2018 Mazda3: The Target

Strong points
  • Superior dynamics
  • Efficient 2.5-litre engine
  • Excellent gearboxes
  • Quality of the finish
  • Design still current
Weak points
  • Imperfect soundproofing
  • Comfort on poor surfaces
  • Limited space in the back seats
  • No Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Full report

Trailing the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Corolla, the Mazda3 is not the bestselling car in its class, nor does it feature as many variants as some of its competitors. Moreover, it’s been around for several years now. And yet, it remains the measuring stick in the compact car category thanks to its consistency and slightly more dynamic nature than its direct rivals, even though rivals like the Civic have now closed the gap.
The Car Guide recently conducted a comparative test that you read about on our website. We pitted several models in the compact hatchback category – incluing the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza – against one another. In the end, the Mazda3 took top honours followed in order by the Civic, Impreza and Cruze. The Mazda3 managed to stay a step ahead of its direct competition thanks to its design, passenger compartment and ride, which is the sign of a very well-made car.

Driving pleasure above all

Mazda is known for making dynamic vehicles, and its engineers are always on the lookout for new devices or techniques to improve the handling of its vehicles. Inaugurated last year, the torque vectoring system, known as G-Vectoring Control, is a good example. Basically, it reduces engine torque when entering turns to help the front tires put the car on the desired trajectory with more precision, a little like a professional driver would, to maximize the grip of the front end while reducing the roll. Made to enhance driving pleasure, this technology demonstrates the brand’s enduring commitment to improving vehicle dynamics.

Although the 3 is no a sports car, its steering is a model of precision. On most competing vehicles, the steering does little more than turn the front wheels; meanwhile, Mazda’s steering helps the driver truly feel the road through the car. The Mazda3’s chassis is particularly rigid, which in turn improves dynamics. The manual gearbox also deserves praise for its fast and precise shifter.

While the performances aren’t mind-blowing, the 3 has several noteworthy characteristics as well as an undeniably sharp ride, which are features often associated with sports cars. The handling and roadholding are very good, but the sound level in the passenger cabin during flat-out accelerations and the calibration of the suspension, which can sometimes be harsh on poor surfaces, are knocks against it.

The 2.0-litre engine that powers the base version is smooth, determined and rather economical with an average fuel consumption of 7L/100 km according to our measurements. The 2.5-litre engine that equips the GT versions helps the Mazda3 step up its game without punishing you with unreasonable fuel consumption. Of all the available versions, the Mazda3 Sport with the 2.5-litre engine is the best choice thanks to its performance and versatility.

Current style

Even after all these years, the Mazda3’s style remains current, and we like the top-notch design of its cabin, which reminds us of what Audi is doing in the luxury car segment. The quality of the finish is meticulous and the infotainment system, with its seven-inch colour screen overlooking the dashboard and rotary dial, is very user-friendly.

Thumbs up to the ingenious head up display too. Data is projected on a screen that deploys upon ignition. As for connectivity, we’re still waiting for the Japanese manufacturer to add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The front seats offer a very good comfort level, but the legroom for the passengers in the back is limited and the trunk volume of the sedan is inferior to that of the Honda Civic.

We expect that a new generation Mazda3 is on the horizon, perhaps in two years. In the meantime, Mazda’s compact continues to stand out due to its dynamic ride, style and the versatility of its five-door Sport version. With all this, it’s still one of the driving forces in its segment.

“The Mazda3 continues to stand out due to its dynamics, style, and versatility that makes it one of the driving forces in its segment.”

THE CAR GUIDE RATING

  • Mazda3: 85%
  • Subaru Impreza: 83%
  • Hyundai Elantra: 82%
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