Since its introduction in 2014, the third-gen Mazda3 has already shown itself to be one of the most stylish and fun-to-drive compacts in the U.S., and yet, Mazda unveiled a refreshed 2017 Mazda3 that promises to be even better in both regards.
Distancing itself even further from volume-driven compacts like the Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cruze, the 2017 Mazda3 was given numerous updates across the board, and while each individual change is relatively subtle, the end result is a car that is vastly better. And that should frighten the competition. To see exactly how much better this sporty compact could actually get, I recently spent a week behind the wheel of the 2017 Mazda3 loaded up with the Grand Touring trim level.
2017 Mazda3 Exterior:
Styling has never been a weak point of the Mazda3, but the current generation of this compact sedan has set a new bar for design. The 2017 Mazda3 sedan takes this a step further with a fresh, new look that borrows cues from the larger Mazda6 with a new face that gives the car a lower, wider appearance with reshaped headlights, a lower grille and a more aggressive front fascia. The only other design changes made to the 2017 Mazda3 sedan are the new 18-inch wheels offered on the Grand Touring trim level as well as the new Machine Gray Metallic, which is a premium paint color and is shown on this tester. It is easy to argue that the hatchback model is a sleeker overall styling than the sedan, but both versions of the new Mazda3 stand up quite well against key rivals like the Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic.
2017 Mazda3 Interior:
Matching its subtle new exterior, the interior of the 2017 Mazda3 has been upgraded as well. The most noticeable of which are the sporty new steering wheel and the updated full-color Active Drive Display, but other small touches include an electronic parking brake that opens up space in the narrow center console area and added sound deadening material resulting in a quieter cabin. Reducing driver distractions seems to be a key area that automakers are focusing on, and the Traffic Sign Recognition system definitely helps this by displaying large icons for road signs (such as stop signs) on the heads-up display screen to help the driver focus more.
In addition to upscale features like LED headlights and Adaptive Front-lighting System, the new Premium Equipment Package also brings new features inside the Mazda3 like a heated steering wheel, paddle shifters on steering wheel and Mazda navigation system. One of my favorite aspects of the navigation system is that the large display screen shows upcoming intersections without having to be zoomed in on the map. Overall, the Mazda Connect infotainment system is one of the easiest and most intuitive among compact cars with a sizeable seven-inch display screen that can be operated through a control knob on the center console or via the actual touchscreen, when the car is stopped.
One downside of the swoopy body lines is that the 2017 Mazda3 has one of the tightest interiors in its segment. The driver-oriented cockpit has decent space for front occupants, but rear-seat passengers have to deal with tight headroom and narrow shoulder room. Even the trunk on the sedan seems rather small, but opting for the hatchback should improve both rear passenger comfort and cargo space.
2017 Mazda3 Performance:
Not that this car needed to get any sportier, but the 2017 Mazda3 even gets enhancements in this area. Both available SKYACTIV-G engines carry over including the 184-hp, 2.5-liter direct-injected inline-four (standard on Grand Touring), and the SKYACTIV-DRIVE six-speed automatic transmission now gets a driver-selectable Sport mode for improved acceleration. The biggest improvement is the introduction of G-Vectoring Control (GVC) technology. This system is able to use engine torque to create G forces that balances the 2017 Mazda3 for improved responsiveness and stability during cornering.
GCV only adds to the handling capabilities of the 2017 Mazda3, which already has the best braking and steering feedback in its class. And being an affordable car, the Mazda3 also focuses on comfort with key upgrades to reduce noise, vibration and harshness that result in a noticeably more refined cabin. Finally, the sporty Grand Touring sedan delivers on efficiency with fuel economy that is identical to the smaller, less-powerful engine with EPA-rated estimates of 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.*
2017 Mazda3 Safety:
Mazda has taken vehicle safety to new heights in recent years with all of its family vehicles, including the 2017 Mazda3, receiving a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – with the exception of the redesigned CX-9 crossover, which has yet to be tested. The 2017 Mazda3 has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the 2016 model year saw a full five-star overall crash rating for the hatchback and sedan and this trend should continue for 2017. Making this compact car even safer, there is the optional i-ACTIVESENSE Safety Package that adds features such as Lane Departure Warning System, Lane Keep Assist, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Smart Brake Support and High Beam Control.
2017 Mazda3 Overall:
There are better-selling, more affordable and more efficient compacts on the market, but if you’re looking for a fun and stylish compact car, then the 2017 Mazda3 should definitely be at the top of your list. Although just about modern compact car across the board is proof that an inexpensive vehicle doesn’t have to be boring, the Mazda3 continues to be the class-leader when it comes to overall driving pleasure. The best part is that you can get into a base Mazda3 for just $17,845*, while the well-equipped Grand Touring is still reasonably priced starting at $24,195*. The 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring was loaded up with all the bells and whistles, and even though the as-tested price of $28,155 could afford you an average mid-size sedan, the Mazda3 is by far one of the best cars at this price point that is this much fun to drive with seating for five.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Mazda dealer and test drive the 2017 Mazda3 today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.