Aug 242015
 

2015-02-04 mazda3.front

Offering great value, compact cars may be popular, but not extraordinary. The 2015 Mazda3 is one of the better choices in its segment.

This little four-door sedan (it’s also available as a five-door hatchback) sets itself apart from the competition in a couple ways—its SKYACTIVE system for better fuel economy and the availability of features not normally found at this price point.

The best-selling model for Mazda, it was redesigned in 2014 and was the first Mazda in North America to feature SKYACTIV components.

It’s available with two engine choices in the United States. I drove the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter four-cylinder that comes standard on the base model. A 2.5-liter is also available. Either can be mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

2015-02-04 mazda3.smallScore a point for Mazda for not limiting manual transmission enthusiasts to considering only an as-is base model like several manufacturers do. The test model I drove came with the automatic, which was nice, but with these little cars, a manual can be so much more fun.

As mentioned, Mazda introduced SKYACTIV to save gas. The EPA estimated fuel economy for the Mazda3 I drove was 30 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. I averaged 34.5 mpg.

The third out of four trim levels, the Touring version I drove really ramps up the packaging by including a blind spot monitor as a standard feature.

While a back-up camera will be required in all vehicles by 2018, my favorite safety feature is still the blind spot monitor. Who wouldn’t love a technology that could avoid more than 100 deaths and more than 8,000 injuries each year, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA)?

MY2014 Mazda 3

This feature first appeared on luxury models—I first experienced it in 2004 at the launch of the Volvo S60. It has begun to trickle down to more affordable models but usually as an option or part of a technology package. While NHTSA ponders requiring the technology on future vehicles, score another point for Mazda for being a trailblazer when it comes to bringing this feature to the masses.

Other cool standard features on the test model included a rearview camera, rear cross traffic alert, a leather-wrapped brake handle, shift knob and three-spoke steering wheel with contrast stitching, and 60/40 split rear seats with a rear seat folding armrest with cup holders.

All Mazda3s come with push button start, air conditioning, and remote keyless entry.

Another optional feature not normally offered at this price point is the Active Driving Display, a clear pop-up panel, vertically mounted behind the meter hood to deliver vehicle speed, navigational directions and other related driving information safely within the driver’s line of sight. Unfortunately, it’s not available on the Touring trim level I drove so I didn’t’ get to test it.

As a sedan, the Mazda3 adds versatility by stretching cargo room to 47.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.

Optional features on the test model included the Technology Package ($1600) that added dual-zone climate control, a CD player with MP3 connectivity (yay!), a moonroof, and the Bose nine-speaker stereo with Satellite Radio.

A true leader in its segment considering value, fuel efficiency, and versatility, the 2015 Mazda3 i Touring has a base price of $21,440. The as-tested price came to $23,410.

 

Sí: Standard blind spot monitor and manual transmission available throughout the lineup.

No: The audio system wasn’t very intuitive.

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