For any number of reasons, it appears the long decline in the sales of passenger cars might have at started to show signs bottoming out.
Factors such as the relative availability of sedans as SUVs and pickup trucks disappear from dealer lots appear to have played a part in the shift. But I also suspect price resistance is having an impact
Consumers are now looking for alternatives to the soaring prices for trucks and utility vehicles from manufacturers, such as Mazda, that still have passenger cars in their line-ups. One of those options is the latest version of the Mazda3, provides a viable option for consumers looking for an alternative.
The Mazda3 sedan that I drove is a solid vehicle from any number of perspectives including ample power, impressive driving dynamics and a full array of features for even hard-to-please motorists. In addition, it has just enough room for passengers and/or packages and luggage.
As a sedan, Mazda3, I think looks better than the hatchback version that is part of the Mazda3 family. Overall, Mazda has a well thought out design philosophy. It is apparent from the very front of the vehicle where fascia sets off the brand’s distinctive badge in an imposing grille and the light fixtures are neatly tucked.
The Mazda3 sedan body style also has a crisp silhouette, extending to the rear of the vehicle. The notchback is nicely tailored into the car’s lines and adds to its overall appearance, giving it a sleek, fast appearance.
The rear quarter offers a hint of muscle and the rear fascia and light fixture blend nicely with the downward sweep of the roofline, enhancing the vehicle’s overall visual appeal both from the front and from the rear. The appearance is enhanced by the front air dam, rear-lip spoiler, large exhaust tips and 18-inch wheels.
The Mazda3 Turbo sedan has a surprisingly spare interior. But I found it rather soothing. The controls are close within easy reach while the gauges, including the tachometer and analog speedometer, are large and easy to read both in daylight and at night.
The design of the interior is straightforward with a long dashboard that neatly wraps over the screen in the center that carries navigation and entertainment information. The materials selected for items such as the interior door panels, the headliner and the wrapping on the dashboard are of good quality and give the interior of the cabin a polished feel.
As compact vehicle, some will find the interior small compared to larger midsized sedans or utility vehicles. But I found it offered ample room and the driver’s seat was comfortable, even on a long drive. The sedan body style also provided plenty of room for rear-seat passengers, which was a pleasant surprise for a sporty compact car.
As the name implies, Mazda3 Turbo has a unique powertrain capable of delivering 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque on premium fuel or 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque on regular fuel and standard i-Activ all-wheel drive system.
Overall, the drivetrain seems nicely calibrated and well-timed shifts from the 6-speed automatic transmission bolster the fuel economy of the Mazda3. The car’s numbers on the Environmental Protection Agency’s tests produced a combined rating of 24 mpg, including 23 in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway.
Safety and Technology
The Mazda3 Turbo starts at less than $21,000, but well equipped with features such as LED lights in the front, radar cruise control, blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assistance and rear cross-traffic alert. The Mazda3 also is equipped with Mazda Connected Services via Bluetooth, which enables access to the vehicle’s health status and a remote starter.
The Mazda3 also can be equipped with a Bose sound system with 12 speakers. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also are available as is a Mazda navigation system and a 360-degree view camera. The Mazda3 is also equipped with multiple airbags and braking support in emergency stops.
Mazda likes to say that its cars are made for driving and in the Mazda3 that slogan comes to life. It accelerates quickly and delivers great performance. At one point, I found myself exceeding 90 mph-plus on the expressway without really trying. It also can pull away from a stop light on a suburban street during a routine commute.
The Mazda3 also has nicely balanced ride and handling, which I think is improved by aerodynamic shape of the sedan and a well-tuned suspension. It also offers a live feeling in the steering wheel and excellent brakes. The overall impression from behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel is the car is enormously fun to drive with impressive driving dynamics built into a well-engineered chassis.
As a smaller car, the Mazda 3 Turbo would seem to come up short in the versatility department. But I found during my week of driving that it was smart and well equipped for everyday travel. It also was quiet and unless you are going to carry lots of packages or passengers regularly, it has plenty of space for day-to-day use. I acknowledge the space isn’t quite as large as that in a utility vehicle, but it is more than adequate and utility vehicles with larger cargo spaces simply aren’t anywhere near as much fun to drive either out on the open road or on city streets.