2018 Mazda Mazda3 Grand Touring
This sedan begs to be tossed around.
By Cherise Threewitt, Contributor, Car-ED.com | June 2018
What is this vehicle?
The Mazda Mazda3 is the most affordable point of entry to the Mazda brand. This compact car is available in sedan and hatchback body styles and is known for being one of the best-handling vehicles in its segment.
In base Sport trim, you’ll get a fun-to-drive, stylish, efficient, well-rounded compact car with a decent list of standard equipment. In the top-of-the-line Grand Touring trim, which we tested for this review, the Mazda3 sedan feels surprisingly premium and provides some advanced technology features that aren’t often seen in this class.
Who is this vehicle for?
The Mazda3 isn’t the absolute most affordable vehicle in the compact segment, but it’s priced pretty reasonably considering all that you get. This car is perfect for buyers who want something a little nicer than most entry-level compact cars, and who appreciate that a car can be genuinely enjoyable to drive even if it doesn’t have the most powerful engine on the market. The Mazda3 has modest horsepower compared to other sporty compact cars, but it’s also quite efficient, making this a good choice for fuel-conscious shoppers who don’t necessarily want a hybrid or EV.
Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?
The Mazda3 is really a great choice for shoppers who want to get as much enjoyment out of their commute as possible. Every trim level comes standard with a manual transmission, which we recommend for buyers who can drive a manual. The specific Mazda3 provided for this test was an automatic, but we’ve had a lot of fun in previous Mazda3 test cars that were equipped with a manual.
Despite its eager attitude, the Mazda3 is surprisingly efficient. The Mazda3 Grand Touring is rated for 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined when equipped with the optional automatic transmission. After a week of fairly aggressive driving, combined city and highway, our average came in at 26.4; a more gentle approach would have easily yielded higher numbers.
Interesting facts about this vehicle!
Mazda’s cars are designed with what the brand refers to as “Kodo design language.” If you are familiar with other current Mazda vehicles, you can see the same ideas in play here, even though the sedan’s design is a little more subtle than its stablemates.
The base engine in the Sport model is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. Touring and Grand Touring models get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The Touring costs only about $2,000 more than the Sport, and we feel it’s worth the upgrade.
What Impressed Us / Top Likes:
This is a really nice-looking car, particularly in Snowflake White Pearl paint, and the 18-inch alloy wheels on our test car lent a premium look.
Our car featured a Parchment two-tone interior with leather upholstery and sport seats. It was super comfortable and the driver’s seat was very easy to adjust.
A head-up display is an optional feature and was included with our Grand Touring test car. This display provides a lot of information, such as traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning.
The Mazda3 has a really easygoing personality. It’s comfortable and easy to drive, yet responds well to enthusiasm.
Items to Make Better (Least Favorite Things):
The cupholders are in an awkward position. They’re slightly uncomfortable to reach, but nothing we can’t live with.
Mazda does not offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay with the Mazda3, but Mazda’s own infotainment system is pretty easy to use. Our iPhone connected easily to the system via Bluetooth and, for the most part, streamed music smoothly. There were a couple of occasions when Pandora would get stuck buffering on the phone’s end, and it caused a loop of error messages on the car’s infotainment screen. Restarting Pandora on the phone fixed the problem.
The traffic sign recognition system occasionally displays incorrect information. At one point, the system displayed a speed limit of 85 mph when it was actually 40 mph. This is common with most traffic sign recognition systems we’ve experienced.
Segment and Competitors:
The Mazda3 fits neatly into the compact car segment, and the Sport sedan is one of the most affordable vehicles in the class. Notable competitors include:
- Honda Civic
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Volkswagen Golf
- Kia Soul
- Kia Forte
- Ford Focus
- Hyundai Elantra
- Toyota Corolla
- Toyota Prius
Although we found the traffic sign recognition system to be a bit finicky, it should be said that Mazda makes this technology available at a much lower price point than most other brands. It’s difficult to find a head-up display or traffic sign recognition option in the compact segment without shelling out for a luxury brand.
Pricing and Availability:
The Mazda Mazda3 Sport sedan starts at $18,095, and the Sport hatchback costs about $1,000 more. The top-end Grand Touring sedan model tested for this review came to $28,385. The 2018 Mazda Mazda3 is available now.