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Quick Drive: 2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring Hatchback

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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)

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

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Yes, this is my final 2018 model year review. If you're wondering why it got published in May, it was because I have been quite busy with my new job back in February. But I'm glad to get it out of the way.

The good news is that I should be having 2019 model year reviews start coming out within the next few weeks.

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I have to say this looks really dated, good info and like the comparison to the new 2019 model. Mazda is just Meh to me, I honestly do not get the excitement other members here have for the product line.

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