These days, people are seeking motivational material more than ever. Well, they should skip all the books or online stuff and simply give Mazda a call. Seriously, the Japanese must be really good with this, since they’ve reinvented themselves in a brilliant manner over the last few years.
Testament to that are the Mazda CX-5 crossover and the Mazda6
mid-size sedan, both of which left us smiling after we drove them. With that sort of recommendations, we were more than eager to see what the Mazda3 sedan is all about.
Now, about that reinvention process... Mazda had the choice of favoring their traditional ways, while allowing change to take over gradually. Something like what Toyota did. Instead, Mazda wiped their desks clean and built everything as if they were just starting a new business.
The shorter version of this transformation story is called Skyactiv. And to stay in the brief explanation area, Mazda came up with new platforms and new engines. Of course, all the bits and pieces that accompany the two were also refreshed. Think of the new Mazda as a Tleilaxu ghola
. Except here we have no ethical issues to discuss.
What we will discuss instead, is the appealing way in which the Mazda3 has gone from a hatchback to a sedan.
The sheer fact that there was a debate in our office when it came to deciding which of the two is prettier, says enough about the sedan’s appearance.
Mazda’s KODO design language means we are treated with niceties such as that front grille, or the rear-oriented cab design. As for the third quarter, sometimes an issue in this compact sedan class, it is perfectly integrated into the car’s lines. Nevertheless, the rear end isn’t as expressive as the front of the Mazda3.
In terms of dimensions, Mazda has played an interesting game: while the overall length has gone down by about 2 inches (50 mm), the wheelbase was expanded by 2.4 inches (60 mm). At the same time, the 3 Sedan is now 1.6 inches (40 mm) wider and 0.5 inches (12.7 mm) lower.
We’ll get to the dynamic impact of the changes later on, but for now we have to mention these help with the sporty aura of the thing. The drag coefficient isn’t too shabby either, with the hatchback sitting at 0.275 and the sedan at 0.258.
Tthe concentration of the mass is of great interest to us. While the structure is now 28 percent more rigid (31 percent for the hatchback), the Mazda3 Sedan fights for the title of the lightest car in its class. It tips the scales at a sharp 1,205 kg (2,656 lbs) for the entry-level engine and trim.
Inside this lightweight package, we find one of the nicest cabins in the segment. At first sight, the interior didn’t look all that spacious, but, as it turned out, there was plenty of space both up front and in the back.
Nonetheless, the interior dimensions never lie. The Mazda3 Sedan is placed somewhere in the middle of its class in terms cabin space. So while it can seat four adults plus a child in decent comfort, there are cars out there, such as the Toyota Corolla
or VW Jetta, which easily eclipse it.
Speaking of comfort, the front seats offer a nice balance between coziness and support.
These fit all kind of human frames and the only gripe we had with them was that they could’ve felt a bit more premium.
Reporting from the back of the car, our luggage says that the aforementioned conclusion is also true for the trunk
, which measures 12.5 cubic feet (420 liters).
As for the interior design, Mazda explains they used the current BMW 3-Series
as a reference point. Ironically, that seven-inch display floating atop the dash spells Mercedes-Benz to us. Anyway, who could ever be upset that their Mazda uses premium German brands as benchmarks? Regardless of the reasons behind the cabin overhaul, the result backs up Mazda’s sporty ambitions.
The drivers gets a bit of a wrap-around area, while the atmosphere to the right is airy. And the split is more profound that that. Zooming in on the center stack, we’ll tell you that all the controls on its left are dedicated to driving the car, while those on the right operate the other functions.
Mazda explains it used human behavior studies to arrange its infotainment controls
. Aside from the touchscreen functionality of the main display, you can also use the rotary controller on the center console to operate the various features.
Count those gadget-controlling control buttons - Mazda said they used the maximum number of controls the human brain can handle at a given time without requiring one to look at the buttons. And that nice weighty-clicky feeling of the knobs, also found for the climate controls, allows you to operate the thing intuitively.
As for the menus themselves, these are also easy to use, while sporting graphics that seems to come from a captivating video game. It seems that for Mazda, proper ergonomics go with proper looks.
Speaking of borrowed stuff, the aviation industry is also present in here. The Mazda3 comes with an optional Head-Up Display. Called Active Driving Display, this requires a transparent plastic screen to raise from the dash. No, it doesn’t match BMW’s HUD, for instance, but it does show competitors who’s boss.
Tuning over to the audio department, the default system tops those on many cars in the segment.
Buyers seeking refinement will find this in the form of a nine-speaker Bose system.
Alas, if you go for the entry-level trim that doesn’t come with a HUD, the nice physical rev counter in the middle is gone. It is replaced by the analogue speedometer, which used to be a digital gauge on the HUD. The rev counter is moved to the left, in a form that makes it hard to read while driving.
It is difficult to complain about the base equipment grade though and that’s because it is rather generous. It includes features such as a dual-zone automatic climate control system. In addition, the Mazda3 Sedan treats us decent cabin trim, mixing Piano Black plastic with a carbon fiber imitation that is not bothering at all.
Another thing that’s not bothersome is the Mazda3’s set of dimensions. Actually, these are just right to make the car feel decently spacious while offering it that all-important urban agility.
Aside from the size, part of the aforementioned agility comes from the fact that the car feels pretty direct to drive. Just what you need when you’re leaping from one street to another. The rest of the credit goes to the fact that the Mazda3 is very easy to drive.
If you ever cross the bridge to the dark side and you need to be able to just get in a car and run, the Mazda3 is a good choice. You connect with the thing very instant you start driving.
Nonetheless, the visibility is only average. The A-pillars do get in the way at times, but what really affects the overall score are the C-pillars.