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William Maley

2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport GTS AWD

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William Maley

Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

August 30, 2012

If there was an automaker who closely followed Mitsubishi’s story in the U.S. to a degree, that automaker would be Suzuki. Suzuki, much like Mitsubishi was a rising star in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with vehicles like the Swift, Sidekick, Grand Vitara, XL7, and SX4. However in the late 2000’s, Suzuki began a fast decline into obscurity. Magazine and television ads began to disappear slowly, dealers either closed up shop or turned to something else, and people began to think that Suzuki was gone.

Well, Suzuki is still around and building vehicles for the U.S. The brand’s newest vehicle, the Kizashi, is its second-take on a midsize sedan. Suzuki’s first attempt was the 2004 Verona. A rebadged Daewoo Magnus, the Verona was very forgettable and was pulled off the market. Since going on sale in 2010, the Kizashi has received favorable reviews in the automotive press as it is often lauded as one of the best sedans currently on sale. The buying public on the other hand doesn’t even know it exists.

Does the Kizashi deserve more attention or should it stay in obscurity just like its brand?

Next: The Outside Look


Exterior

Designers for the Kizashi went for a muscular, bold look. That’s evident when you look at the Kizashi ‘s front end where there is a sculpted hood, two-tiered front grille arrangement, a set of projector headlights, and flared front fenders. The side has a set of body skirts along the doors and a set of eighteen-inch sport wheels, which are standard equipment on the Sport GTS model, which we evaluated. Around the back, Suzuki’s designers did their own interpretation of the “Bangle-Butt” and it has actually worked. Other design cues for the back include an integrated spoiler with stoplight on the trunk lid and a set of chrome surrounds hiding the exhausts.

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Suzuki mostly pulls off the look on the Kizashi except for one item: ahead of the front wheels, Suzuki slapped on some bright orange reflectors for the turn signals. This addition doesn’t make sense for a vehicle design in the 21st century.

Next: Come On In


Interior

The Kizashi’s interior is really impressive for a Suzuki. That might sound like an underhanded compliment, but anyone who has sat in past Suzuki vehicles knows, the interiors left a lot to desire. Materials used throughout are a combination of soft- and hard-touch plastics, and metal trim. Build quality is very good with no apparent gaps or separation of materials on the 14,000 mile example we had for review.

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The Sport GTS model comes with set a of bolstered, cloth bucket seats for the front passengers. The driver gets a power seat with ten-way adjustment, lumbar, and memory function. Finding a comfortable position in the seat does take some time, but you can find one. Back seat passengers will find a cloth-covered bench seat and a surprising amount of head and legroom.

The Kizashi Sport GTS comes well equipped for the pricetag. Standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer, dual-zone climate controls, Rockford Fosgate sound system, USB input for your MP3 player, sunroof, and 60/40 folding rear seats. The only options on our Kizashi were a trunk mat, floor mats, first aid kit, and a Bluetooth system.

Next: Under the Hood


Powertrain

All Kizashi models come with one engine choice; a 2.4L inline-four producing either 185 HP (@ 6500 RPM) if you go for the six-speed manual or 180 HP (@ 6000 RPM) if you pick the CVT. Torque is 170 lb-ft (@ 4000 RPM), no matter the transmission choice. You also have the choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive. If you do go for all-wheel drive like ours, you only transmission choice is the CVT.

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Leaving from a stop, the 2.4L is initially sluggish before it starts to build some speed at a quick rate, as the engine revs up. If you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway, the 2.4 is able to perform without a sweat. The CVT makes sure to keep you in the power as best as it can and is very smooth. Also, Suzuki fitted steering wheel paddles to the Sport GTS to mimic a six-speed transmission. The paddles do work very well, giving you the feeling of total control when taking the Kizashi for an enthusiastic drive.

The Kizashi’s AWD system is unique as you can turn the system on and off via a button next to the steering wheel. The only way you know when you have engaged the system is an AWD light turns on in the instrument cluster. The system will seamlessly kick on if the Kizashi has a loss of traction or if you decide to be aggressive.

The sacrifice you make for the sure footedness of all-wheel drive is less than ideal fuel economy rating. The EPA rates the Kizashi Sport GTS AWD EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. This comes from the extra 292 lbs the AWD system adds to the Kizashi’s weight. Average for the week was 24.5 MPG. On the highway, the Kizashi did much better, recording an average of 32.3 MPG.

Next: The Drive


Ride & Drive

The Kizashi’s suspension is made up of MacPherson struts up front and a five-point multilink setup in the rear. Steering comes in the form of an electric power steering system with a rack and pinion setup. The steering feels like something you would find in a sports car. Each turn of the Kizashi’s steering wheel is directly sent to front tires. In turn, the system provides a surprising amount of road feel for the driver. This combination makes the Kizashi a joy to drive on curvy roads.

gallery_10485_463_712890.png

During normal driving, the Kizashi does a good job of proving a mostly comfortable and stable ride for passengers. Driving on rough surfaces, the Kizashi’s suspension does a decent job of minimizing the impacts. Noise from engine is mostly well-muted. The same cannot be said for road and wind noise as both are somewhat existent, but not to the point where you carry some ear plugs.

Next: The Verdict


Verdict

I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel at the time of the Kizashi’s departure, after the week-long evaluation. When that time came, I felt surprised and amazed at Suzuki’s second mid-size effort. The muscular and sporty exterior hides one of the best suspension and all-wheel-drive setups in the class. Plus, the Kizashi has one of the better CVTs in the industry and comes with a nicely-equipped interior.

However, the Kizashi isn’t the most fuel-efficient vehicle, despite being one of the smallest and lightest in its class. Plus, the 2.4L is very sluggish on initial acceleration.

Those problems pale in comparison to the biggest drawback the Kizashi has, Suzuki itself. As I eluded in the introduction, Suzuki in the U.S. isn’t doing so hot. In a report back in April, we wondered whether the brand was preparing to the North American market leave because of certain developments. Some of those included cutting auto show appearances, saying goodbye to the top U.S. product planning and marketing executive, and suspending social media outreach. Since that report, the news for Suzuki hasn’t got any better. For 2012, sales are still down and the company is focusing on controlling its expenses. Add to the lack advertising and the silence any new products coming to U.S., and it’s easy to see why everyone is wondering what the future holds for Suzuki in the U.S.

That leaves me in a tough spot with the Kizashi since I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone. However, the uncertainty of Suzuki in the States gives me some hesitation on recommending it. If you’re shopping for a new midsize sedan, you do at least need to give the Kizashi a chance. Vehicles like the Kizashi only appear once in a while and might be not be long before this disappears.

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Cheers:

Exterior Styling

Interior Equipment

Interior Space

CVT

AWD System

Handling during sporty and normal driving

Jeers:

Reflectors on front fenders

Fuel economy of the AWD Model

Suzuki going dark on everything

Year - 2012

Make – Suzuki

Model – Kizashi

Trim – Sport GTS

Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four

Driveline – All Wheel Drive, CVT

Horsepower @ RPM - 180 @ 6000

Torque @ RPM – 170 @ 4000

Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 22/29/25

Curb Weight – 3533 lbs

Location of Manufacture – Sagara, Japan

Base Price - $25,899.00

As Tested Price - $26,404.00* (Doesn’t include Destination Charge)

William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.


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My 2010 SLS was a real nice car. I got rid of it.

Fuel mileage from the 2.4L was miserable vs the fuel mileage of any of the ION 3 2.4L's.

Next while the car went down the road pretty good when it came to the time of needing to pass on two lane blacktop it just didn't have the power to make moves I could make in the ION's.

If this car had 205 hp without a turbo it would be a nice driver, 220hp would make it real nice.

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Suzuki needs to merge with mitsu and mazda, this is one company that also has a sparse portfolio and while the few products are pretty good up to a point, they could use working with a larger group to lower costs and improve/expand product offerings.

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why would suzuki need to merge when they sell over 2.5 million vehicles a year.

Footnote, Suzuki USA made money and was in the black in the US last year. The low volume production is likely the mode until the next wave of new products comes out in a year or two, the number of dealerships has stabilized and while obviously the advertising and such is not to the level of the big boys, the business plan for the next year or two is just to run lean, be in the black and once the new products come out the and VW situation is resolved, grow volume again.

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Footnote, Suzuki USA made money and was in the black in the US last year. The low volume production is likely the mode until the next wave of new products comes out in a year or two, the number of dealerships has stabilized and while obviously the advertising and such is not to the level of the big boys, the business plan for the next year or two is just to run lean, be in the black and once the new products come out the and VW situation is resolved, grow volume again.

Yes, Suzuki was in the black.. But they didn't really make any money. What they did was cut everything to the bone; marketing, people, vehicles, etc.

As for product, there was a report from Automotive News saying new product could be here in 2015.. or an eternity in the automotive world.

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2014 is more accurate. 2, likely 3 new models. yup an eternity, just like GM used to take with their products.

Remember the global market, the US is not a primary country for everyone.

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why would suzuki need to merge when they sell over 2.5 million vehicles a year. Footnote, Suzuki USA made money and was in the black in the US last year. The low volume production is likely the mode until the next wave of new products comes out in a year or two, the number of dealerships has stabilized and while obviously the advertising and such is not to the level of the big boys, the business plan for the next year or two is just to run lean, be in the black and once the new products come out the and VW situation is resolved, grow volume again.

Since reaching black was due to cost cutting and gutting of the network, products and marketing, I do not see this as sustainable.

I do not see the Suzuki product line as surviving on it's own without a long term tie up with a much bigger auto company or merging with a couple smaller companies to save costs and build a broader portfolio.

We live in global times and this is a small pea size company that I do not see surviving as is.

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I should rephrase my comment above.. There is a refreshed Grand Vitara and a new SX4 coming this year. After that, nothing.

My big problem with Suzuki is there is nothing coming out. I don't mean vehicle wise.. I mean they're being silent.

Look at Mitsubishi. They're in the same boat as Suzuki.. The difference is they're talking. They have some ads, they Facebook and tweet. They're noticeable and actually have presence. Not Suzuki.

That's my worry.

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Suzuki seriously needs to think of itself as the largest marketer of specialty vehicles rather than the smallest mainstream car maker. Build on the motorcycle heritage, and then get unique dealer look and feel, something along the lines of Fiat or Smart-

The Swift is a neat little car, but I don't even think its sold here in the states.

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Swift not here due to yen rate. Pretty much all the other 2.5 million plus vehicles are Swift size or much smaller.

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...and yen rate is going to kill a lot of Aian cars from coming here. And not to get political, but either party is pretty much going to continue printing money like a drunken sailor if elected, so the yen thing will stay the same.

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Guest RC

I've had this car for about 1 1/2 years and love it. I am luckily and have several dealers near me. It's a great car period. I love the fact that there are not 500,000 on the roads here. I don't car how good a car is, if they are selling into the hundreds of thousands each year I'm not interested period. I want a great car that stands out in a crowd and is unique.

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Oddly enough, my wife didn't want to test drive as she didn't like the styling....

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Guest Richard Pealer

Great review, and I couldn't agree more. I just bought this exact same configured, and color car about 1500 miles ago. Traded up from a Suzuki SX4. I really love driving this car, and can't wait for a little snow (well, I can wait to be sure, but you know what I mean). I don't honestly see the performance issue off the line, except if you're racing to the next light. Merging and passing are not a problem, and the steering, and brakes are very nice, not to mention the Rockford Fosgate audio system. Did I mention how much I like this car? Seriously, if you're in the market, you at least need to drive one before you pull the trigger. One last post, I'm averaging 26-27 MPGs on every tank.

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It does not seem like that long ago when Suzuki kept saying things like "We will be launching 10 new cars in the next 5 years". But those never really surfaced. I remember many were due to the GM alliance, rebadging a bunch of Daewoos. I do not think that was the swiftest move since their products did not do well with their own badge here in the US. Maybe they will rebound as we look at smaller and smaller cars.

As a side, I have test-driven the Kizashi a couple years ago and I do remember it being pretty nice.

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13 model year, the AWD GTS and SLS model lose the rockford forgate audio.......because the new radio / nav was not engineered to work together. Was at CHI last week to see and play with the new unit. It's a nice unit. Much easier than a myfordtouch, maybe not as wow inducing. Looks cheap due to an aftermarket look but that was simple to do.

the only version of the 13 with rockford fosgate is the front wheel drive GTS-L, which has the standard radio.

no powertrain, styling, or interior changes for 2013. There is no longer an S model automatic. All are SE models now. SE AWD gains bluetooth. 17" alum wheels standard on any other model that does not have the 18".

base manual gets a standard radio.

No rockford Fosgate on the most expensive model means if I ever get one I will prob have to look at used. Prior rockford fosgate plsu pre-13 navs had issues working with the subwoofer and other electrical issues.

Edited by regfootball

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Sorry to hear about the Rockford Fosgate changes. That had a huge push on my decision to go with the GTS AWD, after test driving the SE. PS; My original post was under the "guest" name R. Pealer, on the Sept. 22

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Sorry to hear about the Rockford Fosgate changes. That had a huge push on my decision to go with the GTS AWD, after test driving the SE. PS; My original post was under the "guest" name R. Pealer, on the Sept. 22

How do you like the car? I still haven't been able to drive one.

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      How I would configure a 2019 Kia Forte 
      While the EX Launch Edition does provide some desirable features such as adaptive cruise control, QI wireless charging, and a Harman/Kardon audio system, I would drop down to the mid-level S. At $20,290, you’re getting a lot of equipment such as 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, forward collision warning with automatic braking, and keyless entry. I would add the $1,200 S Premium Package to get LED headlights, automatic high beams, and a power sunroof. With destination, the price comes to $22,415. Alternatives to the 2019 Kia Forte
      Hyundai Elantra: Mechanically similar to the Forte, albeit with a face that will scare small kids. Two turbo engine options - one focused on the economy while the other is for sport - might be attractive to some. Honda Civic: Drives slightly better than the Forte and offers more body styles. But lower reliability scores and confounding infotainment systems may cause you to look elsewhere. Chevrolet Cruze: While it lacks a number of features found on the Forte, it does offer a slightly smoother and quieter ride. Plus, dealers are starting to push a lot of cash on the hoods to get them moving.   
      Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Forte, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2019
      Make: Kia 
      Model: Forte
      Trim: EX
      Engine: 2.0L Multi-Port DOHC Inline-Four
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: 147 @ 6,200
      Torque @ RPM: 132 @ 4,500 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 30/40/34
      Curb Weight: 2,903 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Pesqueria, NL, Mexico
      Base Price: $21,990
      As Tested Price: $26,220 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      EX Launch Edtion - $3,210.00
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      The Kia Forte could never claim to be the best compact car, but its low price and a long list of equipment made it an interesting alternative choice to the stalwarts of the compact class. This approach has worked well with the Forte becoming one of the brand’s best selling models. Kia wants to change the fortunes of the Forte with third-generation by not fully relying on price and value.  I spent a week in the top-line EX Launch Edition to see how it fares.
      The new Mazda3 is considered by many to be the sexiest compact car on sale. Running a close second is the Forte. Elements of the Stinger are used throughout such as power bulge on the hood, headlights that extend into the fenders, and sculpting along the side. The only place where the design falters is in the rear with a set of triangular pods housing the reversing lights and turn signals. They ruin the elegant and upscale look Kia is trying to go for.
      The Forte’s interior at first glance may look somewhat plain, with only a set of circular vents and a strip of faux metal trim running across the dash being the interesting bits. But Kia has done its homework in building a high-quality interior. Almost all of the plastics used are soft-touch and feature different textures to make the vehicle look and feel more expensive than the actual price. Clever touches such as dual-zone climate control being standard on all models and a two-tier bin allowing you and a passenger to place their phones also set the Forte apart.
      The EX features leatherette upholstery, a 10-way power seat for the driver, and heat/ventilation for those sitting up front. I found the seats to be very easy to find a comfortable position, along with providing excellent support for long trips. The back seat is mixed with a decent of legroom, but headroom being somewhat at a premium due to an optional sunroof for those above six-feet.
      All Fortes come with an 8-inch touchscreen as standard with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. Navigation is only available on the EX if you order the Launch Edition package. The current incarnation of UVO is starting to look somewhat old in terms of the interface. It cannot be beaten for the overall ease of use with large touchpoints, simple menu layout, and physical shortcut buttons underneath the screen. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration is standard across the board.
      Power comes from a 2.0L four-cylinder engine pumping out 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. The base FE gets a six-speed manual, while higher trims use a CVT. The powertrain goes about its business surprisingly well around down with the engine providing decent pull and the CVT mimicking an automatic transmission. But this powertrain falters when you need to get up to speed quickly. The engine runs out of steam when going above 60 mph and there is a noticeable drone coming from the CVT.
      Fuel economy in the 2019 Kia Forte EX is rated at 30 City/40 Highway/34 Combined. My average for the week landed around 33.
      The Forte really shines when it comes to ride quality. Despite having a slightly stiffer ride compared to the last-generation model, the sedan glides over most bumps with no issue. Road and wind noise were about average for the class, and could easily be drowned out by turning up the volume slightly. Handling is about average for the class with a slight amount of body lean and steering providing decent weight.
      To sum up, the large effort Kia has put into the 2019 Forte shows. The combination of styling, a long list of features, balance between ride and handling, and a surprising base price make it a real threat in the compact car class. The only item that needs to be addressed is the engine - ten extra horsepower and torque could make the difference. 
      How I would configure a 2019 Kia Forte 
      While the EX Launch Edition does provide some desirable features such as adaptive cruise control, QI wireless charging, and a Harman/Kardon audio system, I would drop down to the mid-level S. At $20,290, you’re getting a lot of equipment such as 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, forward collision warning with automatic braking, and keyless entry. I would add the $1,200 S Premium Package to get LED headlights, automatic high beams, and a power sunroof. With destination, the price comes to $22,415. Alternatives to the 2019 Kia Forte
      Hyundai Elantra: Mechanically similar to the Forte, albeit with a face that will scare small kids. Two turbo engine options - one focused on the economy while the other is for sport - might be attractive to some. Honda Civic: Drives slightly better than the Forte and offers more body styles. But lower reliability scores and confounding infotainment systems may cause you to look elsewhere. Chevrolet Cruze: While it lacks a number of features found on the Forte, it does offer a slightly smoother and quieter ride. Plus, dealers are starting to push a lot of cash on the hoods to get them moving.   
      Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Forte, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2019
      Make: Kia 
      Model: Forte
      Trim: EX
      Engine: 2.0L Multi-Port DOHC Inline-Four
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: 147 @ 6,200
      Torque @ RPM: 132 @ 4,500 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 30/40/34
      Curb Weight: 2,903 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Pesqueria, NL, Mexico
      Base Price: $21,990
      As Tested Price: $26,220 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      EX Launch Edtion - $3,210.00
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
    • By William Maley
      It feels weird to be writing a review of the previous-generation Mazda3 when the new model is currently sitting out front at dealers. But I find this situation to be unique because I had the chance to explore a 2019 Mazda3 to get some first impressions while working on a review of the 2018 model. This gives me a chance to compare the two in certain aspects, along with pondering the question of whether or not the previous model is still a good buy.
      Despite the new model taking the styling up another level, the outgoing model is still a looker. From the bold front end with a large grille and slightly angled headlights, to sculpting running along the sides, the 2018 3 still stands out in the compact crowd. The older design also allows for slightly better rear headroom and a larger area of glass for improved visibility.  But the new 3 holds a significant edge over the old model when it comes to the interior. The modern design and use of high-quality materials really help boost Mazda’s ambitions of becoming something more premium. But the 2018 model I found to have a slightly easier center stack layout and more interior room. One item I didn’t get the chance to play within the 2019 Mazda3 is the infotainment system. Aside from boasting a larger screen, Mazda has also dropped the touchscreen functionality. The latter has been a big issue on some of the recent Mazda vehicles I have driven, including the 2018 3. It is difficult to figure out which parts of the screen are touch-enabled and which aren’t. The system is also beginning to show its age somewhat as the system showed some slowdown in certain areas such as connecting to my phone via Bluetooth. Under the hood of the 2018 model is either a 2.0L or 2.5L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder. My tester had the latter which produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet. This engine can also be found under 2019 Mazda3, albeit slightly tweaked - 186 for both horsepower and torque. I find the Mazda3 to be the best application for the 2.5 engine. The lighter weight of the vehicle allows the 2.5 to provide a smooth and quick acceleration for most situations you find yourself in. However, the 2.5 feels like it is running out of breath when going above 70 mph, making passing and merging onto a highway slightly difficult. Where the 3 really shines is down a twisty road. Very few vehicles can match the sharp handling characteristics on offer. The suspension keeps the vehicle level when cornering and quickly respond to change in direction. Steering is quick and features a nice weight when turning. Ride quality is slightly rough with a fair number of bumps coming inside. Some of this can be attributed to the 18-inch wheels fitted on my tester.  Should you consider a 2018 Mazda3 when the bright and shiny 2019 3 is available now? I can only give a half-answer as I haven’t driven the 2019 model yet. But having sat in one, I can see why someone would consider it. The impressive design inside and out can make you believe you’re driving something from a luxury brand. The 2018 model still has some things going for it such as having slightly more interior space, similar fuel economy figures, and dealers beginning to lower prices on them to get them out. As I am writing this (May 5th), I have seen dealers in my local drop prices by $1,000 to $3,000 on 2018 models. Right now, I would be willing to pocket the extra cash and go with a 2018 Mazda3. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: 3
      Trim: Grand Touring
      Engine: 2.5L SKYACTIV-G DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline:  Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700
      Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/35/30
      Curb Weight: 3,098 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Salamanca, Mexico
      Base Price: $24,945
      As Tested Price: $28,035 (Includes $890.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Equipment Package - $1,600.00
      Soul Red Metallic Paint - $300.00
      Scuff Plates/Door Sill Trim Plate - $125.00
      Rear Bumper Guard - $100.00
      Cargo Mat - $75.00

      View full article
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