Our long-term tests have become quite a staple amongst our readership. In the past two years, we have done this segment on a not-sold-in-Canada Honda Accord Plug-In, a Mazda MX-5 Miata, and most recently, a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. The most common question we get regarding long-term tests is how we choose which vehicle ends up in our garage for a few months at a time. The short answer is that we pick what we think most of you should buy. This time around, we’ve opted for the 2015 Mazda3 Sport GT, a car that three friends of DoubleClutch.ca have purchased over the past year alone.
One of our staff members currently owns a 2009 Mazda3, and our editor-in-chief briefly owned a 2006 GT, so we’re not unfamiliar with the car. Additionally, we’ve made quite a few friends along the way with the neighbourhood Mazda3 club (the TorontoMazda3 community is one of the most eclectic groups we’ve met in the Toronto area) that are full of questions regarding the latest model, supposedly the best ever. We spoke with our friendly Product Relations team at Mazda Canada, and they were pleased to send us the latest iteration of the Mazda3 for a long-term evaluation period.
Typically, long-term tests happen with existing media fleet vehicles, but our 2015 Mazda3 Sport GT was ordered exactly how our team spec’d it out, right down to the colour. We opted for the larger engine choice, the 2.5L SkyActiv inline 4-cylinder, and the 6-speed manual transmission. The combination between the bigger engine and the manual gearbox is new for the 2015 model year, and I briefly tested a similar vehicle back in the fall. It really is one of the best options in the mainstream class right now; the versatility the new Mazda3 offers is pretty staggering.
We took delivery of our new 2015 Mazda3 at New Roads Mazda in Newmarket, where the general manager took it upon himself to give us amongst the best new vehicle delivery processes I personally have ever experienced. When we arrived to pick it up, the car was freshly washed, impeccably detailed, and kept indoors. We were offered beverages and refreshments, and were given a quick tour of the dealership as the sales team quickly applied our license plates and gave the paperwork one final glance to make sure it was all in order. Our car was then officially presented to us through a 30-minute tour of all of the features.
Even though we’ve driven multiple iterations of the current-generation Mazda3, the dealership wanted to highlight a number of features to ensure we were completely familiar with this particular car before setting off. Any of our readers in the auto media industry might scoff at this, but for the mainstream consumer, this information isn’t really available without dusting off the owner’s manual. What New Roads Mazda does, every other dealership should do – I can’t count the number of times I’ve known someone who discovers a new feature in their car literally years into ownership.
Mazda offered the Mazdaspeed3 from the facelift on the first-generation model in 2007 right until the end of the second generation in 2013. Thus far, there has been no official announcement of a third-generation successor, but rumours have been floating the Internet about an all-wheel-drive turbocharged model. I don’t see it happening in the next year or two, as Mazda is focused on the launch of the all-new CX-3, Mazda2, and of course, the fourth-generation MX-5 Miata. That makes this 2.5L Mazda3 Sport GT the most powerful model in the Mazda3 line.
A lot of potential buyers (or armchair critics, in the case of the Internet) are confused by the GT’s position overall. When they hear that it’s output is only 184 horsepower at 5700rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3250rpm, they instantly begin to consider it slower than the 263-horse powerhouse that was the Mazdaspeed3. In fact, the Mazda3 GT is actually fantastic; power delivery is awesome and the car feels considerably peppier than any of its competitors. The torque is available early enough and the gears are long enough that you’re not constantly shifting in city driving; second and third gear are all you’ll really need here.
When pricing the Mazda3 out online, you may discover the “Sport” name attached. Mazda calls the hatchback “Sport” to differentiate it from the regular sedan. Due to the added practicality and (in my subjective opinion) the better looks, we’ve opted to review the five-door option. Also, GT sits at the top of the lineup, meaning along with the bigger engine option, the car is also essentially loaded. Ours is equipped with the Luxury Package (an extra $1500), so the car comes with a full media interface with a satellite navigation system, gorgeous two-tone leather interior, a power sunroof, heated seats, intelligent key system, and HID headlights. Of course, 17” wheels are also standard, and our tester is running all-season rubber. The as-tested price on our car sits just under the $30,000 mark, which is considerably more than the Mazda3’s starting price of $18,995, but becomes more palatable as you consider how much you get for your dollars.
The Mazda3 is no longer a “cheap” commuter car, nor is this model the volume seller. We expect most buyers to opt for the mid-range GS trim with the automatic transmission, which we tested a few months ago and adored. Again, it’s not just that we’re biased towards the Mazda3; we really can’t help that this truly is the best compact offering available right now. The road manners, overall refinement, comfort, and efficiency really are second to none currently, and this is a bold statement to make considering just how competitive and crowded the Canadian compact segment is right now. Entries like the new Toyota Corolla, the refreshed Subaru Impreza and Hyundai Elantra GT are ensuring that the class stays fresh.
Long-term tests that our esteemed colleagues at other publications conduct typically address consumer needs such as how many car seats the car can hold, or how many in-laws one can fit in it for a long road trip. These are all useful factors, but we’re going to take a little bit of a detour from that path. Our test will basically be a series from the eyes of a car enthusiast. This Soul Red Mica Mazda3 is going to be making appearances at a series of cruise nights, ranging from enthusiast meets to tuner shows as well as a couple of organized autocross days.
Continue to check back periodically to see updates on how our summer with the 2015 Mazda3 Sport GT is going. We will continuously be discussing average fuel economy, how efficiency improves as the car begins to end break-in period, and other notable pros and cons with the car. Additionally, we’ll be posting tons of content on our social media feeds, so be sure to keep up to DoubleClutch.ca on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. After all, our typical tests last one to two weeks; this one is going to sprawl over the six warm months we get. What better way to get to know a car, and truly validate our recommendations every single time someone asks us what car to buy on a sub-$30,000 budget?
2015 Mazda3 Sport GT Gallery