REVIEW UPDATED OCTOBER 2016 AT 14540MI
After clocking almost 14540 miles in this car, I can say without reservation that the 2.5 liter engine is excellent. It?s very smooth with linear power delivery and never leaves me needing more, as long as I select the right gear. Also, doing my own oil changes is very easy.
The 6-spd manual transmission in this car is one of the best I?ve had in a compact car, but it can feel a bit notchy when going from 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd, but I realized this was because I was trying to 'guide' the shifter, which isn't necessary. It has nice short throws and slides into the next gear almost on its own, if you let it!
Ride/handling is firm, but not at all harsh. The 3 sGT is a very controlled and fun car to drive!
Build quality and fit/finish are excellent throughout the car, on par with the very best. Although, road noise at speed can be intrusive, due to limited use of sound insulation.
Styling is fantastic inside and out. It?s a very simplistic but upscale look and feel, reminiscent of a much more expensive car, although the upper trim on all 4 doors could be softer, especially the rear.
Supportive and attractive seats, I love the contrast stitching
The Bose Centerpoint sound system is the best sounding audio system I?ve ever had in a car, hands down. It offers excellent imaging and superior full range sound reproduction, particularly when playing lossless music files. It won't provide the kind of bass you get from a separate subwoofer, but it's a clean sounding system.
The adjustable head-up display and the blind spot monitoring are great safety features that work very well, although I'd prefer a head up display that projects onto the windshield, instead of a popup of clear plastic, which looks a bit cheap. The BSM allows you to adjust the warning chime level or turn it off, which is nice.
Fuel efficiency was not quite as good as I expected at the beginning but, as I suspected, it has improved markedly since break-in. I am now averaging 36 MPG in mostly highway driving, which is better than it's rated.
The infotainment system is slow to start up, sometimes taking over a minute to display the home screen. It also has unstable smart phone integration, often not recognizing my Android phone when connected via USB, which is annoying because I prefer to play music over wire instead of Bluetooth, as the sound quality is MUCH better. It also sometimes has issues connecting to the internet radio and webcast apps on my phone. Also, too many of the systems core functions cannot be accessed while driving. I realize this is for safety, but it?s far more restrictive than most cars I?ve owned. And finally, there is no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay present, while most competitors are offering these features. Mazda could definitely stand to further refine this system.
At highway speeds, the level of road noise can become fatiguing and intrusive after a while. Mazda clearly saved some money by eliminating sound insulation materials.
The car doesn't retain accessory power when you shut off the engine. I sometimes like to finish listening to a song or a news story before exiting, but in order to do so, I have to turn the acc power back on by pushing the start button again. Every other car I've owned in the last 15+ yrs retains acc power for a few min (or until a door is opened) after engine shutoff. Not a major con, but still annoying.
There needs to be a fog light indicator light somewhere on the dash board. The switch on the left stalk is hidden behind the steering wheel, so it is difficult to tell if they?re on or off. Not a major con, but it's a minor detail that never should have been omitted.
The clutch has a much higher take up point than I?m use to. It doesn?t begin to engage until the pedal is more than half way out. I prefer a clutch that engages closer to the floor to facilitate quicker shifts. It may be somewhat adjustable, which I will investigate eventually.
A non-leather seat option on the top sGT trim would be nice for those who don?t want leather. Something like Alcantara would be a great option. Also, a bit more bottom padding would be nice as well, as the seats can begin to feel hard after a few hours.
I admit to being VERY nitpicky when it comes to my cars. I have high expectations that are rarely met. That said, I would still buy the 3sGT 5-door over any other compact currently currently offered. The only car I might have considered is the upcoming 2017 Honda Civic 5-door, but it won?t be available until late 2016 and I couldn?t wait that long. In any case, I?m very happy with this car and can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent compact car that will undoubtedly provide many years of fun and trouble-free driving.
I traded my 2014 Accord for a basic Mazda3, 6-speed with the preferred package and am totally ga-ga in love over my Mazda. It's definitely smaller but it performs u-turns so much easier and is much more engaging to drive. I love the 6-speed transmission, too. I owned a 2009 Honda Fit for several years and it was a fantastic car which easily got 38 mpg and had tons of cargo space; it, however, always had the appearance of a kiddy car with a rollerskate-like appearance. The Mazda3 feels and looks more grown-up and sophisticated. I love the high quality materials, the tight seams on the car and how smooth the controls are. I also like the largish wheels and tires and appreciate the 6+ inches of ground clearance. My Accord, despite being a far larger car, had tires similar in size to the 3 and had lower ground clearance so I often scraped the air dam when going into or leaving parking lot ramps. I wasn't sure about the so-called "commander" knob on the 3 but with just three weeks of ownership, I've become used to the knob and really like it. I told my other half that this is likely to be the last car I buy for a long, long time and she didn't believe me. Well, I've already started looking at another car -- a slightly higher trim level Mazda3. I wouldn't mind having the dual-zone climate control or the keyless entry / keyless ignition. The only thing that seems weird to me about the 3 is how you need the key fob to get into the car but not to start the vehicle. I would really like to be able to not fumble in my pocket to unlock the doors. For reference, I considered the Mazda3 and also a Golf Sportwagen. Strange combination I'm sure you're thinking and you're right. I really wanted the larger cargo capacity of the Golf wagen and the little turbo gas motor was rated for much more power, however, the motor didn't feel nearly as strong as the ratings suggested. I drove the 3 and fell in love with the thing. The steering wheel and controls are right at my hands and the transmission is creamy-smooth. The motor seems to make more power than the ratings suggest and the car has a "let's go -- zoom-zoom" feel about it. The motor never seems to run out of breath and is so smooth and quiet. The VW salesperson asked me why I chose the 3 over the wagen and I told him the car just felt great and was "me." I think if you try one, you'll like it too. This is my 19th 4-wheeled vehicle that I've owned and easily my favorite. Only 3 tanks of gas (and just over 1,000 miles) but my average mileage on fuelly.com is over 38 mpg. I expect as the mileage accumulates and the motor breaks-in, this figure should stay the same or increase slightly.
I've now owned my 3 for a few months and just passed 4,600 miles. Despite the availability of cars for work, I choose to drive my 3 because I like it so much. Having lived with the car for a little while, there are some things I appreciate more and some other things that could be improved. The engine and transmission remain creamy smooth and quiet and over the past months, I've seen a high mpg of 42 and a low of just over 35: average is 37 mpg. The cabin remains quiet and comfortable. That commander knob I mentioned is easy to use but I do find myself wishing for a simple tuning knob. I just had my oil changed for the first time and it seems like the mileage has improved slightly -- a mpg or 2 on the highway. "surly's mazda fuelly" Would I buy again? WIthout reservation -- I love the thing.
UPDATE: 1-28-17: over 14,000 miles and just had the oil changed for the 3rd time. The car seems to be loosening up nicely -- the exhaust seems a little more sporty sounding and the motor feels more willing to rev as the miles accumulate. No problems at all and I still love driving my little "go-devil." Mileage averages about 36mpg overall. Google surly's mazda fuelly for more stats.
Love the car although it has it's minor negatives.
written on 05-23-2016
i Sport 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 6A)
I have had the car for more than 3 weeks and put about 1,200 miles. Here is what I like and dislike:
-Looks. Bought the "gray" which actually looks more like charcoal black.
-Decent backseat room. Perfect for my teen kids.
-Fuel Economy. Averaging about 33 MPG in mixed city/highway. I like in the suburbs but still deal with lights. Its not stop & go but its not true highway either.
-Lots of standard features for the iSport. Rear view camera, bluetooth, voice commands, text reads (although it doesn't always work, maybe my phone).
-Acceleration. Its quick.
-Braking. Maybe because the brakes are brand new but it stops on a dime.
-Money factor on leasing. *This is key if you are considering leasing. I researched a lot on this but Mazda offers competitive money factors. It is cheaper for me to lease the Mazda3 than say a Kia Soul although the Soul is cheaper.*
-Warranty: Powertrain - 5 yr/60k miles plus 3 yr/36k miles roadside assistance (although I have AAA).
-Reliability. Consumer Reports has rated Mazda as one of the most reliable brands.
-Road noise. Not sure if it is the tires but the road noise is the worst and loudest. I thought my old 2013 Civic had a lot of road noise but this Mazda3 is load!
-Seats a little uncomfortable.
-Black interior. Looks nice but in the summer, black dashboard and black seats will make the car an oven.
-Second week I made a wide right turn and heard a loud pop underneath the car. Then I started hearing metal hitting each other after hitting bumps. Took it to the dealer. They said everything was fine but did confirm the noise. After 3 hours, they said they needed to contact Mazda (this was on Saturday). Noise went away by Monday. Not sure if they fixed it unknowingly. Gone for now. Hope it does not come back but this is a big concern.
-Interior Light brightness. There are only 2 options unless mine is defective. Its either bright or less bright. No in-between. Why? Never seen only 2 choices.
First off, it should be noted i have only owned the car for about 700 miles, so i cannot comment on reliability and such. I can say that there have been no problems so far, and the forums for the mazda 3 are NOT littered with threads about oil consumption and HG issues as some other car forums might be.
Lets get the bad out of the way first:
My car is the Grand Touring 2.5L 6speed Manual, so it's loaded aside from the tech package (which means no eloop or radar cruise). One of the features i really like on my car is the red light camera warning system, which tells you via voice warning that a red light ticket camera is ahead. It's a great feature, but on at least 2 occasions has gotten stuck, with the lady repeating herself 10-15 times before traffic starts up and finally it clears up. Quite annoying. Also, as with my previous Mazda, the lower door panels scuff easily. That pretty much sums up the negatives I have so far.
First off, the interior on this car is excellent. It has a luxury feel all over and is feature packed. The infotainment works well and is intuitive, and also allows modifications via "tweaks" from the modding community so you can tailor certain things to your liking. Wi-fi functionality is even present, but hidden initially. The leather seats look and feel great, and the dash materials are high end and look great overall. I'm 6'3" and have ample head room up front. The LCD display for the infotainment looks a little out of place, but you quickly get used to it and realize it is in the perfect spot. The BMW inspired infotainment controls are instantly easy to use. The heads up display - it seems like a gimmick until you use it. It displays your speed and next turn for navigation, as well as other info at times. It is very useful on the interstate to keep you aware of your speed. This can be turned off or adjusted. Backup camera works well, blind spot chime can be turned down or off but works well, and the voice control is decent, although i'm still getting the hang of it. There is plenty of storage space, although the door pockets are a bit small and more cup holder than storage. The climate control is easy enough to use, but I personally prefer a simple 3 dial manual layout. Overall, the car allows nice customization through the infotainment center in allowing you to turn off and adjust features to your liking - example - the door locks can be set for "one touch unlocks all doors" or "press once for driver, twice for all".
The driving experience is fantastic. You quickly forget this is a compact economy car. The 2.5 has plenty of pep. enough to chirp the wheels and put a big smile on your face. Power is adequate at all RPM's, and impressive when you have the engine in a sweet spot around 3.5K. You'll be pushed back in your seat if you are into that sort of thing. The car handles great. I've taken a country drive in the twisties already and it was all smiles. minimal body roll and confidence inspiring steering feel. The shifter has a very short motion. Initially, it was hard to tell 1st from 3rd, but I quickly got used to it and have not thought about it since. The clutch has a bit of a binary feel, but again, I quickly became accustomed. For casual driving, the car does not drift or require extra attention to stay on track on the interstate. Road noise is acceptable to good. I suspect new tires would help in that department, but it is certainly not an issue for me. Also nice is the fact that the engine does well in just about any rev range for daily driving - it's a bit of an "any gear will do" affair unless you really want to get on it. More than a few times i've found myself cruising around in 4th gear when i should be in 6th, because the car does not get loud or jerky. Even for interstate passing, downshifts are not usually required. There is enough torque in the low range for standard driving maneuvers.
So far i'm getting around 30mpg mixed driving, and it seems to be improving with break in. I also do enjoy the car from time to time so my figures are far from optimal.
All in all, I would buy another if this was stolen. I took the car on a 34 hour test drive before buying and that feeling has not changed - I love the car and am very happy with my choice. Mazda does make cars that are fun to drive, and they it well.
Whats not to like about a sporty hatchback that gets 40+ mpg? No, it`s not a muscle car, and it`s never going to be. Performance is what you`d expect from a 2 liter engine...maybe a tick more but nothing that`s going to push you into the seat. It scoots just fine. The seats are supportive and comfortable. Also, for me, the interior controls are fantastic. There have been some complaints about the ergonomics of the infotainment system and I honestly don`t get it. The screen is well placed and sized well enough. The controls are both on the steering wheel as well as the main control knob which sits comfortably right under your right hand. I read a complaint that the radio kept going up the frequency range after the user stopped clicking. Buddy, there are two settings for the radio. One of them is the "scan" feature. Turn that off and you get one station at a time. The rear view camera is nice and quite useful. I got the six speed manual transmission, and I love it. The clutch is very light and feedback is perfect for the vehicle. One great feature is the hill start assist. If you come to a stop on a hill, the car will automatically hold the brake for you to allow you time to engage the clutch without rolling back. Handling wise, it`s a win as well. Keep in mind you`re not in a ferrari. It has it`s limits but it`s got a sports car`s soul. The automatic windshield wipers are AWESOME. It`s not just on/off, but it also automatically adjusts the wiper speed according to how hard it`s raining. All in all, I am 100% happy with my 3. I took possession of it lock,stock, and barrel (no financing) and I don`t regret it one bit. I had my expectations in the right place and the car exceeded many of them. No, it`s not a race car. Yes, it`s exponentially more cool than a Prius and gets better mileage than a smart car. Plus, I`m a professional musician and my entire rig fits in the hatch. If you want a practical vehicle that`s fun and won`t make you feel you sacrificed your youthful exuberance for space and crappy fuel economy, this is a great car.