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2015 Mazda Mazda3 Sport 2.0 MT


regfootball

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DRIVEN:
2015 Mazda Mazda3 Sport 2.0 MT, msrp 19,265 (no options)

HIGHS:
Attractive and intimate driver cockpit, simple, ergonomic, and somewhat reminiscent of a BMW or Audi design inside.
Comfortable drivers chair, and more cabin girth than you'd expect. All controls well laid out.
Touchscreen with secondary control wheel and pushbutton start included in sport trim
2.0 has pep and goes about its business with 'just enough' power for most, while not being offensive from the smoothness standpoint.  Power delivery is VERY linear.
Manual trans shifter, while not 'sublime', falls into line of 'very good' and with what you would expect from advance billing
Despite not having a lot of room (and the silly cab rear packaging), the backseat is actually a comfortable place for a girthy six footer, due to the shape and height of the seats, the size of the footwell, and the sculpting of the rear of the front seatbacks.
Good mpg numbers which i have no doubt are capable of being met real world.
"Good" ride, handling, steering. Not a Sentra or Corolla.
Linear and predictable action in all the controls.
Fairly quiet for a car in this class on the road.
Good value for the price
Feeling of a well made piece.

LOWS:
How much more room and space could this car have had without the silly cab rear styling?
Styling which, while a bit classy, is tepid at best.
Sport model interior is too much black inside, and the cloth needs an upgrade.
Non turbo mill has no torque burst anywhere. Always only just barely enough, no "sweet spot"
You feel a little bit of mechanics in the shifter at times.
Terrible choice of OEM tires (Bridgestone Ecopia, there for mpg) put mush in the steering and dull the road holding
Entertainment system and control knob / screen were gonna take a while to figure out (this is why we need Apple CarPlay)
I don't see this car as having a much elevated driving experience above competitors like Golf and Fusion and to be honest in some ways really the Cruze is the best car in the class for a lot of folks.

Why is Mazda trying to look Euro when people in the US loved its Japanese Pontiac styling of the previous gen?
Driving experience is simply not enough in this trim and powertrain to warrant a performance car or driver's car image (even if it hints a little at it)
Car does not compel you to buy it with any one superior feature.

 

SUMMARY

 

While this car is a well made quality piece that will please an owner with its goodness, to me it teeters on the edge of what hype says about this car.  In this trim and powertrain, this is not a 'driver's car'.  You are not getting something here that you are not capable of getting in some other cars in this same class.  For example, I don't believe that a Civic or Focus wouldn't drive as nice.  I bet the new Golf is a better car.  To me, the current since 2011 Cruze has a superior powertrain and yes, shifter.

 

So this is not a bad car at all, but don't wade into the pristine clear water river created by the buff books here.  Perhaps the higher trim level gets you what you would expect here from a performance standpoint, and even then, the only engine options are the 2.0 and 2.5 non turbo.  Toyota as the GM of Japan now has crafted an empire where Subaru is the AWD Toyota division, and apparently Mazda must be headed for the 'Toyota that drives decent' division.  If you must use that standard, a better driving Toyota, then it excels.  But the car needs some tweaks before it is a step above the competition IMO.  I think Mazda spent what little resources it had the last few years working on fuel efficiency and a couple new products, and because so, they simply haven't been able to divert attention to zoom zoom anymore. It shows here (and will in my Mazda6 review too).  

 

Where i end up is actually with a semi offensive statement, to some.  For a Japanese make car, its pretty good and probably an A-.  In the realm of the whole market, I would expect a car of this billing and hoopla to have a little more engine and definitely tighter ride and handling (and certainly not $h!ty Bridgestone Ecopia tires).  This car has a lot of potential yet, though and that is reason to be positive and optimistic.    This is just a good, solid, pleasing car, if you aren't assigning inflated performance expectations to it.  B+   now time for me to find a Golf to drive.......and save my pennies for a 16 Cruze......

 

By the way, if Toyota is Mazda's overlord now, where does this leave Scion?  And probably some will say next time test the Grand Touring model.....

Edited by regfootball
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I really enjoy the Mazdas myself, and want one for my next car.  Though they have partnered with Toyota, they aren't owned by them yet, so Scion still has it's place.  Besides, Mazda is still more mainstream than the "quirky" role Toyota has tried to shoehorn Scion into.  Although they are combining the two with the upcoming Scion iA, aka the Mazda 2 sedan.  I do think a higher trim level and  hatch make a pretty decent difference, but that's just my opinion.  Commander control does take some getting used to, but once you do it is a big plus for the car as opposed to a negative.  My only complaint with the infotainment system is the placement of the screen, and not where it is placed, but how it is placed.  I don't mind it sticking out from the top of the dash, but the way they did it makes it look like an afterthought, like they put the car together, realized they forgot the screen, and just threw it on there.  Just my two cents on some of it.

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