Car Reviews

The 2017 Mazda 3, known as Mazda Axela in the home market

Like with all new-generation Mazdas, the carmaker developed the latest version of the 2017 Mazda 3 based on a human-centred development philosophy, paying close attention to human traits and perceptions to deliver a satisfying sensation to drivers and passengers alike. The sporty compact also received an extra portion of Jinba Ittai, Mazda’s rider-and-horse-as-one approach that originated as the guiding principle behind the iconic Mazda MX-5 roadster.

The 2017 Mazda 3 marks the world debut of G-Vectoring Control (GVC). It’s first system in the new SKYACTIV-VEHICLE DYNAMICS range of technology providing integrated control of the engine, transmission, chassis and body to enhance the Jinba-Ittai factor. GVC varies engine torque to optimise the load on each wheel, providing more precise handling as well as a smoother ride under virtually any driving conditions.

Diesel-powered versions of Mazda’s newest compact get high-precision boost control, which enhances accelerator responsiveness. It also comes with one new diesel knock reduction innovation (Natural Sound Frequency Control) to dampen the vibrations that cause knocking in three critical frequency ranges, while extending another related technology (Natural Sound Smoother) to all diesel models.

Inside, the 2017 Mazda 3 adds usability and practicality with, for example, an enhanced Active Driving Display featuring a high quality full-colour display. It eases communicating information to drivers without any need for them to take their eyes off the road. Among other things, Mazda has also improved steering wheel ergonomics. Outside, the award-winning hatchback and fastback designs feature a solid, low stance with a strong, composed physique.

Safety features

For buyers who prioritize safety, the Mazda 3 is a great choice. Then again, it would need to be; many of the Mazda 3’s main competitors also boast good crash-test scores and available—or now even standard—advanced safety features.

Advanced active and pre-crash safety equipment includes Advanced Smart City Brake Support (Advanced SCBS). Its forward-sensing camera replaces the current system’s laser, expanding the speed range for detecting other vehicles while adding pedestrian detection capabilities. The 2017 Mazda 3 will also be offered with Adaptive LED Headlights (ALH), including glare-free high beams delivering superior night-time visibility without blinding other motorists as well as wide-range low beams and an automatic levelling feature.

All Mazda 3 models come with a rearview camera, and Touring and Grand Touring models add standard blind-spot monitors with rear-cross traffic alert, and front collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking. Optional safety equipment includes active lane control and automatic headlights and high beams. 

Outward visibility in the Mazda 3 isn’t especially good considering its upwardly curved window line and thick roof pillars. In the hatchback, partially obscured glass at the rear means rear visibility is compromised, which makes the standard rearview camera and blind-spot monitors more than just a convenience, they’re practically necessary for the small car.

2017 Mazda 3 Features

The 2017 Mazda 3 is a compelling value, even among competitors that offer compact sedans with an impressive number of features.

In base Sport configuration, the Mazda 3 offers 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, power doors and windows, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless ignition, a rearview camera, steering-wheel mounted stereo controls, internet radio streaming, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen for its infotainment controls.

That’s an impressive list of features, especially the touchscreen, which would garner a 7 out of 10 on our scale for base equipment. So how’d we get down to 6? Mazda’s infotainment isn’t very intuitive and can be frustrating to use. We deducted a point for the less-than-friendly system and hope Mazda catches up with the rest of the industry in offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as a quick fix. 

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Mazda 3 comes in several different powertrain and body configurations, but each model manages to be fuel efficient for a car that doesn’t rely on hybrid or turbocharging systems to be frugal

The Mazda 3 Touring sedan with a 2.0-liter inline-4 and an automatic transmission manage 28 mpg city, 37 highway, 32 combined, according to the EPA. That’ll likely be the best-selling version of the Mazda 3, and it’s good enough for an 8 out of 10 on our fuel efficiency scale.

The Mazda 3 is offered as a sedan or hatchback, with a 2.0-liter inline-4 standard on Sport and Touring models or a 2.5-liter inline-4 available on top-level Grand Touring editions. (The hatchback version offers a 2.5-liter powered Touring edition as an option.) It’s a relatively simplified lineup from previous years, when Mazda used additional letters to denote the engine underhood.

Nearly all of the Mazda 3 models hover around 30 mpg combined (only the 2.5-liter models with a manual-transmission do worse at 28 mpg combined) regardless of engine size.

How does Mazda do it? Both engines offer a very high compression ratio (but don’t require premium gasoline, which is common for high-strung engines) and direct injection, variable valve timing, and weight-saving materials used throughout the car.

Other sedans such as the Honda Civic can manage better fuel economy numbers than the Mazda 3, but rely on turbocharged, small-displacement engines to realize those gains. Generally speaking, turbocharged engines require more attention to driving behavior to actually achieve those mileage figures.

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