Dollar for smile, I’ve always been a fan of the Mazda3, especially the hatchback. The latest edition 2017 Mazda3 Sport GT does nothing to allay that fandom. It’s prettier than its price would suggest both outside and in. And it’s such a fun car for those of us who still see driving as something beyond A to B transit. That fun starts with the standard transmission, which has a truncated shift throw. So it’s easy to move between gears.
Though the 3 Sport is powered by just a four-cylinder engine that emits 184hp @ 5,700rpm, this hatchback weighs only 1,384kg soaking wet. So there’s less need for loads of power. Plus, able to put out 185 ft-lb of torque @ 3,250rpm it has some decent bottom-end thrust for those days you want to be first away from the traffic light. FYI, fuel efficiency rates 8.8 in the city and 6.6 on the highway. Not bad — and the engine drinks the regular house brand fuel.
The feedback in the steering adjusts to your velocity, making it easy to move in parking lots but authentic feeling at speed. Push the 3 in corners. It laps them up like a retriever on a soup dish.
The generous 2,700mm wheelbase, that distance between the front and back tires, provides two key benefits. For passengers, there’s a bit more room in an admittedly tight, compact ride. (Bigger folks may find the distance from standing to sitting a long way down, but the thrill of being closer to the road helps compensate.) For the driver, there’s more territory in the stance, allowing for better control and driver confidence.
The GT package, starting at $25,000, comes with a bevvy of goodies, including heated seats and steering wheel, power moonroof, voice-activated navigation on a 7-inch touchscreen display, keyless entry, LED foglights — good for this time of year — and what every city car should have: rearview camera (even more important in a car with such a pretty rear). There’s more but this isn’t supposed to be a grocery list.
Think twice before ordering the $2,900 Premium Package this tester included. The leather seats were truly supple and convenient for a pet owning and easily distracted coffee drinker who dislikes the smell of former rides latent in cloth seats — but otherwise, things like radar cruise control, lane keep assists, auto dimming mirrors all seem like nice-to-haves in a Sport-oriented compact.
Indeed, you may not even need all the bells and whistles that the GT line offers. The broke-ass entry-level GX starts at an attractive $19,500 and comes with a slightly weaker engine but still has AC, cruise control and the aforementioned de rigeur derriere camera. The point is, if you’re in the market for a small fun ride, put the Mazda3 Sport at any level on the list.
As Driven: $29,595