2017 Mazda3 sedan SKYACTIV-G 120 Exclusive Line test drive: Resharpening the blade
Mazda is truly giving its best to keep the 3 in shape in the compact segment
In an orderly fashion, Mazda’s wonder kid C-segment model got a mid-life facelift in order to keep up with the fierce competition in this roughly disputed arena.
Created for:highwayswinding roadsurban driving
Hats off for:ergonomicsroad handling
Bang for the buck:good
The car tested here is the 118 hp Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-pot, a choice that, despite its performance rating which reminds of a 2002 Opel Vectra, delivers not only sheer satisfaction for the driver but has also come a long way regarding the fuel efficiency. On paper, the 8.8-second run to 62 mph is definitely not an exciting figure, but witnessing the tuneful relationship between the linearly progressive engine and the crisp transmission is where the 3’s charm is.
Here’s where Mazda 3 received a worth-mentioning upgrade during the facelift, albeit the changes are not to be seen with the naked eye. It’s called G-Vectoring Control (GVC) system, and it is continuously adapting the engine’s torque in order to deliver the most power without sending the front wheels in an inefficient spin. This, along with a neat chassis setup, is reducing the heavy front axle’s desire to push the car outside the turning line, making the car’s behavior predictable. Learn to maintain the body’s balance in place, and the 3 can even put a shy smile on your face through corners.
Mazda 3 comes with safety pads all-around — head airbags for both the front and the rear occupants; also, driver, passenger, and front side airbags — and achieved a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests. For comfort, the 3 can feature front and rear parking sensors (although the former are available only on the top trim), automatic wipers and lights, a reversing camera, and even traffic sign recognition.
The exterior’s beauty pays its toll when it comes to the rear passenger’s head room, where Mazda 3 falls back a bit compared to some of its rivals. There’s also the rear seat's legroom — not necessarily insufficient, but not generous enough to be laudable. There are no major drawback but ones to take into consideration if cabin space is what you’re looking for. As for the ride comfort, the 16-inch wheels, despite altering the car’s stance (making it a bit dull), do a better job coping with a road’s irregularities.
Compared to the exterior design, the 3’s cabin will have you a bit disappointed, lacking the outer language’s flair. It feels neat, well built, durable, but also quite bland. The lack of more joyful colors/inserts on the dash might be to blame here. A perfectionist will probably discover unpleasant hard plastics areas after a while, but the most used/touched ones will not let you down in that matter.
Although the fastback Mazda 3 has significantly more boot space (419 liters) over the hatchback (364 liters) that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re able to use all of it, as is the case with sedans in general. In this particular case, the boot opening is narrow, making bulky loads a bit challenging to fit. But the 3’s drawback isn’t the boot’s design but rather the model’s rivals — for example, Jetta offers 90 liters worth of cargo space more.
Mazda’s seven-inch infotainment system doesn’t have smartphone integration through Apple Car Play or Android Auto. However, it offers an alternative, an app called Aha through which you can integrate your smartphone’s audio and social media features with the MZD Command. The media system runs smooth, but the graphics are a bit dated — the same can be told about the full-color head-up display available on the 3.
Mazda 3’s engine might not score in the nimbleness department, but it can be truly efficient when it comes to fuel consumption. The combined cycle figure is a totally achievable 5.1 l/100 km, with 119 g/km of CO2 emissions. In city driving, Mazda’s i-Eloop KERS-like system uses a capacitor to store the kinetic energy which can power the car’s electrical systems for up to one minute; that’s one extra minute of fuel consumption avoidance while waiting at the stop with the engine shut off. The Japanese say it improves the urban economy by up to ten percent, making the 6.5 l/100 km look feasible.
Mazda 3 is reasonably equipped even from the entry-level trim, and is also keeping it simple when it comes to the optional equipment — everything comes in ample packages. The on-line configuration process isn’t interrupted by pop-ups asking for more money (while forcing you to buy an extra feature that goes along with the one you want). If you’re a Volkswagen Group customer, you might find this a bit frustrating.
The Japanese carmaker is trying hard to keep up with the models sold (and manufactured) in Europe despite having to ship every single model from Mazda’s Hofu plant in Japan. Starting price for an 118 hp 2.0-liter Center Line in Germany is €21,590, and, if you want to go for the range-topping Sports Line, it will set you back for €24,890. Add the optional Sat-Nav, and the Technology Package (comprised of adaptive full-LED headlights, automatic cruise control, and pre-crash safety features, among other stuff) and you’ll get uncomfortably close to the €30k mark.