Mazda should be able to sell many examples of the 3, and has hit a home run.
Earlier this year, Mazda Canada handed over the keys to a Soul Red Mica 2015 Mazda3 Sport GT hatchback. It’s a vehicle that everyone at DoubleClutch.ca has come to appreciate. With an overall footprint that’s well-suited to urban driving in and around the streets of Toronto, every staff member enjoyed using the 3 for errands, road trips, and everything under the sun. The hatchback format proved to be very useful for hauling cargo, and rear seat legroom was kept reasonable, even for a compact. After nearly ten thousand kilometres were racked up on the odometer, it became time to bid adieu to the little red Mazda that could.
For the 3, the GT trim level represents the top notch in the lineup on both the four-door sedan and five-door hatchback. Included on the test vehicle were a set of white leather seats with black accents, and while they were very handsome looking, they weren’t the easiest to keep clean. Automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a trick heads-up display were also included. When combined together, they gave the Mazda3 GT a much more premium feel than its economy compact classification suggests. Material fit and finish is also excellent, with all panels, switchgear, and touch points feeling substantial and durable. All in all, the cabin of the 3 was a great place to spend time in, beating out the interiors of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
The seven-inch touch screen multimedia system included on the GT long-term tester is generally good, with a simple menu system controlled by a knob on the centre console. Dubbed the HMI Commander Switch by Mazda, drivers can easily control music, navigation, and vehicle settings with the twist and press of the dial. While intuitive, the music controls tended to be a bit cumbersome, which was an unfavourable trait that reared its head later on in the test.
When listening to FM radio, selecting presets or tuning through stations was two to three menu layers deep, which made the process take much longer than with dedicated preset buttons on the dashboard. Thankfully, drivers can scroll through the radio presets via the steering wheel controls, but passengers fulfilling their DJ duties while riding shotgun are sorely out of luck.
The powertrain on the 2015 Mazda3 Sport GT has continued to impress since the last update. With 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm, and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm, the 2.5-litre inline four cylinder engine rocketed the Mazda in and out of dense urban traffic with ease, making slow daily commutes considerably more fun. The slick six-speed manual transmission was also a treat to use time and time again.
Shifter feel is second to none, and many DoubleClutch.ca staffers argued back and forth as to whether the Mazda or the equally-slick Honda Civic Si possessed the better shifter. With a clutch engagement point very high up in the pedal travel, and close ratios between gears – especially third through sixth – drivers need to shift quickly in order to be smooth. Throttle response from the electronic drive-by-wire setup is better than most, but still exhibited some lag when calling for a rev match downshift.
In addition to the superior performance of the powertrain, the ride and handling of the 3 GT Sport is an area that will be sorely missed. The short sidewalls of the P215/45R18 tires helped to create excellent steering turn-in response, and the feedback from the electric power steering is also among the best in the compact category. The 45-series configuration does somewhat negatively affect ride quality, however the overall firmness is kept in check – highway cruising won’t be a problem. The lightweight philosophy of SkyActiv has certainly helped in the handling response of the 3, and keeps the Zoom-Zoom factor very high.
When it comes to fuel economy, most who buy a compact car are looking for vehicles that will keep costs down at the pump. When equipped with the uplevel 2.5-litre engine, Mazda has rated the city fuel economy at 9.3 L/100km, and highway consumption is pegged at 6.4 L/100km. With a good bit of city driving throughout the test, overall observed economy was somewhere in the middle, at 8.2 L/100km. The aforementioned SkyActiv technology is also responsible for the great fuel economy, in addition to the peppy performance and responsive handling.
Looking back at the past months, the 2015 Mazda3 Sport GT was never a disappointment, with fantastic performance characteristics in all categories. After nine thousand kilometres of evaluation, several DoubleClutch.ca writers would pick the 3 for either themselves, or as a recommendation for friends and family members. With an as-tested price just below $30,000, it is also a great value in terms of bang for the buck. Mazda should be able to sell many examples of the 3, and has hit a home run in terms of building what the Canadian public is looking for: a well-styled, well-equipped, well-performing, fuel efficient compact that that’s easy on the pocketbook.
2015 Mazda3 Sport GT Gallery