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William Maley

Quick Drive: 2016 Mazda3i Grand Touring

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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


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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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41 minutes ago, ocnblu said:

THREE PEDALS?  I'm impressed, William Maley!

Indeed!

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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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      Interior
      There are no frills to be found in the Accent’s interior. Like the outside, Hyundai went for a simple and honest design. Material quality is what you expect in the class - hard plastics on most surfaces. But the plastics have a solid feel. All Accents feature basic front seat adjustments - fore/aft, height (driver only), and recline. I was able to find a position that worked for me quite quickly. One item to be aware of is the SE doesn’t come with a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel; SEL models and above get that feature. Space in the back is average for the class with a decent amount of headroom, but a limited amount of legroom.
      Kia added some style to the Rio’s interior with a sculpted dash featuring two-tone plastics. Hard plastics make up the majority of interior surfaces with a grain texture pattern. Like the Accent, the plastics have a very solid feel. The layout is simple with most controls in easy reach. Finding a comfortable position took no time with a basic set of seat adjustments and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. However, I found the seats in the Rio to not be as supportive on long trips. The back seat mirrors the Accent; ok headroom and a small amount of legroom.
      Infotainment
      The Rio EX comes with a 7-inch infotainment system with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. No navigation system is offered, but you won’t need it as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard. It will not take long to familiarize yourself with UVO thanks to a well-thought out interface and dedicated buttons for various features. Performance is impressive with the system responding very quickly to inputs.
      Over at the Accent SE, it comes with a 5-inch touchscreen radio. For the most part, the system was simple to use with redundant buttons for various functions, simple interface, and large touchscreen buttons. I only wished that the screen was slightly larger when I was scrolling through my iPod. One surprise was the SE getting Bluetooth as standard. Kia doesn’t offer Bluetooth on the base Rio LX.
      Powertrain
      Both the Accent and Rio use the same 1.6L inline-four engine producing 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. What differs between the two is the transmission; the Accent SE comes with a six-speed manual while the Rio EX makes do with a six-speed automatic. Between the two, the Accent is noticeably quicker. The manual transmission allows the engine to flex what little muscle it has to get the vehicle up to speed. In the Rio, the automatic’s programming smothers the small amount of power to improve fuel economy. There is a Sport mode that holds onto gears longer, but it doesn’t make much of a difference. Neither of the transmissions can help the 1.6L on the freeway as the engine struggles to get up to speed at a decent rate.
      Fuel Economy
      EPA fuel economy figures are almost identical for the two models. Both return 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. The difference is in the combined figure; the Rio returns 32, while the Accent returns 31. I got an average of 34 in the Rio and 33 in the Accent.
      Ride and Handling
      There are more similarities between the Rio and Accent when it comes to the driving experience. Both still employ struts in the front and a torsion-beam rear axle. But the body has been stiffened which helps with ride quality. Both models exhibited excellent isolation of most road imperfections. Handling is another place where the two surprised me. While not exhibiting the sporty characteristics of a Ford Fiesta, both the Accent and Rio show little body roll and feel quite nimble. The steering is light, but provides a decent amount of feedback when pushed. 
      Pricing
      The 2018 Hyundai Accent begins at $14,995 for the base SE with manual transmission and climbs to $18,895 for the Limited. Our test SE with optional floor mats came to an as-tested price of $16,005. While it does cost $1,095 more than the base Rio LX, the Accent SE comes with more features such as Bluetooth, full power accessories, and a rear USB port.
      The 2018 Kia Rio kicks off at $13,900 for the LX sedan and climbs to $18,700 for the EX hatchback. The EX sedan tester came to an as-tested price of $19,425 with carpeted floor mats and destination. It is a bit hard to stomach the price tag when you can into some decently equipped compact sedans such as the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze for similar money. Even after you factor in the EX getting forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, it’s still a tough sell.
      Verdict
      Trying to decide which of the two subcompacts was the winner in this piece was very difficult as they share so much. Beginning with the Rio EX, it is a very sharp looking subcompact with a fair amount of European influence and it is available as a hatchback. But the automatic transmission suffocates what little performance is on offer from the 1.6L engine. Plus the price tag of the EX is very difficult to swallow when you can step up into a compact for similar money. If it was the midlevel S, this would have been a closer fight.
      This brings us to the Accent SE. It's styling inside and out is a bit plain when pitted against the Rio. The lack of hatchback also makes the Accent a bit of hard sell to some buyers. But the list of standard features on the base model is very surprising. Plus, the manual transmission allows the engine to have some flexibility in most driving situations. 
      Both models are towards the top in the subcompact class. But in this comparison, the base Accent SE nips the top-line Rio EX by a hair.
      Disclaimer: Hyundai and Kia Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Accent
      Trim: SE
      Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/31
      Curb Weight: 2,502 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Nuevo Leon, Mexico
      Base Price: $14,995
      As Tested Price: $16,005 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats: $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Kia
      Model: Rio
      Trim: EX
      Engine: 1.6L 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32
      Curb Weight: 2,714 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Pesqueria, NL, Mexico
      Base Price: $18,400
      As Tested Price: $19,425 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $130.00
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