Test Drive: 2018 Mazda3
Entry Price: $18,095
Price as Tested: $27,720
This week, we’re driving the 2018 Mazda3, delivered in hatchback five-door design and finished in upper-class Grand Touring designation. The Mazda3 hatchback is sibling to the Mazda3 four-door sedan, which offers an excellent entry model called Sport at just $18,095 while the five-door hatchback Sport starts at $19,345.
Although much smaller in company size than Japan’s “big three” of Toyota, Nissan, and Mazda has been able to carve quite a name for itself with both niche vehicles (RX7 and Miata) and family sedans that attract consumers from all demographic categories.
Mazda vehicles have been successful in the United States dating back to the early 1970s, when Wankel Rotary engine Mazda sedans roamed the highways. The use of the Rotary expanded solely to the Mazda RX-7 sports car models, which today are popular with collectors although no longer available. However, look for an all-new Mazda RX-Vision, which is currently being displayed at major car shows worldwide in concept mode.
Mazda’s formula on how to build a car and follow through with innovative marketing is proven with its “Spread Your Wings,” “Zoom-Zoom,” and “Skyactiv” nomenclature advertisements. Notable too is Mazda’s corporate commitment to road racing in professional prototype, “Road to Indy” series and amateur SCCA Miata racing endeavors. And, considering that some 5 million Mazda3’s have been sold in all shapes and sizes worldwide, corporate marketing successfully keeps its compact class Mazda3 on an entry-price diet while offering upgraded models for those who can afford to spend more on their Mazda.
Potential buyers can rest assured that even if they choose the base entry Mazda3 in either sedan or hatchback styles, they receive all of the Mazda Skyactiv technology that is built into every Mazda. The only real Mazda3 differences are how many amenities a potential buyer desires as the two Mazda3 models of sedan and hatchback differ only in outward design with motivation coming from identical powertrains. Three designations of Sport, Touring and Grand Touring are available.
Mazda’s Skyactiv theory currently centers of its use of two finely tuned engines coupled to matched drivetrain mechanicals for optimal Mazda3 performance. The entry Sport relies on a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 155-horsers and 150 lb. ft. of torque, usually enough for most of today’s Mazda3 owners. A manual six-speed is standard with a six-speed automatic optional for $1,050 more. A second larger engine powers the Touring and Grand Touring models and comes in 2.5-liter four-cylinder blueprint and delivers 184 horses and 185 lb. ft. of torque.
Fuel economy is a high note on both, as a Mazda3 with the base 2.0 four with the Sport Mode automatic delivers 28 city and 37 highway while the bigger 2.5 liter powered Mazda3 delivers 26 city and 35 highway MPG. The manual transmission is available across all lines and engines, but delivers less mileage by a few MPG than the automatic, the latter which is $1,050 more.
Outwardly, our Mazda3 Touring is a fine looking five-door hatchback that attracts both Millennial and Baby Boomer alike. The exterior features smooth aero lines with a sporty gloss black grille fascia that leads to an impressive rear motif. Drivers of the Touring models will enjoy better grip thanks to the superior 18-inch Dunlop tires on alloy wheels that work in harmony with a sporty independent suspension. The Sport rides on 16-inch tires on alloy wheels, although I recommend the Dunlop 18-inchers for overall great handling with a somewhat more firm ride.
Not surprisingly, all Mazda3 models are well mannered on the highway and respond well on tight and twisty roads. The sporty suspension really helps, as does large ABS anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, traction and stability control and front and rear stabilizers all of which enhance the driving experience.
Mazda3 Grand Touring features amenity rich standard items like a power moonroof, push button start, heated leather sport seats, dual-zone climate control, six-way power driver seat with lumbar, rear spoiler, great sounding Bose nine-speaker stereo HD audio with all the modern smartphone features, seven-inch color display and much more.
Standard safety items include a modern airbag system, rear safety camera, cross traffic alert, hill start assist, stability control, and blind spot monitoring. Most notable is that for 2018, Mazda includes its previously optional Smart City Brake Support system as standard on every Mazda3 sold. (That’s great!)
The heralded Skyactiv G-Vectoring control also comes standard, and your Mazda dealer will gladly explain its handling characteristic advantages when you visit. Noteworthy, too, is Mazda3 receiving the Insurance Institute’s highest safety award of Five Star overall, which is another plus when it comes to buying considerations.
Our top line Grand Touring hatchback automatic starts at $24,945 and came with a recommended $1,600 Premium Equipment Package that adds navigation, paddle shifters, adaptive front lighting, smart brake support, radar cruise control, traffic sign recognition (neat), auto dim mirror, heated steering wheel, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
Other options include a $75 cargo mat, $100 rear bumper guard, $125 scuff and door sill plates, and $875 delivery that brought the final tally to $27,720. Check with your dealer now for up to $2,500 worth of buyer incentives.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 106.3-inches, 3,098-lb. curb weight, 13.2-gallon fuel tank, 20.2 to 47.1 cu.-ft. of cargo space, 37.1-ft. turn circle and 6.1-inch ground clearance.
Overall, the 2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring five-door hatchback is a great compact to mid-size car, hands down. I do recommend driving the lesser priced Mazda3 models first as once you get past $25,000 for a “3,” you might want to check the larger Mazda6 that starts at just $21,950. We’ll have a full review of the Mazda6 coming soon.
Likes: Hatchback versatility, Skyactiv doctrine, looks, handling.
Dislikes: Some road and engine noise, ride a bit firm, less cargo capacity than competitors.
Next week: 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.