2016 Mazda 3
Personality: Michael Phelps in his swimsuit…on sale.
Best Gizmo: This car is beautiful, drives like a gem and is reasonably priced.
Most Annoying Feature: Luxury options aren’t available on the gas-sipping 2.0 liter engine. They only come with the slightly thirstier 2.5 liter.
MPG (as tested): 41 Highway, 29 City (on 2.0 liter engine, manual transmission)
Performance: Great steering, breaking and acceleration
Cars we smoked at stoplights: A Chrsyler Sebring convertible
0-60 (as tested): 7.8 seconds
How Fast Is That? Quick enough for most drivers, but it won’t be winning any Subaru drivers over to Mazda.
How Much? Sedan starts at $17,845…loaded easily climbs to $26k
Serious Contenders? Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus
Mazda has completely redesigned its best-selling compact for 2016. When I first heard that Mazda was releasing an “all-new” 3, I was worried. The previous 3 was my favorite of the pocket-rocket four doors on a tight budget. It was practical, affordable and sporty.
The good news is that somehow Mazda has improved the 3 in nearly every department, while retaining its fun-to-drive personality and charming good looks. The new Mazda 3 takes a step upscale with more refined touches. Unfortunately, its price tag took a slight step up as well.
Even with its higher sticker, the Mazda 3 remains a decent deal when lined up to its closest competitors. Like its father, the new 3 is everything a sport-compact should be: easy and fun to drive, great looking, gives impressive gas mileage, and practical for toting personal possessions.
Mazda 3 buyers can choose between a four-door sedan or a “five door” hatchback. Everything in front of the backseat is identical on the sedan and hatchback. With a base price of $18,545, the hatchback offers increased storage for a marginal cost.
Inside, Mazda balances the economic sticker price with upscale refinements. Buyers can choose from multi-zone automatic climate control, a 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint surround system, heated leather seats with memory, rain-sensing wipers, LED taillights, and a gazillion other great add-ons.
Those compact buyers who don’t want such expensive options will be happy to know that the dash, gauges and steering wheel all feel and look refined, even on “base” Mazda 3’s. With the infotainment screen mounted at the top of the center stack and easy controls near the shifter, all the typical gadgets and features of today’s connected car are at your fingertips.
There are a whopping six different trim levels to comb through in order to make a final purchase. From the baseline 3i all the way up to the 3s Grand Touring, there is a trim level and option list for both the penny pinchers and the carefree spenders in this compact car category.
The 2016 Mazda 3 also offers drivers two choices of engines. Mazda’s 2.0 liter four cylinder returns as star of the show, delivering 29 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway. Drivers who want faster acceleration can opt for the 3s with a 2.5 liter engine delivering 184 hp and 185 lb-ft. of torque. That’s a potent powerplant for a car of this weight and size. When paired with the new six-speed manual transmission, the 2.5 liter Mazda 3s feels more like a sports car than an econo car.
Mazda has tweaked almost every piece on the all-new Mazda 3, but this compact is still a blast to drive. Given that the new Mazda 3 is even more refined, I grade it top of the class. If you’re shopping in this price range or size, don’t make a purchase until you test drive a Mazda 3.
© 2016 John Dickerson and John Kehlenbeck, Horsepower Auto Reviews