After a week of driving the 2015 Mazda3, I began to think of it as an efficient transportation module. Referring to a car as a transportation module might sound demeaning, but when you think about it, after getting over the excitement of a new car, most of us just want a vehicle that handles easily, sips fuel, looks good, doesn’t cost a fortune and gets us from point A to point B with a minimum of fuss. That describes the Mazda3.
The third generation Mazda was all-new last year, so changes for 2015 are minor. The base engine is a 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The sTouring and sGrand Touring have a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four cylinder. Prices start at $16,945 for the iSV and top out at $25,045 for the sGrand Touring.
The sGrand Touring can be equipped with a technology package that includes active grille shutters that close to improve aerodynamics and a regenerative engine braking system that captures and stores brake energy and uses it to power the vehicle’s electrical components such as headlights, climate control and audio systems, thus saving fuel. The package also includes radar cruise control, forward obstruction warning, lane departure warning and smart city brake support (automatically applies the brakes between 2 and 18 mph if a collision is imminent). An sGrand Touring with the technology package has a sticker price just a whisker under $30,000.
Mazda’s compact sedan, also available as a five-door hatchback, has always been a car with a sporty character, but the 155-horsepower engine was a bit shy of zip. The engine does deliver decent low- and mid-range performance, however, and fuel economy is rated at 30 miles per gallon in the city and 41 on the highway. Those who want spirited driving should pick the larger engine.
A six-speed manual transmission is offered as well as Mazda’s Skyactiv-Drive
six-speed automatic transmission that the company says blends the characteristics and efficiencies of dual-clutch, continuously variable and regular automatic transmissions. The car stepped away from a stop with the responsiveness of a CVT yet shifts were smooth and direct. Manual shifting is also possible.
The cabin of the test car was comfortable and well designed. A large round speedometer is flanked by a tiny digital tachometer on one side and secondary gauges on the other. A 7-inch LCD screen sticks up from the center of the dash and is used for the audio and navigation (when so equipped) that is operated by a console-mounted controller. The system is not the hardest to use, but I’m old fashioned enough to still like audio systems that can be controlled with knobs.
The nicely contoured front seats fit well and provide ample support. The rear seat was less comfortable for me because of the lean angle of the back. Rear seat legroom is a bit tight. The trunk, however, is spacious.
Driving enthusiasts have long been fans of the Mazda3 because it has such responsive handling. While it’s not a full-blown sports sedan, it is above average in agility.
The base price of the test car was $20,645. Options included metallic paint, cargo mat and the technology package that includes dual-zone climate control, power sunroof, Bose audio system and Sirius satellite radio. The sticker price was $23,410.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
2015 Mazda3 Touring
Engine: 2.0 -liter, 155-horsepower four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Curb weight: 2,917 pounds
Base price: $20,645
As driven: $23,410
MPG rating: 30 in city, 41 on the highway