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2017 Mazda3: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader November 2016

While some small cars place an emphasis on economy, price and features, too many have abandoned the fun-to-drive factor that's still in full force with the 2017 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback. The Mazda3 is every bit as fuel-efficient and price-conscious as its best competitor, but with its taut suspension, sporty good looks and upscale interior, the Mazda3 offers lovers of small cars a bit more individuality. Better still, the Mazda3 is one of the few models that still offers a manual-transmission option across the lineup.

The Mazda3 delivers outstanding fuel economy without sacrificing performance, especially with the optional 2.5-liter engine. The real fun comes in turning corners, where the Mazda3 boasts some of the best driving prowess around. Opt for the GT trim, and you'll have upscale features such as leather, Bose audio and heated seats. Plus, you can order high-end technology, including a radar-based adaptive cruise-control system, which automatically maintains a safe distance between the Mazda3 and the traffic ahead.

What's New for 2017?

Mazda gave the 2017 Mazda3 a modest freshening both inside and out, with new front and rear fascia, a new steering wheel, larger door pockets and a revised instrument-cluster design. Trim levels and names are also revised this year, and G-Vectoring Control technology is made standard, along with a new electronic parking brake. In addition, automatic-transmission 2.0-liter Skyactiv models gain a Sport mode.

What We Like

Handsome styling; great performance; upscale luxuries; attractive pricing; excellent fuel economy

What We Don't

Slightly sluggish with the 2.0-liter engine; freestanding infotainment screen looks cheap; infotainment interface can be slow and confusing; firm ride with 18-inch wheels

How Much?

$18,680-$31,000

Fuel Economy

The Mazda3 offers two engines. The standard engine is a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which can be mated to a 6-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic. Gas mileage with the manual is 27 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, while the automatic transmission returns 28 mpg city/37 mpg hwy.

Opt for the 184-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, and you'll have improved acceleration without much of a gas-mileage penalty. Fuel economy for the larger engine is 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the manual transmission and 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy with the automatic. Mileage numbers for the hatchback drop to 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the automatic or 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the manual. Models equipped with the i-ELOOP regenerative braking system return 28 mpg city/37 mpg hwy for the sedan and 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy for the hatchback.

Standard Features & Options

The Mazda3 is offered in four trim levels: Sport, Touring, Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring. Shoppers have the choice between a 4-door sedan or a 5-door hatchback.

The Mazda3 Sport ($18,680 for the sedan, $19,930 for the hatchback) includes push-button starting, a 6-speed manual transmission, power locks, power mirrors, power windows, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, 16-in steel wheels, a folding rear seat, 6-speaker audio with USB integration, cruise control, Bluetooth (including audio), Mazda Connect, a rearview camera and a tilt-telescopic steering column.

Above the Sport is the Mazda3 Touring ($21,289 for the sedan, $23,808 for the hatchback). The Touring model adds 18-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, leatherette seating, a 7-in full-color touchscreen, Smart City Brake Support, a 6-way power driver's seat, halogen fog lights, heated front seats, advanced keyless entry and starting, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and heated side mirrors. The Touring hatchback includes a 6-speed automatic as standard.

The Mazda3 Touring 2.5 ($23,230) is offered in hatchback only and brings the larger 2.5-liter engine and a power sunroof.

The Mazda3 Grand Touring ($23,980 for the sedan, $24,730 for the hatchback) adds perforated leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, Advanced Key keyless entry and start, Bose 9-speaker surround sound audio and a heads-up display.

Optional for the Mazda3 Sport is the Preferred Equipment package, which adds 16-in alloy wheels, heated side mirrors with integrated turn-signal lamps, premium cloth-trimmed sport seats, auto on/off headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. The Touring's Popular Equipment package adds a power sunroof, a Bose 9-speaker surround-sound system with Centerpoint 2 and AudioPilot 2, SiriusXM radio with a 4-month subscription, a CD player, a rear spoiler and a shark-fin antenna. The Mazda3 Grand Touring can be equipped with a regenerative braking system (i-ELOOP), navigation, LED auto-leveling headlights, adaptive cruise control, adaptive front lighting, auto high-beam control, a heated steering wheel, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and a more advanced forward-collision warning system.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Mazda3 its highest rating of five stars in all but the rollover test, in which it scored four out of five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Mazda3 its best score of Good in every test category, plus a Top Safety Pick award.

Behind the Wheel

With any Mazda3, the handling is crisp and well-balanced, especially for a small car. Mazda engineers place an emphasis on steering feel, even in a time when electronic power steering is the norm. The Mazda3 responds exactly how you'd expect in corners, with almost no understeer and little drama in the tightest of turns.

Acceleration is also a strong point. While the 2.0-liter Mazda3 isn't especially fast, we didn't find it slow. We're more impressed by the 2.5-liter engine, which feels truly quick.

Inside, the Mazda3 stands out for its high-quality materials and the sheer number of features. We're less than impressed by the pop-up infotainment screen, which looks flimsy, but most other surfaces are top-notch. Tall people will be pleased to discover that there's plenty of headroom and legroom, both in front and in back.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Ford Focus -- The Ford Focus remains a worthy competitor, offering more conservative styling but equally impressive audio and electronic features. Like the Mazda3, it's offered as a sedan or a hatchback, and the turbocharged ST can blow the doors off a Grand Touring.

2017 Honda Civic -- The new Honda Civic feels at home in the compact-car segment. Base models are just as sporty as the Mazda3, but the performance-oriented Civic Si and Type R will give any Mazda3 a run for its money.

Used Audi A3 -- For the price of a new Mazda3 Grand Touring, you can pick up a nice 2015 Audi A3 sedan and get the option of all-wheel drive, a better interior and better performance.

Autotrader's Advice

Virtually every Mazda3 offers a long list of positive traits. Our favorite trim level is the Touring 2.5. It combines the big engine with everything you might want from a compact car -- and a few things you probably weren't expecting.

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Used 2017 Mazda MAZDA3 Sport Hatchback
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Certified 2017 Mazda MAZDA3 Grand Touring Hatchback
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Used 2017 Mazda MAZDA3 Touring Hatchback
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Mazda3: New Car Review - Autotrader