The Mazda3 happens to be the Mazda brand’s most recognizable nameplate, with more than 3.5 million vehicles sold. It was the first vehicle in North America to launch Mazda’s breakthrough engineering and manufacturing philosophy SKYACTIV®1 TECHNOLOGY in 2012, achieving a new segment-defining number of 40 miles per gallon (mpg), not via a vehicle evolution but rather a definitive engineering revolution.
The 2014 Mazda3 lineup was all-new from the ground up and shared almost nothing with its older siblings other than the name. The third-generation Mazda3 was engineered with the full complement of SKYACTIV technologies, Mazda’s proprietary suite of fuel-efficient, performance-driven components and manufacturing philosophies along with a complete KODO (“Soul of Motion”) structure, while offering active safety technologies such as i-ACTIVSENSE and introducing an all-new “heads-up” HMI/infotainment system dubbed MAZDA CONNECT™.
The 2015, Mazda3 continued with the same content while adding a manual transmission on 2.5-liter models; MAZDA CONNECT (and rear camera on iTouring) for no charge, plus now all cars with MAZDA CONNECT without Navi can add factory Navi from the dealer for roughly $400. That means even an i Sport manual transmission customer gets MAZDA CONNECT on their car for about the same price as last year and may add Navi for about $400 more.
The 2016 Mazda3 is available in four-door and five-door body configurations, and in several trim levels: the i SV has been eliminated, leaving the i Sport as the entry level Mazda3, i Touring, and I Grand Touring as well as s Touring and s Grand Touring. All trim levels are available with either SKYACTIV 6-speed manual or SKYACTIV-DRIVE 6-speed automatic electronically controlled Sport automatic transmission except the s Touring and S Grand Touring.
Two engines are available: I models are powered by a 2.0-liter SKYACTIVE-G four-cylinder that delivers 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, while developing 150 pound feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. s models draw their motive force from a 2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve SKYACTIVE-G four-cylinder with Variable Valve Timing that makes 184 horses at 5,700 rpm while generating 185 pound feet of torque at 3,250 rpm.
The 2016 Mazda3 is low and lean with a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, while the sedan remains 0.6 inches shorter in overall length at 180.3 inches than the 5-door model. Five-door models extend to a smaller 175.6 inches. With a height of 57.3 inches and a width of 70.7 inches, the Mazda3 reduced its overall height by 0.6 inches, while gaining 1.6 inches in its pronounced, but toned hips, all while retaining similar headroom space and providing comfortable rear legroom. Rear seatbacks were lengthened nearly 2.0 inches for added passenger comfort.
New for the 2016 model year, a rearview camera has been added as standard fare for all models, and there are new packages for specific models: Preferred Equipment Package for the I Sport; Popular Equipment Package for Touring models; and the Technology Package for Grand Touring vehicles. Auto on/off headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers have been added to Touring and Grand Touring models, and an Auto-dimming interior mirror finds its way into s Touring and I Grand Touring models. The Mazda3 Touring now comes with a Power moonroof and illuminated vanity mirrors.
The cab rearward posture of the vehicle and its highly raked profile projects its agility. The new familial KODO design face creates a visual appeal from the dynamic signature wing of the five-point grille to the expansive hood cresting over sleekly slanted headlamps, and through the wide-stance muscular fenders that flex into taut character lines from panel to panel. Each chiseled feature serves a purpose, as both sedan and five-door models achieve a best-in-class coefficient of drag (Cd) at 0.255 and 0.28, respectively, when equipped with active grille shutters and i-ELOOP, the world’s first capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system to power all of a vehicle’s electrical components. The active grille shutters mounted in front of the radiator, automatically open and close in accordance with driving conditions, improving aerodynamic performance while contributing to real-world gains in fuel economy.
The interior matches the exterior in terms of expressiveness and purpose beginning with the driver-oriented cockpit. In following with Mazda’s Jinba-Ittai philosophy of a rider and horse connected as one, everything from the arrangement of switches and knobs to the physical location of driving controls such as the shifter, the driver (rider) and Mazda3 (horse) combine to enhance the driving experience. Pedals are symmetrically laid out to the left and right of the driver’s centerline for further precision and comfort. A hinged organ-type accelerator pedal is standard equipment for added safety while lessening the natural fatigue associated with frequent pedal pressure, such as during stop-and-go commutes.
The A-pillars are set 3.9 inches rearward, increasing the range of vision for all occupants. Outside mirrors also are mounted onto the doors instead of the industry-norm placement being at the base of the A-pillar post.
The 2014 Mazda3 was the first vehicle to feature Mazda’s Active Driving Display, which continues for 2016. It is a clear pop-up panel that is vertically mounted behind the hood to provide vehicle speed, navigation directions and other pertinent driving information directly within the driver’s line of sight. The Active Driving Display automatically folds back into a hidden position when the ignition is shut off.
The meter cluster features a centrally positioned analog gauge flanked by a pair of wing-shaped digital displays. A decorative dash panel outfitted in satin chrome with piano black trim pieces extends from the gauge clusters and adorns select areas of the center console and front door inserts. The seat architecture and materials also have been improved. Their structure focuses on comfort, space and weight without sacrificing support and feel. The driver’s seat cushion is large and the seat back is optimized, create a natural seating position.
My test 2016 Mazda3 was a five-door model in s Grand Touring trim, powered by the 2.5-liter SKYACTIVE-G four-banger, delivering power to the front wheels via the SKYACTIVE-Drive 6-speed automaticl transmission. The exterior was finished in a Soul Red metallic, complemented by an Almond toned interior. The base price was set at $26,495 while optional features and equipment bumped the final total up to $30,270.
SUMMARY: This latest iteration of the Mazda3 continues as a delight and satisfying the senses. The Mazda3 was always fun to drive, with the 2.0-liter mill emitting an authoritative note, which some may relate to as “buzzy”, but it’s anything but objectionable, while delivering more than adequate performance capabilities. The 2.5-liter engine obviously delivers more power without having to work as hard.
All Mazda3 vehicles equipped with a SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic transmission feature a manual shift option but the Sport mode feature (s models only) adjusts the shift mapping – and to a lesser extent the throttle response – to better match more spirited driving conditions, such as challenging twisty roads. The transmission holds gears longer and doesn’t upshift or downshift as much while manually shifting when carving through turns. For non-automatic transmission fans, the 6-speed manual gearbox is both smooth and precise.
The Mazda3’s ride quality is very comfortable, neither too harsh nor too compliant. There is however considerable road noise that a little extra attention in the NVH department would eliminate almost entirely.
The MazdaConnect system is quite convenient with its center console mounted rotary knob and three buttons, which may be operated by feel without taking one’s eyes off the road, since the information appears on the dash mounted screen. The innovative Head Up Display provides speed and other safety system warnings, long with the Navi system’s speed limit posting, which turns yellow when nearing excessive speed and displays red when actually accelerating above the posted limit.
All in all, the 2016 Mazda3 lineup, while competing with several vehicles in the same class and price range, delivers an impressive package regardless of body configuration, powertrain and model, at a reasonable price, especially considering the content and level of available technology. The 2.0-liter Mazda3 i is quite nice, but the pick of the litter, is the 5-door powered by the 2.5-liter engine in S Grand Touring trim. The automatic transmission is fine, especially in Sport mode, but the manual gearbox is more MX-5 Miata-like, better accommodating drivers who happen to be sportier in nature. In any case, there’s a new Mazda3 that should please nearly everyone.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2016 Mazda3 S Grand Touring 5-Door
|Price as Tested:||$30,270.|
|Engine Type and Size:||2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve SKYACTIV G inline 4-cylinder with VVT and Direct Injection.|
|Horsepower (bhp):||184 @ 5,700 rpm|
|Torque (ft./ lbs.):||185 @ 3,250 rpm|
|Transmission:||SKYACTIV Drive 6-speed Sport mode automatic.|
|Drive Train:||Transversely mounted front engine / Front-wheel drive.|
Front – Independent MacPherson strut with twin-tube shock absorbers.
Rear – Independent Multi-link with twin-tube shock absorbers.
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front), ABS, EBD and BA.|
|Tires:||Dunlop SP Sport 5000 215/45 R18 89W mounted on 5 stylized “V”-spoke sparkle silver painted alloy wheels.|
|Length Overall:||175.6 inches|
|Curb Weight:||3.028 lbs.|
|Fuel Capacity:||13.2 gallons|
|EPA Mileage Estimates:||27 mpg city / 37 mpg highway|
|0 – 60 mph:||Not tested|
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.