Last year’s complete overhaul of the Mazda3 made it a more sophisticated, somewhat more mature model. It won numerous prestigious awards, not to mention being named “2015 Best Compact Car” by The Car Guide. We like the Mazda3 primarily for its style and dynamic ride, two characteristics that you don’t often find in compact cars.
In order to cast a wider net, Mazda is offering its compact in two versions: the sedan and a hatchback known as the Mazda3 Sport. Surprisingly, with its classic lines, the sedan is more affordable while the wagon appeals by being more practical and offering a more dynamic style.
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A manual gearbox for the most powerful Mazda3
As you’d expect, there aren’t many changes for 2015. Mazda has brought the model back with the same mechanics. The Mazda3 GX and GS still feature a 2.0-litre four-cylinder SKYACTIV-G that develops 155 horsepower, while the GT has a slightly more powerful four-cylinder with 185 horsepower. And no, there’s still no Mazdaspeed3 available, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for 2016.
This year, to keep us waiting patiently for the supercharged Mazda3, the Japanese manufacturer decided to equip the Mazda3 GT with a factory-standard six-speed manual transmission. This change enhances the model’s sportiness and puts an end to last year’s criticism (last year, only the versions equipped with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder were available with three pedals). That’s a real benefit for people who like that sort of thing, but surprisingly, it isn’t more affordable than the Mazda3 GT equipped with the automatic gearbox.
Very nice lines
We’re still loving the exterior lines, which were updated last year. It bears the KODO (soul of motion) signature, Mazda’s new design philosophy. The car is well-balanced and has shed the plain lines seen in the past. Our top-end test car added to the experience with its bi-xenon headlights and 18-inch rims.
On board, a few exclusive features emphasize the Mazda3 GT’s superior status. Observant drivers will notice a subtle difference in the instrumentation, while the speedometer situated in the centre gives way to a rev counter, which is a sign of this version’s sporty ambitions. The quality of the materials and assembly is flawless. You feel like you’re in a luxury compact, especially in the driver’s seat. The effect is reinforced by numerous gadgets, including the head up display that shows the vehicle's speed by way of a small folding screen mounted on the dashboard. Several manufacturers use the windshield as a reflector, an option that we find more appropriate and better-looking.
While the air conditioning is easy to adjust, that’s not the case with all systems. Mazda grouped several features together in a multimedia system that is controlled by a few buttons and a dial placed between the two seats. Information is presented on a display that is mounted on the dashboard, rather than built-in. It’s reminiscent of what you find on board a few Mercedes-Benz vehicles, but it makes some everyday operations unnecessarily complicated. As for the rest, our Mazda3 had lots of equipment, complete enough to put some German luxury sedans to shame.
A little more zoom zoom
At the wheel, it’s the combination of the 185 hp engine and the six-speed manual transmission that gives the car its exclusivity. It’s not that the automatic transmission is uninteresting, but the manual is extremely efficient and gives the driver precise control over the engine speed, which boosts the fun factor. The steering is very precise, allowing you to drive the car with your fingertips.
The experience at the wheel is enriched by the hugging bucket seats that are very firm, but comfortable enough to make long trips enjoyable. Their numerous settings and the tilting and telescopic steering wheel help you find the right driving position quickly.
Some people still hold a grudge against Mazda for the rust problems that it had in the past. Buyers have a long memory and it takes time to forget about old woes. It’s true that you can still come across the odd Mazda3 from the past decade with rusty patches—which doesn’t help to the cause—but the manufacturer claims to have made the necessary changes while increasing its anti-corrosion warranty to seven years.
The 2015 Mazda3 GT offers surprisingly comprehensive equipment and eyebrow-raising luxury. It may seem expensive at first glance, but if you examine the offer closely, it’s every bit as good as many luxury models sold at much higher prices.