Class: Compact Car
Dates tested: 2/08/2016 – 2/22/2016
Miles Driven: 394
Fuel Used: 14.0 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 28.1 mpg
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6" male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||A-|
|Power and Performance||B|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 29/41/33 (city/highway/combined)
Base price: $22,545 (not including $820 destination charge)
Options on test car: Cargo mat ($70)
Price as tested: $23,435
The great: Upscale interior materials for the price, value for the money
The good: Folded rear seat backs rest level with the cargo floor
The not so good: Audio controls can be tedious to adjust
Before getting into this review, I’d like to get one thing off my chest. You know that audio system in the Mazda 3? The one with the “Commander Control” on the console? I utterly hate it. Always will in everything Mazda puts it in, even if I like the rest of the car. If it’s easier to write this rant than it is to save a radio station as a preset (and it is), then something’s wrong with the system.
Ahh—better now. Thanks for your patience.
Consumer Guide® likes the Mazda 3 well enough to have made it a 2016 “Best Buy” in the compact class. One man’s opinion of the audio system aside, that high regard was borne out by CG’s latest test car from this family, a top-of-the-line i Grand Touring four-door sedan. In many ways, it was like the positively reviewed 3 i Touring sedan tested in 2015, but with the Grand Touring’s extra standard features and a different powerteam.
Both cars had the 2.0-liter dohc four-cylinder engine that powers all “i”-model Mazda 3s, a powerplant that makes 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. (A larger, stronger engine is found in “s” models.) In place of the 2015 car’s six-speed automatic transmission, though, the Grand Touring was hooked to a six-speed manual gearbox. This driver thought the shifter lacked precision, but the clutch was cooperative, and somebody did a good job of picking out gear ratios that help the car make the most of its modest torque. Takeoffs aren’t flashy, and some downshifting may be necessary to keep the 2.0 happy at lower speeds, but once launched it cruises well enough on the highway.
Perhaps it can be chalked up to personal driving style, but my 107.2-mile test drive resulted in fuel economy of 30.85 mpg. The EPA projection for the 2.0-liter with stick shift is 29 mpg in city driving, but my run included just 38 percent city-type driving. The federal figure for this Mazda in highway driving is a stingy 41 mpg. I did quite a bit better—37.66 mpg—with the automatic in 2015.
Here are other key points about the Mazda 3 i Grand Touring:
- Ride with the fully independent suspension is somewhat firm but damped well enough to handle most jolts. Steering is responsive, and braking is good.
- Front leg and head room are fine up front, all the more so if you’re south of six feet tall. The standard power moonroof does take up some overhead space. Space is OK for two adults in the back seat, especially if front passengers don’t require all of their available seat travel.
- Mazda makes this fairly inexpensive car feel somewhat upscale. Seats are covered in leatherette, with leather wrapping the steering wheel, shift knob, and brake handle. Carbon-fiber-look panels on the arm rests house window, lock, and mirror controls. Heated front seats offer good support and grip, and the driver enjoys 6-way power adjustment. Soft-touch material is fairly liberally applied around the cabin.
- Personal-item storage starts with pockets in all four doors that are just big enough to be bottle holders. The glovebox is ample, but some of the limited space in the cubby under the console armrest is given over to a power plug and media-device inputs. Two open cupholders are set in the console for front-seat occupants, and two more are set in a pull-down center armrest in the back seat.
- Trunk space, pretty good for a small car, gets even better when the rear 60/40 seats are folded down. While the seat backs fold very flat with an unbroken transition from the trunk floor, a bulkhead behind the seats narrows the opening somewhat, restricting the size of items that can be loaded past this point.
Aside from standard items previously mentioned, the Mazda 3 Grand Touring comes fairly well loaded for a car with a $22,545 starting price. (A hatchback companion costs a little more.) Grand Touring equipment includes a navigation system that displays on a 7-inch screen atop the center of the dashboard, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button engine start, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated power mirrors with integral turn signals, halogen fog lights, rearview camera, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, satellite radio, and popular web-enabled entertainment services. With only an extra-cost cargo mat and delivery tacked on, the car that CG tested totaled just $23,435. That’s a great deal that would be even better if you could play the radio.
Big & Tall Note:
Though the 3’s front row is fairly roomy, the door openings are on the small side, complicating entry and exit activity for larger folks.