A favourite in the segment | This is a car that aims itself up market in terms of interior and exterior quality.
Before I begin, I have to let my readers know that I own a 2009 Mazda3 GS sedan. I set out to see if the 2015 Mazda3 GS sedan is anything like its predecessor. The Mazda3 is Mazda’s bread and butter product that represents over 35% of their global sales and over 50% of sales here in Canada. The Mazda3 was introduced in 2004 to replace the Protégé, and punched well above its weight class thanks to peppy performance, sporty styling, sharp handling, and a well-fitted interior. These features made the Mazda3 stand out compared to other competitors. Unfortunately in 2010, after the second generation was introduced, the Mazda3 started to feel dated and eventually started to slip in sales. Thus, for 2014 it was refreshing to see that Mazda went with a redesign that would change everything.
With an all-new SkyActiv 2.0L engine, the new third-generation Mazda3 has changed the very definition of what a Mazda3 is. I could describe my first-generation as being sporty, but it still lacks refinement and does not feel luxurious at all. The new Mazda3 addresses this by feeling both sporty with the aforementioned SkyActiv 2.0L engine that now has 155 horsepower, up from 148 in the old 2.0L. Further, the SkyActiv produces a lot more torque at 150 lb-ft.
Like the Mazda6, CX-5, and upcoming MX-5, the new Mazda3 embodies the infamous Kodo “soul of motion” design philosophy. So it was fitting that my tester was painted in Soul Red Mica. Personally, I feel that the graceful lines in the body panels, give it more soul over boxier competitors. Further, I am really pleased with the replacing of the old 3’s smirking front end; replaced with chrome highlights that cut deep into the bumper giving the new 3 a mix of both aggressiveness while still retaining some of that cheeky smirk from the previous generation. The updated headlights and taillights look very appealing and round out the styling nicely.
The story inside is also much different from the previous generations. It is probably fair to say that the interior of the previous generations were definitely not the strong selling points they could have been. Luckily the new Mazda3 GS addresses many of these concerns and adds a bit of flair. It should also be noted that the only differences between the 2015 Mazda3 and the 2014 Mazda3 are the additions of a 6-speed manual option for the upper-trim GT, and the beautiful infotainment system is now standard across the lineup. The interior of the new generation finally gives the luxurious and sporty feel that I’ve longed for as an owner.
The sophisticated styling clearly borrows some of its design cues from Mercedes-Benz, and the latest BMW 3-series. I am very glad to see that the entire dash is covered in soft-touch materials that extend all the way to the front of the dash. The only bit of hard plastic found inside blends in well, thus maintaining the upscale feel for the majority of the interior. Cargo space in my tester is very generous at 350L and does have split-folding rear seats. Rear seat room has been improved as well over the previous generation. I found that there was more than enough leg room to fit my 6-foot frame. There is also an indentation in the headliner to give additional head room.
The GS’ instrument cluster comes with one slick looking analog gauge handling the speedometer, paired with two digital screens that display information like a digital tachometer, fuel, trip, and can display both instant and average fuel economy. My only complaint with the gauges is that the digital displays could be bigger. Luckily, the infotainment screen does not suffer from these issues. Paired with a controller knob interface that is similar to BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI system, the infotainment unit has a small learning curve and is really easy to use. The system is so good that I briefly forgot that I was in a car that is sub-$25k.
My tester came with the $550 Convenience Package that adds heated door mirrors, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and heated front seats. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped, along with the parking brake handle and shift boot. Another feature my tester had, but I did not use in these winter conditions was the $1200 moonroof package.
On the road, the 2015 Mazda3 was blissful with its smooth, composed ride with very responsive handling. I did note that the steering wheel’s weight gets progressively heavier when turning, this gives better feel and feedback; something that is very hit or miss to get right for electric power steering systems. Mazda’s is definitely a hit. On the road, the combination of having a longer wheelbase and a shorter overall length gives an interesting feel; it feels like it’s a big full sized sedan, yet it is not hard to place on the road and can fit into tight spaces.
My tester came with the 6-speed automatic transmission that was new for 2014. This unit allows cruising at highways speeds spinning just under 2,000 rpm. Can anyone say fuel savings? Power delivery on the 2.0-liter SkyActiv is generally good. There isn’t as much power as I would like down low, but there is a good amount power past 2,500rpm, then the engine maintains a flat torque curve all the way through the power band. The 2.0-liter SkyActiv is rated for 7.8 L/100km City and 5.7 L/100km highway. During my week that included some snow driving, I found my average fuel economy to hover around 7.5 L/100km over a 60/40 split.
Fitted to my test car was a set of P205/60R16 Yokohama iceGuard iG20s. During a particularly icy and snowy Tuesday night during my test week I had to run an errand. In between my errand and I stood a kilometre-long hill that is quite steep. When I approached the bottom of the hill I was quite nervous seeing that there were 3 cars near the midway point of the hill that were pulled over with their hazards on—seemingly stuck. Let’s just say the Yokohama’s did their job and I made my ascent of that dastardly icy hill with no hesitations at all.
In terms of pricing, the 2015 Mazda3 GS Sedan is priced starting at $21,095. The as-tested price is $23,295. For a car that aims itself up market in terms of interior quality, an efficient yet peppy engine, and very sharp driving dynamics, the 2015 Mazda3 would be a very good choice as a daily driver. For anyone shopping in the compact segment, it’s essential to at least try the Mazda3.