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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2016 Mazda3i Grand Touring

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      A compact sedan that doesn't break the bank

    A couple years back, I drove the recently-redesigned Mazda3 hatchback. I really liked all the improvements Mazda made to the 3, while retaining the fun to drive nature of the previous model. What I wasn’t too keen on was the price. For a vehicle that carried an as-tested price of just over $30,000, I couldn’t fully justify paying that much for a compact. Fast forward to this summer and another Mazda3 came in. This happened to be a sedan and one that was under $24,000. The best part? I felt that it was one of best bangs for your buck.

    • The 3 in question is the 3i Grand Touring sedan. The i is the most important part as it means this 3 is fitted with the 2.0L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder producing 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. s models get the larger 2.5L four-cylinder. Our test sedan came with a six-speed manual.
    • This engine is slightly slower and rougher than the 3s we drove a couple years back. But this engine is much better in terms of performance than some other compacts we have driven recently (Nissan Sentra and redesigned Hyundai Elantra). Mazda gets a lot of praise for their manual transmissions and we’re going to add some more. The gear lever moves with precision and smoothness. The clutch is easy to modulate to get a shudder free start.
    • In terms of fuel economy, the EPA rates the Mazda3i at 29 City/41 Highway/33 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 35 mpg. I should note that the 3 went on a 388 mile round trip across the state for a track school (more on that in a future piece) that mostly involved highway driving. I was able to achieve 40.2 mpg during the trip.
    • This trip also revealed two weaknesses of the 3. First is ride comfort. The 3 didn’t do a great job with isolating most bumps or potholes from entering the interior. This is due to the suspension setup which is tuned for delivering a sporty ride around corners. This would have been worse if our tester came with larger wheels. Second is a common fault with most Mazdas, noise isolation. During this trip, I was able to tell the condition of the road thanks to the abundance of road noise coming inside. There was also a fair amount of wind noise entering the cabin. Mazda says they have added more sound insulation to the 2017 model, we’ll be checking this out in the future.
    • I would be remised if I didn’t talk about the 3’s handling. This is still one of the best driving compacts on sale today with little body roll, quick direction change, and steering that can rival some sports cars.
    • At least sitting inside the 3 was a pleasant experience. The front seats provided excellent support for the long trip and controls were in easy reach. The infotainment system is still a mixed bag where it is easier to use the control knob than the touchscreen to move around the system. Also, the navigation system stumbled a few times where it showed I was traveling on another road than the one I was currently on.
    • Let us step outside for a moment and gaze at the 3’s shape. I still think the Mazda3 is one of the best-looking compacts on sale. The front end has the large grille with chrome trim running along the outer edge and into the headlights. I also like the sculpting along the doors.The only disappointing thing is the back. In sedan form, the Mazda3 doesn’t look quite right.
    • As I mentioned in the beginning, the Mazda3i Grand Touring sedan came with a price of under $24,000 ($23,435 to be exact). For the price, it was well equipped. There was leatherette seats, six-way power adjustments for the driver, navigation, Bose sound system, push-button start, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a backup camera, and a moonroof. The only option was a trunk mat for $70.00.
    • The 2016 Mazda3 is a compelling choice in the compact class if you want something that is fun to drive. If you want something a bit more balanced or can handle a long drive, I’m not sure the 3 can cut it. There are compacts that are quieter and provide a smoother ride. It ultimately comes down to what you want in a compact.

     

    Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3i, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2016
    Make: Mazda
    Model: 3i
    Trim: Grand Touring
    Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv-G DOHC Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 155 @ 6,000
    Torque @ RPM: 150 @ 4,000
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/41/33
    Curb Weight: 2,869 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan
    Base Price: $22,545
    As Tested Price: $23,435 (Includes $820 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    Cargo Mat - $70.00

    Edited by William Maley

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    A wonderful car, and more people should make this choice.  Mazda does seem to depreciate more quickly than other makes, and the back seat is tight compared to the Corolla and perhaps the Jetta.

     

    I also do not trust Mazda in terms of corrosion protection.  Living in the rust belt I see a lot of fairly new Mazdas starting to rust out.

    Still, this thing is almost a ten in my book.  Well written review!

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    A note in regards to corrosion.  I am an ex owner of 2006 Mazda 3 hatchback (the fun one with 2.3L engine and the manual). I live in NJ, so plenty of winter salt.

    Got it new and drove 250k miles in 8 years (had very long commute).  The car was flawless, had some rust and issues toward the end, but nothing that can't be expected from a car with that kind of mileage.

    Also know somebody who used to own 2013.  Yes the back seat is tighter then Corolla (Corolla has bigger back seat then Camry btw) or some of the competition, but the car drives great and a lot of fun.  Much better then most other cars of the segment.

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    15 minutes ago, ykX said:

    A note in regards to corrosion.  I am an ex owner of 2006 Mazda 3 hatchback (the fun one with 2.3L engine and the manual). I live in NJ, so plenty of winter salt.

    Got it new and drove 250k miles in 8 years (had very long commute).  The car was flawless, had some rust and issues toward the end, but nothing that can't be expected from a car with that kind of mileage.

    Also know somebody who used to own 2013.  Yes the back seat is tighter then Corolla (Corolla has bigger back seat then Camry btw) or some of the competition, but the car drives great and a lot of fun.  Much better then most other cars of the segment.

    Agree with your comments-I like it the best of the small cars I think, a long with the Jetta.  The styling is definitely a ten, especially in comparison to the offerings from Hyundai and a few of the others.

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    was not impressed with the latest 3 when i drove it.  And primarily due to things you cited.  Ride, NOISE.

    Mazda (and Honda too) really need to belly up and figure out how to keep their cars from being tinny.  It wouldn't take much.

    I think the 3 is small, too.  

    IMO no reason to get this over a Civic or a Cruze.

     

    ---edit--- the Cruze hatches I spotted at the Chevy dealer today!

    Edited by regfootball
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    On 10/9/2016 at 2:26 AM, regfootball said:

    was not impressed with the latest 3 when i drove it.  And primarily due to things you cited.  Ride, NOISE.

    Mazda (and Honda too) really need to belly up and figure out how to keep their cars from being tinny.  It wouldn't take much.

    I think the 3 is small, too.  

    IMO no reason to get this over a Civic or a Cruze.

     

    ---edit--- the Cruze hatches I spotted at the Chevy dealer today!

    Not sure what I would do if I were buying a small non sporty car.  methinks I would buy a 2017 (Upcoming) Imprezza.  Subaru feels much more solid, has AWD, decent fuel economy with the new Direct injection 2.0.  Not stellar, but that is where I would put my cash.  I do not like the new Cruze.

     

    At this point though, I think that I am going to buy a BRZ to replace the MINI Cooper S at some point, and would like to find a clean used Volt to replace the TDI when VW buys it back.

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    Impreza base power train cvt combo was almost bland enough to make me wish for a Corolla last time I drove one a few years ago.  Hopefully 17 improves a lot somehow in that area.

     

     

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    1 hour ago, frogger said:

    Impreza base power train cvt combo was almost bland enough to make me wish for a Corolla last time I drove one a few years ago.  Hopefully 17 improves a lot somehow in that area.

     

     

    I think i am going to wind up getting a Volt.   That and a BRZ.  All wheel drive and the stoutness of minor items such as power window switches, door hinges, et al would probably push me towards an Impreza were I to be buying a normal car. However, i never (or almost never) buy normal cars.

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