|The 2017 Mazda3 Sport remains one of the most attractive cars in its class.(Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Yet that doesn’t explain stronger sales of the Toyota Corolla family, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra/Veloster, Volkswagen Jetta/Golf/GTI, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza/WRX, and Kia Forte last year. The salt gets further rubbed into the wound when learning the only two direct competitors it outsells in the U.S., the Dodge Dart and Mitsubishi Lancer, have already been officially discontinued. Yikes!
By comparison, the Mazda3 may not be rivaling the Civic for top sales anymore, or for that matter rubbing shoulders with the Corolla and Elantra, but it’s still ahead of the others. Therefore Mazda Canada should probably feel pretty good about
|Clean, elegant lines make for a well proportioned rear end design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I think the Mazda3 deserves better in both countries, but the success of any car has as much to do with the massive marketing spend of the industry’s big players, as the quality of goods and value for money. Mazda has long made excellent products that perform better than average and deliver a near-premium look and feel, yet they’re a relatively small independent Japanese brand that doesn’t have the advertising clout of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, the big
|LED headlamps separate the GT from the rest of the Mazda3 line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Fans of this alternative import carmaker tend to like Mazda’s more exclusive cachet, especially those who appreciate better than average driving dynamics. I happen to like Mazda’s styling more than most other brands as well, while its interiors are second-to-none within the categories it competes in.
Take this Mazda3 Sport GT. Its deep, wide, chrome-trimmed grille with blackened slats has a totally unique presence on the road, its top corners visually melding into this model’s projection LED headlamp clusters, while its sporty yet clean lower
|These 18-inch alloys look great and are easy to clean. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The rest of the bodywork flows gracefully from front to back, the car perfectly proportioned despite its compact dimensions, while its backside is finished off with a discrete body-colour rooftop spoiler, elegantly simple LED taillights, and a matte black diffuser-style bumper cap with integrated dual chromed tailpipes at each side. It’s one great looking ride from all angles.
Inside it’s downright premium, especially in my tester’s two-tone black and “Pure White” motif. The dash top, much of the instrument panel, and the door uppers are surfaced in high-quality soft touch synthetic, whereas the door inserts and armrests
|LED taillights are even more eye-catching at night. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
A semi-digital colour TFT primary instrument display is laid out in a sporty motorcycle centre-pod design, while an available class-exclusive head-up display powers up from the dash top to project critical info where it’s easiest to see without taking eyes from the road. At centre, a 7.0-inch fixed tablet-style infotainment display could be straight out of an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, and just like these premium marques it’s controlled with a knurled metal rotating dial on the lower console. Another metal-trimmed dial allows volume control, while an electromechanical parking brake joins an aluminized Drive Selection rocker switch featuring
|The 3 GT’s optional "Pure White" interior looks positively rich. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The stylish metallic treatment enhances other areas in the car as well, including the steering wheel that’s also leather-wrapped and filled with high-quality, well damped, tight fitting switchgear, this at least as good as the buttons, knobs and switches on the centre stack that include a nicely sorted dual-zone auto HVAC interface in GT trim.
I almost forgot to mention my favourite steering wheel appendages, a set of paddles for swapping gears. The Sport GT comes standard with a six-speed manual, as do the base GX and mid-range GL, but the GT is the only trim to get paddle-shifters when upgrading to the six-speed automatic.
These make a big difference when it comes to drive engagement, and are especially appreciated when factoring in the GT’s more potent 2.5-litre direct-injection, DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder engine,
|Analogue/digital combination instruments continue to be state-of-the-art. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Backing up the GT’s straight-line performance is the same fully independent suspension that underpins the rest of the Mazda3 lineup, which includes MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in back, with stabilizer bars at each end, while new for 2017 G-Vectoring Control
|A well organized centre stack includes a 7.0-inch infotainment display and a dual-zone auto HVAC interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The result is handling prowess that’s even more entertaining than previous iterations, which means the Mazda3 is now more arguably best-in-class for driving dynamics, at least until moving into the ultra-hot sport compact category filled with cars like the Ford Focus RS and ST, VW Golf R, Subaru WRX STI, and sadly now cancelled Mitsubishi EVO X (RIP). Some might remember the Mazdaspeed3 that
|Navigation comes as part of the Premium package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The Sport GT starts at just $26,820 plus freight and fees, making it well within most peoples’ budgets. And what do we get for that money? Along with all the features mentioned thus far, this upgraded five-door hatchback includes standard 18-inch alloys on 215/45 all-seasons, auto on/off and auto-leveling headlights, power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, bright finish window
|Optional perforated leather upholstery feels premium-level in quality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The aforementioned leather upholstery, metallic interior trim, and head-up display comes
|A roomy back seat measures up to the class average. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
On top of this my tester is upgraded further with a $1,350 Technology package that boasts adaptive cornering headlights, satellite radio, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, traffic sign recognition, active air shutters to reduce drag and help
|There’s plenty of room for cargo plus the flexibility of 60/40-split rear seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
So equipped the Mazda3 GT achieves a claimed 8.7 L/100km city and 6.6 highway, which is considerably better than the regular GT automatic that’s rated at 9.0 and 6.7 respectively-the GT manual gets an estimated 9.6 city and 7.0 highway. Those that prioritize fuel economy over performance can opt for a more basic Mazda3, which gets a claimed 8.4 L/100km city and 6.4 highway rating for the auto or 8.6 and 6.4 with the manual and starts at just under $16k.
It appears Mazda has all bases covered with its updated 3, a car I can’t help but recommend. Even if superb driving dynamics aren’t key on your priority list, although handling prowess should be as an accident avoided is the most effective safety measure taken, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more attractive, nicer finished, better made, safer small car than the Mazda3 Sport GT.
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