Canadians can’t seem to get enough of the Mazda3. Worldwide, Canada is Mazda’s biggest market for the 3. So what has Mazda updated on the 3rd generation Mazda3 to keep us Canadians interested? The answer… everything.
Performance – The entire powertrain has been updated from the previous generation with the exception of the 2.0L engine however, the GT model tested here is equipped with a newly redesigned 2.5L engine. The new 2.5L has been given the Skyactiv treatment for 2014 and it now produces a class leading 184hp and 182lb-ft of torque. As a commuter car, the engine is smooth and it has plenty of torque at the low end to get you away from the stop lights. With such a large displacement engine, you would assume that fuel economy isn’t the best but you’d be wrong because the fuel efficiency of the Skyactiv engine is almost the same as a modern clean diesel engine (7.1L/100km City and 5.0L/100km hwy). Now just because it has class leading power doesn’t mean it will pin you to the seat however if you’re in the mood for some spirited driving outside the city, the peppy engine has plenty of oomph to keep things exciting.
Now for the sad part. The Mazda3 GT models only come with a 6-speed automatic and the manual option is only for the GX and GS models with the 2.0L engine. Don’t get me wrong, the automatic is a great transmission and clever too. At slow speeds it behaves like a normal automatic but at high speeds it locks the torque converter thus behaving more like a manual transmission providing fantastic engine response when you hit the gas pedal. But I’m one of those people who thinks that having full control of gear selection is just more fun and I don’t want a computer to override me and change gears when it thinks it should, so obviously I would have preferred it if Mazda also had the option of a manual for the GT model.
To help slow down and stop the peppy engine under the hood of the 3, are 4 wheel disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution. Mazda has never had any problems with poor brake feel on their previous cars and the status quo remains on this one but with a little twist. If you opt for the technology package, the brakes come equipped with what Mazda calls i-ELOOP. What it does is under braking situations, the energy that would have been wasted in heat and friction is turned instead into electricity that powers various electrical devices on the car and reducing the load on the alternator thus reducing fuel consumption. It is not intrusive at all, it feels like a stronger than normal engine brake.
The handling characteristics are what set the Mazda3 apart from its competition. This new generation is just as fun to take around corners as the previous models. Grip is always there and when it does let go, the electronic traction and stability controls keep you in complete control of the vehicle at all times. The steering feel is also fantastic for a daily driver car. It is nicely balanced between lightness for slow city maneuvering but also heavy enough to let you feel what the front wheels are doing when you’re canyon carving.
Comfort – After driving the Mazda3 for a few minutes, the question that kept popping into my mind was “Is this really a sub $30,000 car?” The interior design is a very nice improvement over the old model. Soft black leather with red stitching, a tachometer directly in front of you with a red halo, and a dash that is covered in soft to the touch leather. The new infotainment system features a large colour touchscreen but it isn’t pointed towards the driver like how it was in the old Mazda3. I thought it looked awkward sticking out from the center of the dash like as though it was an afterthought. Another feature that surprised me (on a sub $30,000 car) was the new heads up display. It can display the vehicle speed, navigation directions, and certain vehicle parameters such as fuel consumption.
In the back there is ample room for children but adults may find it a bit of a squeeze in terms of leg room. The trunk space is very impressive for a compact sedan but if you’re wanting for more room, the hatchback variant (Mazda3 Sport) offers 222L of extra space.
Odds and Ends – The redesign continues outside the vehicle with Mazda’s “Kodo – Soul of Motion” design concept. I have absolutely no idea what that means but I like the way the new car looks. The grinning front bumper of the old 3 is gone and is replaced by a more mature and aerodynamic body. Little details such as the LED daytime running lights and the hidden exhaust tailpipe put a nice finishing touch to an elegantly designed body.
It’s not hard to see why Canadians love the Mazda 3. Fun to drive characteristics, really good fuel economy, great interior, and a boat load of features at a reasonable price.
Thank you to Open Road Mazda for providing the vehicle and head over to their website to view this car and others like it. www.OpenRoadMazda.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.