As the summer has drawn to a close, and the leaves seem to have all dramatically changed color in the last week, I’ve taken a few moments to reflect on our experience to date with our cheerful 2015 Mazda3 Sport GT long-term test car. It was a summer packed with great events, great people and of course, a lot of great cars here in the DoubleClutch.ca garage. Yet, despite all the high-performance toys we’re blessed with in the warm months, our Mazda3 was never forgotten and was always appreciated.
The little Mazda even made the trek out to Gravenhurst with us on our annual DoubleClutch.ca Summer Cruise. The event is a chance for our readers and staffers to meet, hang out, talk cars and more importantly, spend some quality time on some of our favorite roads. The event attracts everyone from casual enthusiasts in well-loved commuter cars, to hardcore enthusiasts in some of the latest supercars. This season’s event was our largest yet, and the variety of cars was simply staggering. Through the long weekend traffic and up into the winding backroads of the Muskoka’s went our group, and our little Mazda3 effortlessly kept up the pace hauling our gear and our marketing team. Even as I followed the 3 in a purpose built sports car, I was impressed at how well composed the 3 GT remained over the quick switchbacks and rough roads.
Having had enough of the sun and wind on my face for the day, I opted to drive back to the city on the main highway in the Mazda3. What a treat to sit down after a long, hot day in the cushy leather and ice cold AC. I realized then just how well balanced this car is, it had held its own alongside the sports car I’d driven up in, and now on the way home after a long and tiring day, that sports car was still noisy, tight and rough, while the 3 stretched its legs and settled into a quiet, comfortable and efficient drive back to the city. All highway, with the A/C blasting and a fair bit of traffic, I saw averages as low as 6.5L/100kms on standard 87 octane fuel. That a pretty frugal long distance hauler without compromising on comfort or features, especially in our loaded up GT trim level tester.
Back in the city, and back into the daily grind the 3 GT actually does serve as a very competent commuter, while still offering enough fun to keep the drive entertaining. Well equipped, easy to park, and while good looking enough that you can be happy to pick up your boss in it; it’s not so conspicuous that you’ll feel the need to constantly be checking on it in the parking lot. Our fuel economy average after almost 5 months and 7500km is sitting right at 8.1L/100km, that’s about what I’d expect out of the bigger 2.5L given our varied usage and the traffic we’ve always got to contend with in the city.
Speaking of which, traffic in the city has been horrendous most of the summer thanks to the Pan-Am Games, and now with the school semester starting up once again, traffic has become all that much worse. The 3 will happily idle along in traffic for hours without even a hint of a complaint, but as someone who spends roughly 3 hours a day commuting in the traffic, the manual transmission does get tiresome fast. Don’t get me wrong, the gearbox in the Mazda3 is one of the best I’ve driven in recent memory, the clutch is feather light, and the engine is torquey enough that you can make due with only second and third gear in the city; but after a couple hours of working the clutch I am definitely ready to opt for an automatic – and I’ve driven the automatic GT, it’s fantastic!
Nonetheless, for those who are not cursed with a commute like mine, the 6-speed manual is definitely the more fun “enthusiast approved” choice. I will point out though, that while the clutch is nice and light, it does lack feel, which means I’ve had to re-learn the grab points every time I get back into the Mazda3 after spending time with something else.
As great as the Mazda3 GT is to drive, the interior space is definitely my favorite part of our tester. As a 3 “Sport” ours is a 5-door hatchback, and even with the back seats in their upright position, the hatchback cargo area is downright spacious. That space alone easily swallows the typical day-to-day cargo, and flipping the split folding rear seats down reveals enough cargo space for just about anything you’d want to carry in a car. Just recently actually, I used the Mazda to run across town with 2-passengers and 4 new wheels for a project car, the split folding rear seat definitely came in handy there. Rear head and legroom is outstanding for a compact, and none of the adult passengers I’ve carried back there have had anything negative to say.
While practical, the best aspect of the Mazda3’s interior, in my humble opinion, is the overall quality feel and fit/finish in the cabin, the attention to detail is like no other compact in the market. Moreover, the off-white perforated leather in our tester is simply gorgeous and lends a dramatically upscale feeling to entire space. I also love the rotary dial control knobs for the new HMI Commander infotainment system; they are perfectly positioned, intuitive and feel nice enough that they are something you want to use.
The compact market is so super competitive right now with many great offerings, but with the huge variability of buyers in the market, it’s extremely difficult to be all things to all people. That’s where the Mazda3 really shines, and why I think it’s the best compact out there today; it’s not just a great commuter, it’s a great people and cargo mover, a great highway cruiser and it’s even a pretty darn good driver’s car. Well done Mazda.
As for our beloved Mazda3 GT, we’ve got just enough time left to squeeze in a few more colorful fall drives before we regretfully turn in the keys, so keep looking for our long-term test wrap-up, and in the meantime, watch for our hot little red hatchback cheerfully roaming the streets.
2015 Mazda3 Sport GT Gallery