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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2016 MAZDA3 REVIEW


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


INTRO TO THE MAZDA3 VEHICLE
For a sportier hatchback experience, get behind the wheel of a Mazda3 and experience Skyactiv technology engines that can deliver fun while still focusing on fuel efficiency. Also available as a four-door sedan, versatility and affordability are other key selling points.

I drove a five-door 2016 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; moonroof; upgraded nine-speaker Bose audio system; XM and HD Radio; Bluetooth connectivity; paddle shifters; eighteen-inch wheels. Total price as described without options came to $26,495.

The Mazda3 hatchback competes best with the hatchback versions of the Hyundai Elantra, 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 has increased its gain to 27-city and 37-highway for a combined 31 miles-per-gallon.

IHEELS 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 navigate, keeping the climate dials, audio system controls and seven-inch touchscreen in a flowing arrangement with the master dial to the media screen in the lower console. The second-row seats fold down to 47.1 cubic inches of cargo space. Options will increase the price of course, and some of the biggies on my test drive included a $300 Red Metallic paint charge, a $550 mobile start, and a $1,750 Appearance Package that included a rear bumper skirt, side sill extensions, door mirror caps and a rear hatch spoiler. Accommodating but not ideal for families with car seats, difficulty is high for a small child to seatbelt themselves in.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2016 Mazda3 has an overall rating of 5-Stars with The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It was also named a Top Safety Pick by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for having ratings of “Good” in all crash tests. Standard safety includes an advanced airbag system, dynamic stability control and anti-lock brakes. Upgrade to the Touring or Grand Touring trims and the Mazda3 comes with such safety technology as Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Cost Issues: A base Mazda3 iSport hatchback starts at $18,545 with my fully loaded iGrand Touring plus options coming in at $30,270 with destination charges. The total cost of my recent 2016 Hyundai Elantra test drive with several packages came to a reasonable $26,675 with destination charges.

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 as you will feel most road abrasions.

The Green Concern: Both the 2-liter and 2.5-liter engines deliver impressive fuel economy numbers. Last model year the 2.5-liter with the automatic was getting 26-city and 35-highway for a combined 29 miles-per-gallon but is now retaining 27-city and 37-highway for a combined 31 miles-per-gallon. Also available is an optional "i-ELOOP" system that captures and redistributes braking energy turning fuel economy to as high as 29-city and 40-highway for 33 mile-per-gallon combined – pure excellence.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
If you’re looking for a performance-driven hatchback that also provides excellent fuel economy and style presence, deeply consider the 2016 Mazda3 – the Mazda lineup just keeps getting stronger thanks to brilliant engineering.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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