Mazda3 5-Door. It certainly can sound confusing to the consumer. But somehow the word ‘hatchback’ comes connected with automotive cooties, like ‘minivan.’ 5-door is acceptable. BUT, if you take the same vehicle and call it shooting brake, then it becomes suave and sexy. Digressions aside, the Mazda3 5-Door is a great option for those looking for a practical hatchback with strong driving dynamics. And it is a great platform waiting for the aftermarket to take it to the next level.
The Mazda3 is all about great handling. But the stock suspension is quite comfortable. Which is a good thing because we don’t want the ride to become too jarring when adding adjustable coilovers or adding +1 to the stock 18” wheels. For those customers who want to throw their vehicles hard into turns, the Mazda3 is a great starting platform. It certainly goes neck-and-neck with the other true definition of hatchback handling- the VW Golf and its go-fast incarnations.
The engine on the Mazda is their Skyactiv 2.5 liter naturally-aspirated mill. Without a turbocharger to spool up, the engine can be considered the ‘big-block’ of the sport compact segment. But Skyactiv technology helps to keep the fuel economy in check. The Mazda 3 is rated at 30MPG overall. Although I got a few MPG shy of that figure even with some highway stints.
Usually I am not a fan of an all-black interior, but the interior of my tester was called Black Black. It featured black on black leather and piano-gloss interior trimwork. Know what the exterior needs? Dark, rich window tint. But the end result is very classy for a vehicle that comes in under $30K nearly loaded. But at that price point do performance enthusiasts start to think entry-level BMW 2-series?
On the technology front, the Mazda3 features most of the active safety features that are slowly being integrated into all new cars. There is Smart City Brake Support. Using this technology, the system will automatically use maximum braking if there is an obstacle in the path of the radar. We also liked the extra-bright LED lights embedded into the side view mirrors for Blind Spot Monitoring. To help keep your eyes on the road, a piece of treated plexiglass rises out of the dash to become a heads-up display. Besides your speed and navigation functions, the display can even recognize traffic signs and help you keep tabs on the speed limit. Although it is nice to have the safety features, if you forego the Grand Touring model you can swap the head unit for something with better navigation and voice recognition.
Bonus- if your vehicle does not have these features now, they can easily be integrated into your current ride at a mobile electronics specialist.
When you get to the head unit, you’ll see a controller just like a luxury car in between the two front seats. However, Mazda’s ultra-cool parlor trick is the head unit can also be activated from the Multifunction Commander Control or from the screen itself (it is a touchscreen). That is a very unusual feature for a non-luxury vehicle. Moreover, the Bose system sounds reasonably good from the get-go. It can accurately reproduce a soundstage. Most likely because of the amount of tuning the Bose engineers put in before choosing the equipment. But that does not mean that you can’t do better. We always welcome a good subwoofer. One minor complaint is the navigation voice does not understand me. Or my wife. So everything had to be inputted off to the side of the road or before pulling out.
This is a great vehicle with a tough call…get the loaded model with navigation, touchscreen, and Multifuction Commander Control or get a ‘regular’ model and forego some features out-of-the-gate, with planned visit to a mobile electronics specialist to get it all and then some? Either approach works, but we like the idea of saving a bit of money at the beginning, with a plan in store to add the sound, safety and convenience the manufacturer could only dream of.