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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2015 MAZDA3 REVIEW


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Mazda3 5-Door Hatchback

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE MAZDA3 VEHICLE
The Mazda3 stands for speed, value and personality in a compact car, with five-door hatchback or four-door sedan versatility as another key selling point. Two Skyactiv technology engines focus on modern performance, meaning they serve up fun while still focusing on fuel efficiency.

I drove a five-door 2014 Mazda3 with the larger 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv engine matched to the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed manual transmission. My hatchback test-drive version is available in five trims: iSport, iTouring, iGrand Touring, sTouring and sGrand Touring. My top-of-the-line sGrand Touring test drive came with the following standard features: perforated leather-trimmed sport seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls; leather-wrapped shift knob; six-way power driver’s seat; front heated seats; push-button start; seven-inch touchscreen display with navigation and a rearview camera; roof spoiler; upgraded nine-speaker Bose audio system; XM and HD Radio; Bluetooth connectivity; paddle shifters; eighteen-inch wheels. Total price as described came to $26,495.

The Mazda3 competes best with the Hyundai Veloster, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus and Kia Forte. SkyActiv technology keeps shoppers circling back to the vehicle, as it is both responsive and fuel efficient – the 2.5-liter retains 26-city and 35-highway for a combined 29 miles-per-gallon.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: While interior materials have seen an upgrade from models past, you will experience that sporty and close-to-the-group fit typical of this style of hatchback. Technology is easy to master on the intuitive center, keeping the climate dials, audio system controls and seven-inch touchscreen in a flowing arrangement. Fold the second-row seats and you get 47.1 cubic inches of cargo space. My test drive featured the following options: $200 Snowflake White exterior paint; $125 scuff plates; $100 rear bumper guard: and a $1,750 Appearance Package that included a rear bumper skirt, side sill extensions, door mirror caps and a rear hatch spoiler. Although not ideal for families with car seats, the second row still offers manageable room for this purpose.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2015 Mazda3 has an overall rating of 5-Stars with The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While the sedan and hatchback have not yet been rated for the model year, the 2014 was named a Top Safety Pick The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Standard safety includes an advanced airbag system, dynamic stability control and anti-lock brakes. The Mazda3 does offer available safety technology such as Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Cost Issues: A base Mazda3 iSport hatchback starts at $18,945 with my fully loaded iGrand Touring plus options coming in at $28,585. The also-sporty 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer sedan starts at $17,395 with the aggressively built Lancer Evolution at $34,995. The Hyundai Veloster starts at $18,000.

Activity & Performance Ability: The smaller 155-horsepower Skyactiv-G 2-liter four-cylinder engine has an applaud-worthy powertrain with noticeable torque, efficiency, and a strong fun-to-drive factor, but clearly does not yield the same results as the 2.5-liter which accelerates smoother, has more responsive brakes, and displays some trustworthy handling. Road noise is evident during highway driving and some bodies will not favor the lowered seat style.

The Green Concern: Both the 2-liter and 2.5-liter engines deliver impressive fuel economy numbers: The 2-liter retains 30-city and 40-highway with the automatics transmission while the 2.5-liter also under and automatic gets 26-city and 35-highway for a combined 29 miles-per-gallon. Also available is an optional "i-ELOOP" system that captures and redistributes braking energy turning fuel economy to 29-city and 40-highway.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
An athletic hatchback or sedan with a performance and price hard to ignore, the 2015 Mazda3 continues to reign as the sportier compact choice thanks to Skyactiv performance technology that mixes fun with fuel efficiency.

©2014 Katrina Ramser