its limits were, and guided it from corner to corner instinctively, smoothly and precisely—and quickly, if I wanted to. Out on the streets and highways, the little sedan went wherever I pointed it without complaint, with a communicative chassis and decent power, which was further enhanced by the Sport Mode that holds gears longer. The stability control system stayed in the background until needed, and the accelerator pedal and steering remained consistent and communicative.

On handling alone, the Mazda3 absolutely deserves consideration alongside a Ford Focus or a Volkswagen Golf—but it doesn’t quite have the suppleness and rough-road composure of the Ford or Volkswagen. It was, however, zesty and energetic to the end.

In the past, exceeding the Mazda3’s EPA’s fuel economy numbers were always easy, a trait that continues for the 2017 model. After a week with the 3, I handed the keys back to Mazda with an additional 282 miles on the odometer and a fuel economy readout of 32.2 mpg—not the best in the segment, but close.

In the Marketplace

Competition looms large in the compact car segment. The Goliaths are Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra and Volkswagen Golf. The 2017 Mazda3 is David.

Honda’s Civic and the Mazda3 are pretty evenly matched. If you want a comfortable cruiser with excellent fuel economy, go with the Civic. For sportier handling and a lower price, the Mazda3 is the way to go. With better handling than a Toyota Corolla and sleeker styling than a VW Golf, the 2017 Mazda3 covers a lot of different bases. On the flip side, the Corolla and Nissan Sentra have more interior room, the Civic gets better gas mileage, while the VW GTI offers more power. Need better traction in winter? The Subaru Impreza comes with standard all-wheel drive. The Focus offers an electric version as does the Golf.

If all you need is roomy front seating and a low sticker price, there are lots of appliances competing for your checkbook. The 2017 Mazda3 is a premium tool much like David’s well-aimed sling. It’s a direct hit that takes on the Goliaths in design, dynamics, and features.

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Disclosure:

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, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles 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 publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring

Road Test: 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring

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.

2017 Mazda3

The Mazda3 looks ready for the road

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.

2017 Mazda3

Mazda’s style means motion

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.

2017 Mazda3

An upscale look with an annoying knob

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.

Safety

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.

2017 Mazda3

One of our favorites

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

2017 Mazda3

Mazda leads with style and adds fun

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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Disclosure:

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 publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: 2017 Mazda3 & Mazda6 World Debut

News: 2017 Mazda3 & Mazda6 World Debut

Refined Performance About To Hit the Road

2017 Mazda3, 2017 Mazda6,mpg

Mazda heads into 2017 with slight upgrades to its sedans

Mazda recently invited the press to its North American R&D Center for the World Debut of the 2017 Mazda3 and Mazda6, their compact hatchback and midsize sedan that continue to be among

the most stylish and fuel efficient in their class.

Engine and transmission specifications were not finalized at the World Debut, but both models, with front-wheel drive, utilize Mazda’s Skyactiv engine and vehicle design philosophy. Comprised of technology aimed at increasing fuel efficiency and engine performance, Mazda says Skyactiv is a “smarter approach to making driving better” by designing body construction and engine technology that directly maximizes driving dynamics and efficiency. And nothing says efficiency more than fuel economy ratings by the EPA.

Robert Davis, senior VP, U.S. Operations, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) said: “At Mazda, we focus our efforts on building the best-performing, most fuel-efficient vehicles in their classes without compromise. We’re very proud that our unique Skyactiv technology has allowed Mazda to achieve the highest fuel-efficiency of any other mainstream automotive manufacturer for three years in a row…even without offering a hybrid in our vehicle lineup.”

Engine Magic

2017 Mazda6 interior

Pushing into luxury territory

This is impressive as Mazda is doing it with normally aspirated gasoline-powered engines—no turbos, superchargers, diesels or hybrids (though Mazda sells a diesel version of its Skyactiv technology elsewhere in the world and continues to say it will bring it to the U.S.). Mazda also continues to use six-speed automatic transmissions (plus the wonderful, short-throw five-speed manual in the Miata MX-5) and has not introduced a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The CVT has been adopted by many auto manufacturers as it has been shown to be more fuel efficient than conventional automatics. For Mazda, its automatic transmission has tight, smooth and quick shifts with an eye on precision that increases fuel economy.

Following their Kodo—Soul Of Motion—design language, both the 3 and 6 have received refinements and small tweaks to already well-received body styles. New for 2017, the Mazda6 as part of Mazda’s premium value strategy has a new interior package that includes Nappa leather and refinement of build details. Mazda is also proud of an all-new steering wheel for the 3 that as they say received “extensive ergonomic research…to investigate how humans grip a steering wheel and what shape would provide the best grip.” Since the World Debut was not a drive event, I can’t wait to slide behind the wheel of the 2017 Mazda3 and see what this steering wheel is all about.

Both the 3 and 6 have received the addition of torque vectoring, Mazda calls it G-Vectoring Control (GVC), which is designed to improve and enhance handling and the overall driving experience. GVC uses the engine to improve chassis performance with the effect being a natural driving feeling resulting in better responsiveness and stability.

Color & Safety

The Mazda6 was completely redesigned in 2013, received a major refresh for 2016 and now for 2017 adds a new color, Machine Gray Metallic. The 2017 Mazda3 five-door hatchback sports a new

2017 Mazda 3 & Mazda6

Keeping a focus on the sedan market

 

grille that accentuates the V-pattern and adds emphasis by adopting LED headlights, which Mazda says makes the “car’s eyes (have) a more daunting expression.” LED taillights now grace the hatch. New colors for the 3 are the aforementioned Machine Gray Metallic and Eternal Blue Mica.

The 3 and 6 already have the full complement of safety technology systems, but the Smart City Brake Support system (SBS) has been improved to detect vehicles and pedestrians over a wider speed range of 9-99 mph. SBS will automatically apply the brakes in the case of a detected collision.

Pricing for the 2017 Mazda3 and Mazda6 has not been released, but you can anticipate both models to be competitive within their compact and midsize categories.

The Rest of the Lineup

Mazda’s three sport and crossover utility vehicles in their lineup are considered by many to rival the best in the industry.  But to their credit, the company continues to see the importance of sedans, coupes, hatchbacks and even a convertible, including offering a manual transmission. That makes Mazda one of the most innovative and diverse auto companies in spite of its limited lineup. Its famous Zoom Zoom is more than a marketing slogan as it is their DNA.

Clean Fleet Report will have full driving reviews on both the Mazda3 and Mazda6 later this year. We are looking forward to experiencing the evolution of these two cars, both of which we anticipate to be even better than the Mazda’s we have driven over the past few years.

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