To those who believe that buying a compact sedan means making compromises, we present the Mazda 3, a car we love for its classy interior, simple infotainment controls, and fun-to-drive personality. With a fresh round of improvements for 2017, this car just keeps getting better.
Buyers look to compacts for frugal fuel economy, and the Mazda 3 delivers. Two engines are on offer: A 2.0-liter four-cylinder that delivers 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque and a 2.5-liter that provides 184 hp and 185 lb-ft. Both engines are paired with front-wheel drive, and in keeping with Mazda's focus on fun, both are available with both manual and automatic transmissions. The most frugal version, the 2.0-liter, automatic-equipped sedan, is EPA-rated at 32 mpg combined (28 city/37 highway), and even the thirstiest version, the 2.5-liter manual hatchback, is rated at a respectable 28 mpg combined (25 city/33 highway).
The Mazda 3 is efficient, and it is also quick: Edmunds clocked a 3 sedan with the 2.0-liter engine to 60 mph in a faster-than-average 8.3 seconds; a hatchback with the 2.5-liter engine needed just 7.5 seconds. We've always loved the Mazda 3's agile and responsive handling, though we've found the ride to be a bit harsh with the optional 18-inch wheels. Mazda has updated the suspension for 2017 in an effort to smooth the ride, and although we've not yet had a chance to thoroughly test the new setup, our experience with other Mazda models has us optimistic.
We're quite fond of the front seats, which provide great support for enthusiastic driving (something at which the Mazda 3 excels) and comfort for long journeys. The interior feels upscale, the control layout is logical and easy to use, and the Mazda 3 offers "class-above" features such as leather upholstery (real and imitation), adaptive headlights, rain-sensing automatic wipers, and a head-up display (which changes from monochrome to color for 2017). The Mazda 3's infotainment system can be controlled from either a knob on the center console or via the touchscreen. In our opinion, it's one of the best systems in the segment. We've always thought the screen looked a bit tacked-on, and one of the improvements for 2017 is a new housing that gives it a more integrated look.
One downside to the Mazda 3 is backseat space: Though the seat itself is comfortable, the Mazda 3 offers less legroom than some of its competitors. Mazda offers both sedan and hatchback versions; we appreciate the versatility, though cargo space in both body styles comes up short compared to the competition.
Mazda offers the 3 in Sport, Touring, Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring trim levels. The Sport comes with all the power basics we expect, with some surprisingly luxurious bits offered as options. Most of this equipment comes standard in the Touring, and the top-of-the-line Grand Touring offers even more features while maintaining the 3's sporty personality. Which model is best? Let Edmunds help find the perfect 2017 Mazda 3 for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.