Review: The 2017 Mazda 3 Grand Touring Sedan
Today’s compact-car buyer is spoiled for choice, with the Mazda 3 being a prime example. It can be had as a sedan or a hatchback, with a 2.0-liter or a 2.5-liter engine, and with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
As enthusiastic supporters of both stick shifts and hatchbacks, carandriver.com chose the 2.5-liter Mazda 3 hatchback with a six-speed manual, examples of which they tested last autumn and also in a recent 40,000-mile long-term test.
Mazda’s beautifully designed and well-executed compact excels no matter which choices you make. This 2017 Mazda 3 Grand Touring automatic sedan is slightly less practical and a bit less engaging to drive than those three-pedal hatches, but it’s every bit as impressive.
Nip and Tuck
Like all 2017 Mazda 3s, the sedan benefits from a mild freshening inside and out. The tweaks are subtle, but the reshaped grille and headlights lend the already attractive design a bit more crispness. Mazda also rejiggered the 3 lineup, doing away with the “i” and “s” designations that used to signify the engine options.
Instead, the sedan’s base Sport and mid-level Touring models come with the 155-hp 2.0-liter inline-four, while the top Grand Touring trim tested here comes standard with the 2.5-liter four with 184 horsepower. Luckily for stick-shift enthusiasts, the six-speed manual remains standard regardless of trim level, unlike many competitors that restrict the manual to sparsely equipped base models.
Paying extra for the six-speed automatic, however, does improve the 3’s performance considerably. When tested by Car and Driver, the Grand Touring sedan got from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, 0.6 second quicker than its manual hatchback equivalent. That makes it as quick as any Mazda 3 they’ve ever tested, save for the Mazdaspeed version of the previous-generation model. The time also matches that of the Honda Civic sedan with its optional engine, a turbocharged 1.5-liter four.
The Skyactiv four-cylinder revs eagerly to its 6500-rpm redline, and the automatic shifts crisply. Put it in Sport mode, and it’ll even perform rev-matched downshifts during spirited driving. Or take a more relaxed pace and the automatic enables impressive fuel economy.
All Mazda 3 models receive the company’s new G-Vectoring Control system for 2017, the gist of which is that it temporarily reduces the engine’s torque ever so slightly as you turn the wheel to sharpen initial response. The 3’s light and satisfying steering thus is even more precise than it was before, and it reacts almost telepathically to the driver’s inputs. An attractive new steering wheel also improves the experience; its thin rim feels good in your hands and the leather wrapping is high quality.
Not Trying to Be a GTI
Despite the extra power, 2.5-liter Mazda 3 models aren’t intended to be sport compacts in the vein of a Volkswagen Golf GTI or a Ford Focus ST. The suspension has relatively soft tuning and the car exhibits a fair amount of body roll when pushed. An overall sense of balance and precision means we still enjoy hustling it down a back road, and the 3’s plush, well-damped ride quality seems a worthy trade-off for the reduced roll softness. A grip threshold of 0.86 g is near the top of the class, while the 3’s 174-foot stop from 70 mph is about average.
A few of the 3’s other numbers paint a slightly less rosy picture. At 72 decibels at 70 mph, the 3 is among the louder cars in its class, despite Mazda’s claim that it added more sound deadening for 2017.
While other compacts might offer a quieter ride or more bang for your buck in terms of feature content, few can match the Mazda’s overall sophistication and upscale feel. Its beautiful design and tantalizing dynamics make the 3 a truly special piece. And perhaps what’s best of all is that the car’s excellence pervades throughout the lineup, no matter which transmission or body style or trim level strikes your fancy.