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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo) this compact at the top of your shopping list

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Mazda3 is a hatchback with authentic attitude, filled with performance perks and style at every turn. Skyactiv engine technology remains a purchasing draw with better cornering action from the all-new G-Vectoring Control dynamics. Add top-notch interior materials, and the only thing cheap about this ride is the price.

I drove a 2017 Mazda3 with the larger 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv engine matched to the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed manual transmission and the new G-Vectoring Control dynamics. Available in a base Sport, Touring, Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring, my top-of-the-line Grand Touring test drive came with the following standard features: 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 and a rearview camera; roof spoiler; moonroof; gloss black grille insert; upgraded nine-speaker Bose audio system; XM and HD Radio; Bluetooth connectivity; paddle shifters; and eighteen-inch wheels. Total price as described without options came to $23,895 without options.

The Mazda3 hatchback competes best with the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Kia Forte – which, like the Mazda3, offers a four-door sedan version. Another interesting hatchback to compare is the Hyundai Veloster.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Sporty and sleek, the Mazda3 really is a hatchback that can fit in looks comfortable anywhere, from the mountains to city streets. High-quality materials are embedded throughout the interior. You will experience that close-to-the-ground 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. My test drive features a $1,600 Premium Equipment Package (LED head and taillights, head steering wheel, navigation); and a $1,100 i-ACTIVSENSE Safety Package (Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition). Accommodating but not ideal for families with car seats and difficulty is high for a small child to seatbelt themselves in.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2017 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. Only the Grand Touring trim offers the optional i-ACTIVSENSE Safety Package which adds safety technology such as Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist.

Cost Issues: A base Mazda3 iSport hatchback starts at $20,145 with my fully loaded Grand Touring and options at $27,730 with destination charges. A recent 2017 Hyundai Veloster test drive in the new Value Edition trim reached $26,260 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. A vehicle I once felt road abrasions from, tweaks to the suspension along with better controlling performance have smoothed the ride out significantly.

The Green Concern: The Mazda3’s 2.5-liter engine retains 25-city and 33-highway for a combined 28 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.

The 2017 Mazda3 hatchback serves up notable style, performance, fuel economy, and safety – all for a reasonable price – place this compact at the top of your shopping list.

©2017 Katrina Ramser Parrish

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