Car Reviews First Tests

2017 Mazda3 2.5 Grand Touring First Test Review

Incremental improvements incrementally increase Zoom-Zoom

Incremental improvements incrementally increase Zoom-Zoom

Photo: Robin Trajano

The Mazda3 has always been one of our favorite models in the compact segment due to its overall handling feel. In fact, we gave a 2014 Mazda3 i Touring with the 155-hp 2.0-liter Skyactiv I-4 the win in our 2014 compact sedans Big Test, saying, “The Big Test report card with the most A’s wins.”

Just two years later, the 2016 Mazda3 i Grand Touring (also with the 2.0-liter engine) was dethroned by the 2016 Honda Civic EX in our 2016/2017 compact sedans Big Test. We said: “For evidence of just how quickly this segment is moving along, just look to the Mazda3, which came in fourth place, the winner in the 2014 Big Test. It feels less special now and offers middling performances in almost all of our seven criteria.”

Mazda refreshed its compact sedan and hatchback for the 2017 model year with revised front end styling and rear bumper as well as increased sound deadening and more premium interior appointments. The 2017 Mazda3 also got revised trim levels and option packages.

The automaker also added its new G-Vectoring Control, which helps improve handling and reduces driver fatigue. The system cuts a small amount of engine torque while turning to load the outside front tire, increasing cornering force. Full power comes back on after the steering wheel unwinds, effectively transferring weight to the rear of the vehicle and adding stability.

We recently spent time with a refreshed 2017 Mazda3 2.5 Grand Touring sedan finished in Eternal Blue Mica over Parchment leather interior. Power for our tester comes from the larger 2.5-liter Skyactiv I-4 making 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

At the track, the 2017 Mazda3 reached 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds at 89.9 mph (145 km/h). Braking from 60 mph was longer than expected with 127 feet being our shortest stopping distance. In comparison, the 2016 model with the 2.0-liter (155 hp, 155 lb-ft) accelerated in 8.4 seconds and 16.4 seconds at 85.7 mph (138 km/h), respectively, and stopped in 126 feet.

Our 2016/2017 compact sedans Big Test-winning 2017 Honda Civic EX with the 2.0-liter (158 hp, 138 lb-ft) I-4 and CVT combo accelerated in 8.6 seconds and 16.7 seconds at 86.1 mph (137 km/h), while our long-term 2016 Honda Civic Touring with the turbo 1.5-liter (174 hp, 162 lb-ft) and CVT accelerated in 6.8 seconds and 15.3 seconds at 93.0 mph (150 km/h), respectively. The Civic EX stopped in 127 feet and the Civic Touring stopped in 123 feet.

The 2017 Mazda3 shines out on the streets with its communicative chassis and decent power, which is further enhanced by the Sport mode that holds gears longer and is quicker to downshift. The Sport mode even allows the engine to kiss the 6,500-rpm redline just before upshifting into the next gear.

The 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine had no problem climbing the Antelope Valley Freeway (California SR-14) from its base at Santa Clarita, passing slower cars up to the nearly 2.700-foot elevation of Palmdale. Although the Mazda3 sedan’s panic stopping distance was longer than expected, the brakes were confident in all regular driving situations including the descent back to the Los Angeles Basin.

In handling, the 2017 Mazda3 2.5 Grand Touring lapped the Motor Trend figure eight in 27.1 seconds at 0.64 g lateral average and pulled 0.82 g around the skidpad. The less-powerful 2016 model lapped the figure eight in 27.3 seconds at 0.62 g and pulled 0.81 g around the skidpad. The Civic EX took 27.6 seconds at 0.61 g and pulled 0.82 g, respectively, while the Civic Touring did it in 27.4 seconds at 0.64 g and pulled 0.84 g respectively.

Out on the streets, the Mazda3 sedan goes wherever you point it without complaint. There’s just enough body roll to relay feedback without ever feeling out of sorts. Even with just 184 hp and the six-speed automatic, the front-drive Mazda3 can drift around corners, reducing radius off ramps, and parking lots if desired…

The Honda Civic with the turbo 1.5-liter and CVT also has the fuel economy advantage. The 2017 Civic is EPA-rated 32/42/36 mpg (7.3/5.6/6.5 L/100km) city/highway/combined, while the 2017 Mazda3 2.5 automatic is EPA-rated 27/36/30 mpg (8.7/6.5/7.8 L/100km).

Base price for Eternal Blue Mica 2017 Mazda3 2.5 Grand Touring automatic sedan starts at $25,070 USD. Standard features include the 2.5-liter engine, six-speed automatic, G-Vectoring Control, and four-wheel disc brakes. Exterior features include 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 215/45R18 all-season tires, rain-sensing wipers, heated power folding side mirrors with turn signals, LED foglights, power moonroof, gloss black grille, body-colored rear deck lid spoiler, roof-mounted shark fin antenna, and bright beltline trim.

Interior features include a black interior with contrasting Parchment leather seats, door inserts and center console lid, a six-way power driver’s seat with manual lumbar adjustment, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch Active Driving Display head-up display, keyless entry with alarm and pushbutton start, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, electronic parking brake, and 60/40 split folding rear seat with center armrest cupholders. The infotainment system consists of a 7.0-inch color touchscreen display with multifunction commander control, eight-speaker Bose center point audio system with AM/FM and HD radio, SiriusXM radio, Pandora, Aha, Stitcher audio apps, two USB inputs, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, SMS text message delivery and reply, rearview camera, and more.

Standard safety features include front, side, and side curtain airbags, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, smart city brake support, ABS with EBD and brake assist, traction control system (TCS), dynamic stability control (DSC), Hill Launch Assist, and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Options include the $1,600 USD Premium package, which includes adaptive Bi-LED headlights with auto leveling, LED taillights, heated steering wheels, paddle shifters, a Mazda navigation system, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, $1,100 USD I-Activesense Safety package, including high beam control, lane departure warning system, lane keep assist, Mazda radar cruise control, smart brake support, and traffic sign recognition, $125 USD doorsill trim plates, and a $75 USD cargo tray. Total cost of our tester came to $27,970 USD.

Not a bad price considering all the technology included such as the BMW iDrive-esque infotainment controller, head-up display, and all the active safety and driver assistance tech. The light-colored Parchment leather is also a welcome feature not seen in the segment. Not only does the light-colored leather stay cool while parked in the sun, but it is also soft to the touch unlike the stiff black leather seating surfaces in our long-term Civic Touring model. The Civic Touring does however include heated rear outboard seats; a feature not offered on the Mazda3.

Compared to the compact Mazda3 sedan, the 10th-generation Honda Civic sedan is now classified by the EPA as a (small) midsize car. The Civic sedan has slightly more rear seat legroom (37.4 inches vs. 35.8 inches) and cargo space (14.7 cubic-feet vs. 12.4 cubic-feet) than the Mazda3 sedan. Although with the driver’s seat set to my preferred driving position, my 5-foot-9-inch frame fits comfortably behind the driver’s seat in the Mazda3 sedan.

The refreshed 2017 Mazda3 sedan is a solid choice for the driving enthusiast who doesn’t mind trading some interior and cargo space for a responsive chassis and available tech. We hope the next-generation Mazda3 can either lose some weight or gain some power—or both—to remain competitive with the new batch of turbocharged “compact” cars.

2017 Mazda Mazda3 (Grand Touring)
BASE PRICE $25,070
PRICE AS TESTED $27,970
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.5L/184-hp/185-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,048 lb (61/39%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 180.3 x 70.7 x 57.3 in
0-60 MPH 7.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.7 sec @ 89.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 127 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.82 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.1 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 27/36/30 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 125/94 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.64 lb/mile