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2015 Car Review: 2015 Mazda3 Perfect For A Big City

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2015 Mazda3 Hatchback

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

According to the City Observatory, a think tank, and a recent New York Times article, as young people continue to spurn the suburbs for urban living, more of them are moving to the very heart of cities. Not just major cities, but many mid-size U.S. Cities are growing in youthful population.

About 25 percent more young college graduates live in major metropolitan areas today than in 2000, which is double the percentage increase in cities’ total population.

And here we are only a few days into 2015 and the media is already speculating that Millennials are ready to start buying homes. Of course many of the Millennials are now in their early 30s, married and having children.

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So how does all this relate to the 2015 Mazda3 S 5-door Grand Touring that I recently drove and want to talk about here. Well, while young folks are getting married, having children and buying homes, they are not necessarily leaving the urban environment they have grown to love.

With that comes the realization that walking, riding a bicycle or using public transit doesn’t prove to be time-efficient for taking care of family affairs and household needs. Thus, owning a vehicle becomes a household need.

The 2015 Mazda3 is a stylish, fun-to-drive, sporty, fuel efficient, roomy and not-too-pricey compact car that will fit into many a Millennial household.

The Mazda3 can be had as a 4-door sedan or a 5-door, a hatchback if you will, and the model I drove. It’s easy to maneuver in big-city heavy traffic and tight parking spaces. It has very good EPA fuel economy test ratings and even though gasoline prices are as low as ever right now, prices will go up again.

My test car, the S model 5-door Grand Touring, is priced at $25,545. Mazda3 prices start at $16,945 with eleven models to choose from in the two body configurations.

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Offered in SV, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims, each level is preceded by an i or an s, which signifies engine size. Rather than offer lots of option packages, Mazda has packaged the equipment on each of the trims to offer something to meet everyone’s needs. (See links to all trim levels below my review)

There are two engine choices. Choose between a Skyactiv-G 2.0L 4-cylinder with 155HP or a Skyactiv-G 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder with 184HP. Both are offered with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. My test car, by the way, had the 184 HP engine mated to the 6-speed manual. Yes, three pedals kept my feet busy along with the very smooth shifter for the manual transmission keeping my right arm in almost continuous motion. Hill launch assist (hill hold) keeps you from rolling backwards as you let the clutch out and relieves that tension that many of us grew up with when driving manuals.

The best Mazda3 EPA test fuel economy rating is for the automatic transmission 155 HP 4-door at 34 mpg combined with 30 mpg city and 41 mpg highway. My 6-speed 184HP 5-door has EPA test fuel economy ratings of 29 mpg combined, with 26 city mpg and 35 highway mpg.

Keep in mind that gasoline prices will go up again. Summer-blend gasoline is on the average 52-cents more per gallon, so we’ll see that soon.

With two engines, two transmissions and two body styles to choose from, if I were car shopping I would test drive both engines giving consideration to your type of driving and the roads you frequent. If you drive with lots of passengers or live in a hilly part of the country I would suggest the bigger engine. If flat roads, light loads and fuel economy are your game, go for the 155HP version.

Although the six-speed manual keeps you more engaged with the Mazda3, it can be challenging in heavy, congested, stop-and-go city traffic. Automatics are very good and efficient these days and shift quickly and smoothly, and just might be the more convenient choice.

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It’s often said that Americans don’t like hatchbacks. In reality we do, having come to love the big hatches on minivans and SUVs. I like the added versatility of a compact car hatchback with its large cargo opening, and that would be my choice. Traditionalists may just prefer the sedan. The hatchback is also about five inches shorter than the sedan; 175.6 inches compared to 180.3 inches. That’s a help with those tight city parking spaces.

I continue to find a high level of overall driving enjoyment and fun in the Mazda3. Acceleration is quick and responsive. Driving dynamics including handling, cornering, steering feel and feedback, and braking are top notch.

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Ingress and egress are easy. Driving position is comfortable with good seat support along with easy to read instruments and good all-around view to the outside. An available head-up display is a nice feature that helps you keep your eyes looking ahead.

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Also available is MAZDA CONNECT that features a seven-inch full-color touchscreen hub. MAZDA CONNECT accesses smartphone apps and connected features via Bluetooth and can easily be updated to ensure users always have the latest services without the need to swap out hardware.

Amenities like blind-spot monitoring, the large opening moonroof, heated front seats, keyless entry, and full screen navigation system all make the driving even better. A rear view camera, leather trimmed seats, and rear cross traffic alert are also offered.

More detailed information and specs on the complete Mazda3 model line is only a mouse click away at If you want to compare the Mazda3 to other compacts you can do that right here on

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By being named a top three finalist for this year’s World Car Design of the Year exemplifies Mazda3 tossing out the stereotype that affordable vehicles cannot offer rich designs, especially when the co-finalists were long-lauded German luxury brands.

Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) reported calendar year 2014 total sales in the U.S. of 305,801, up 7.7 percent over 2013 and the best result since 1994. Mazda sells about 105,000 Mazda3s a year in the U.S.

Mazda3 has gotten numerous awards from, Car and Driver, Automobile Magazine and more. It is named a Top Safety Pick plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Mazda3 was named one of the “10 Coolest New Cars under $18,000” by Kelley Blue Book’s

Now that’s cool!

© 2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy