By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 8.4
Mazda reinvented its compact sedan and hatchback last year, and thanks to fresh design, new engine innovations, and class-exclusive technology and safety features, the Mazda3 became a formidable rival to competitors such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. In addition to offering up to 41 mpg, the 2015 Mazda3 is among the most nimble and fun-to-drive cars in its class. The Mazda3 returns with beefed-up versions of its impressive telematics system and the availability of a manual transmission for its larger 4-cylinder engine, but you'll have to keep holding your breath for a performance-oriented Mazdaspeed version. While not as roomy or comfortable as a Nissan Sentra or Chevrolet Cruze, the Mazda3 offers a refined ride and high value.
If you're seeking a compact sedan or hatchback with fun driving manners, great fuel economy, and class-above looks and features, the Mazda3 is an excellent choice. That Mazda's compact car starts under $18,000 and retains its value very well is icing on the cake.
If roominess and comfort are priorities, you may be happier in a Chevy Cruze or Nissan Sentra. Buyers needing all-wheel drive should look to a Subaru Impreza, while alt-fuel fans should check out the Honda Civic (available in hybrid or compressed natural gas form) or Volkswagen Jetta (diesel or hybrid).
The slick Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 7-inch screen is now standard on all but the base 2015 Mazda3 sedan. Making way for the new tech, the CD player is dropped as standard equipment in lower models. A manual transmission is now offered with the larger 2.5-liter engine.
Driving Impressions The 2015 Mazda3 is both fun and fuel-efficient, thanks to Mazda's Skyactiv chassis and powertrain technology. With its enthusiastic engines and satisfying steering and brake feel, the Mazda3 is sportier...... than nearly all its rivals. More impressive, though, is that this 5-passenger compact sedan and hatchback don't compromise ride quality or fuel efficiency for the sake of performance. The Mazda3 is satisfying to throw into corners, yet still compliant on the highway. The 6-speed automatic transmission is eager to downshift, and the 6-speed manual is rewarding to use. Drivers desiring extra oomph can get it in Mazda3 "s" versions, which have a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that offers 29 more horsepower than the standard 2.0. Driving position is very good in Mazda's compact car, and controls are easy to use. Visibility is also good, and the available blind-spot monitoring system is a surprising and assuring feature in this class of car.
MAZDA CONNECT INFOTAINMENT SYSTEM
Dash-mounted LCD screens with a rotary dial control below have been in luxury cars for years, but now one is in Mazda's compact car. The system that controls audio, phone, apps and more is easy to learn and use, and for 2015, it's standard in all but base Mazda3 sedans.
ADVANCED SAFETY FEATURES
Other features once reserved for luxury cars that are now in a Mazda3 include blind-spot monitoring and Smart City Brake Support, which can stop the car autonomously to prevent a lower-speed frontal collision if the driver doesn't apply the brakes.
The 2015 Mazda3's cabin isn't the roomiest in the segment, but it's among the best laid out. The well-shaped front seats keep driver and passenger snug. All models except the base sedan feature a dash-mounted 7-inch touch-screen display that is controlled by a rotary dial between the front seats. All controls are intuitive and easy to use. Rear-seat legroom falls on the low side, but there's still room for two average-size adults, three in a pinch. All models except the base Mazda3 i SV sedan have 60/40-split folding rear seats. Mazda3 hatchbacks boast over 47 cubic feet of room with seats folded.Exterior
Whether as a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback, the 2015 Mazda3 stands out from other compacts with its knockout styling. The versatile Mazda3 hatchback is especially noteworthy for a design that should win over those who usually don't equate hatchbacks with style. Up front, the recast grille replaces the previous "happy face" with a more distinguished character, and repositioned A-pillars improve the driver's forward sightlines. While the base SV and 3 i Sport Sedan come with 16-inch steel wheels, the other 2.0-liter cars all feature 16-inch aluminum-alloy alternatives that move to an 18-inch upfit on the 2.5-liter 3 s models.
2015 Mazda3 sedans are available in six trims, while the Mazda3 hatchback is available in five. The least-expensive Mazda3 is the i SV sedan, which includes air conditioning, push-button start and a 4-speaker AM/FM/USB/aux audio system. Our advice is to spend the extra $1,500 and at least step up to the i Sport, which includes the 7-inch command screen, 6-speaker audio with HD Radio and streaming services (including Pandora), Bluetooth connectivity, and cruise control. The high-end s Touring or s Grand Touring models bring the more powerful engine and faux leather seats (Touring trim) or the real thing (Grand Touring).
Most options for the 2015 Mazda3 come as you climb trims, and some are surprising in their value. The mid-grade i Touring, for example, includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and rearview camera – safety features that can cost thousands extra on luxury cars. Two technology packages are also offered, the first includes navigation, Bose premium audio with CD player, a power moonroof and dual-zone climate control. Exclusive to top-line s Grand Touring models is Mazda's i-ELOOP regenerative-braking system for better fuel efficiency, the Smart City Brake Support, radar-based cruise control, and lane-departure warning.
The 2015 Mazda3 offers two engine choices, both with a Skyactiv pedigree. The i models use a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes a healthy 155 horsepower. The 2.5-liter found in all s variants cranks out 184 horsepower. While the 2.0-liter is still a capable performer, it trades a measure of enthusiasm for better fuel-economy numbers – 41 mpg highway in the sedan and 40 mpg in the hatchback with either the 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2.5-liter won't stretch a gallon of gasoline quite that far, but notably amps up the car's sporting character, and for 2015, it is now available with a 6-speed manual transmission for drivers seeking the most engagement.
155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
150 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
Sedan: 29/41 mpg (manual), 30/41 mpg (automatic)
Hatchback: 29/40 mpg (manual), 30/40 mpg (automatic)
184 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
185 lb-ft of torque @ 3,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
Sedan: 25/37 (manual), 28/39 mpg (automatic), 29/40 mpg (automatic w/i-Eloop)
Hatchback: 26/35 (manual), 27/37 mpg (automatic), 28/39 mpg (automatic w/i-Eloop)
While not the lowest-cost player in this intensely price-sensitive segment – that honor goes to the 2015 Kia Forte – the 2015 Mazda3 remains a solid value considering the content and character of its overall package. The base i SV Sedan starts under $17,750 and the entry-level 3 i Sport Hatchback starts below $19,750. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Mazda3 s Grand Touring Sedan and Hatchback ring in closer to $26,900 and $27,400, respectively. Adding the Technology Package's class-exclusive safety features and the i-Eloop system bumps the s Grand Touring's numbers an additional $2,600. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Mazda3. In addition to having prices that are competitive with segment leaders like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the Mazda3's resale value also stays in step with those two.
By Greg S. on Friday, March 06, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Value, drive, comfort, features, styling"
Cons: "Glitchy nav. system, minor rattles, rear seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I purchased a sGT hatchback in April 2014. I have the technology package and a few accessories added on top. The only options I didn't choose were the parking sensors or interior lighting kit. Needless to say, I got this car fully loaded, and it still only came to $31,000 with tax (6% in PA). I've often felt this car was compared to the wrong vehicle segment, because the standard equipment you get, plus the options with the technology package, far excels that of entry level luxury vehicles. And the kicker is, they all work and do their job just as good as or better than when you pay for them as options in brands such as BMW, Mercedes, or Audi. You truly do get your money's worth with this car. Is it $30,000 for a Mazda?? Yes, but you'll be happier than if you spent $36,000 on an entry level Audi A3 and got half of the equipment you have on the 3. As for the car itself, it is not without its flaws. Many of the common annoyances mentioned on other reviews I too have experienced. The navigation unit has experienced a few glitches (nothing catastrophic, but still not perfect), I've had a few rattles from the doors that I found out to be loose cover panels behind the door handles, my rear speakers cut out once for no reason, and I've had the service reminder light come on when it had to reason to. Again, nothing major, but these are annoyances that should be addressed. Other than these, though, the car has been flawless. It drives like a rear wheel drive car, but with all the snow we've received in New England this winter, it has glided through thick and sloppy snow like a normal FWD vehicle. If you have any appreciation for driving dynamics, you cannot beat the Mazda. The steering is weighted and sharp (surprising for an electronically controlled system), the chassis is firm but soft enough to enjoy a comfortable drive, and the automatic transmission is a work of engineering art. It knows what you want, when you want it, and in sport/manual mode, the car comes alive with great vigor. Make no mistake, this is a smile every drive kind of car. You will not find this in a Toyota or Honda. The interior is extremely well thought out. Everything I need to be aware of is within my line of sight and there is nothing to distract me from the road. The heads up display may seem gimmicky, but I find it to be very helpful for keeping my eyes on the road (especially since I commute 100 miles every day on the highway). Buttons are easy to understand, find, and they all have a superior quality feel to them, especially for a vehicle that is not considered luxury. The command dial is weighted, and surrounded in a nice aluminum encasement. It rivals Audi and BMW's systems. The BOSE sound system is decent as well. Not the best, but when I want to jam out, it delivers. Sadly, satellite radio does not broadcast in HD, and FM stations that do broadcast in HD shift in and out of it depending on the signal strength, so you're constantly hearing a change in sound quality, but when you do have the HD signal, or you have a high quality mp3 file playing from your phone, it's a happy time. Speaking of phones, the Bluetooth works seamlessly for calls and music. Text message read out is difficult, as is e-mail, and the voice command is a bit off. I think this is more comparability of the phone than the car's system, but who really needs to read their email while driving? The navigation system works very well, and the graphics are very sharp and creative too. The leather on the seats is supple, and even with the almond interior, easy to maintain. The stitching is beautiful and the seats themselves are comfortable for long drives (I've done four 6+ hour drives in this car so far and no complaints from my back). I would prefer some more thigh support from the seat bottom, but that's because I have long legs (I'm 5'11" by the way). The rear seat space is fine for children, and OK for 6' adults on short trips, but they are admittedly tight feeling. Head room is plenty good, and sight lines are good too. I do have a minor complaint with the HVAC system, though, and that is when it is in automatic mode for heating, it will heat the car by focusing air into the foot wells and the outer air vents, closing on the middle vents. This leaves my right hand cold and my feet and left hand warm. Easily fixed by changing the direction of the air, but I wish it did this on its own. Lastly, cargo space is sufficient for a car of this size. With the rear seats folded flat in the hatch, I have been able to carry a lot of cargo. I used to have a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and I've felt little pain in downsizing to the 3. I've hauled suitcases, sound systems, boxes, clothes, etc. in single hauls a couple of times (specifically when I was moving from PA to MA). I do wish for bigger storage pockets in the doors as opposed to the water bottle holders there, but such is life. Running errands, a heavy Home Goods shopping spree, or even purchasing a new 60" TV have all fit just fine in the 3's trunk. If you're considering a compact vehicle with good value, performance, comfort, and mileage (I average 33mpg with the i-eloop system on a 20/80 city/highway split), definitely consider the 3. If you're looking at an Audi A3, BMW 1, 2, or X1, or a Mercedes CLA or C300, definitely take a look at the standard features and options list of the 3 and compare to any of those vehicles. Dollar for dollar, none of them can beat the 3; you're paying for their name. I used to work for BMW, and I love them, but my money is better spent elsewhere. And the best part of my Mazda ownership thus far, 0 maintenance issues in 20,000+ miles (except for standard oil changes and tire rotation), and the car is holding its value quite well 1 year in."
19 people out of 34 found this review helpful
By Dave on Saturday, February 28, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,700overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Cons: "not everyone owns one"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this car in late summer 2014. First off, the dealership was awesome, second--the price was perfect and third---I love this car!!! Mazda owners since 2003 and I will continue buying Mazda. Gas mileage?-awesome. Comfort?-sweet. Options?-perfect.Style and drive-ability-awesome. Buy one and enjoy driving again."
10 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By Zoey on Monday, February 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,600overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Interior material quality"
Cons: "Front blind spots, ugly radio"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"In many ways, this is a good car. Its exterior styling gives it personality, the interior materials seem to be nice quality and have good use of soft-tough, and the dashboard is pleasantly simple compared to some of its competition. It gets good MPG, but not quite as good as I expected; I average 32 mpg in 60/40 city highway driving. I've only gotten above 35 mpg a handful of times. The headrests are angled uncomfortably forward, and many have commented that the radio is ugly. My biggest complaint is one I don't see many people mentioning though: forward blind spots. The A-frame pillars create blind spots that are large enough to hide a whole car in turns and intersections. I find this very worrisome and may replace the car because of it."
55 people out of 101 found this review helpful