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Review: 2015 Mazda 3 i Touring

by Paul Strauss
Review: 2015 Mazda 3 i Touringzoom in

    2015 Mazda 3 i Touring

  • Powertrain: 155hp 2.0L 4 cyl, 6-speed automatic (manual also avail.)
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 30/41 (34 combined)
  • Curb Weight (lb): 2917
  • Wheelbase (in): 106.3
  • Total Length (in): 180.3
  • Width (in): 70.7
  • Base Price (USD): $20,645
  • Price as Tested (USD): $23,410

The current generation Mazda 3 is a compact sedan that combines enjoyable driving dynamics, fuel efficiency and safety in a moderately priced package. Available in both 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback variants, with either a 2.0-liter or 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, the model I spent time with sits smack dab in the middle of the line. Coated in a luscious “soul red” metallic paint, and offering a long nose and set-back passenger cabin, it looks quite lively.

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The i Touring version sports a 2.0 liter, 155hp power plant, which offers a good amount of get up and go, so I can only imagine that the 2.5 liter, 184hp engine in the s models offers even more fun to drive. Shifting is achieved with either a 6-speed manual with overdrive or a 6-speed automatic gearbox with manual shift modes. With so many compacts going with yawn-worthy CVTs these days, it’s so nice to see Mazda stick to their guns with proper geared transmission, and focusing on refinements to make those more fuel efficient. While I didn’t get to check out the manual, the automatic shifted smoothly and offered good low-end torque to help the car pull away with plentiful zip.

What pleases me most about the Mazda 3 is the way it handles. It’s exceptionally well composed and balanced for a front-wheel drive car. Its road feel is sporty and firm, but not harsh or rattly, and offers great driving feedback. And Mazda did a very good job with the 3’s rack-and-pinion electronic power-assisted steering, giving the little car a surprisingly go-kart like feel in the corners. Its disc brakes are tight and not the least bit mushy, and offer electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist safety features as well.

Fuel economy for the Mazda 3 is very good, with a rating of 30mpg in the city and 41mpg on the highway. In my mixed driving over the course of a week, I averaged about 34mpg, exactly the EPA combined rating. Mazda has also managed to score an overall five-star U.S. government crash rating, and was a 2014 recipient of an IIHS Safety Pick+ designation.

Inside, the car is sparingly, but thoughtfully equipped, with cloth-trimmed sport seats, power locks, windows and mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever and available dual-zone climate control. If you bump all the way up to the top of the line s Grand Touring you’ll enjoy leather seats with heat and power controls for the driver, along with other bells and whistles like LED running and taillights, and adaptive Xenon headlights among other upgrades.

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At the center of the instrument cluster is a large analog speedometer, along with a small digital tachometer to the left, and a digital trip/fuel gauge to the right. Mazda’s infotainment system includes a 7-inch touchscreen that sticks its head out of the dash, and offers a handy scroll wheel/joystick controller for added convenience. Out of the numerous infotainment interfaces I’ve used, Mazda’s setup is definitely in my top five. It’s uncluttered, functional and intuitive, which isn’t something even some of the fanciest automakers can claim. Sadly, navigation isn’t standard, but at least there’s Bluetooth support so you can use your phone for nav. The upgraded Bose 9-speaker stereo system offers plentiful volume, punchy low-end and minimal distortion, even at high volumes. That said, I did encounter a strange issue where the Bluetooth audio from my iPhone 6 plus would cut out for a fraction of a second every minute or so.

A few upscale features are standard on the Touring models, including keyless entry and engine start, a backup camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and tire pressure monitoring.

Legroom and headroom is very good for the driver and front seat passenger, though the rear is a bit cramped if you’ve got tall people riding up front. With the driver’s seat in a relaxed position for my 6-foot-tall body, there was only two inches of legroom in back. With the seat pulled forward to a position where I could still drive, but wasn’t as comfortable, I was able to muster about five inches, enough for me to sit in the back, but it was still tight.

Trunk space is limited, but sufficient for everyday purposes at 12.4 cubic feet, and the rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split to avail you of additional cargo space. If you need more space on a daily basis, you’ll definitely want to consider the 5-door, which bumps up cargo space to 20.2 cubic feet.

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The 2015 Mazda 3 is proof that you can still buy an affordable compact sedan with good looks, fuel economy, and fun driving characteristics. Offering styling that’s less pedestrian than its closest competitors, and an exceptionally sporty ride, it’s definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for an everyday compact sedan.

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