DANCING WITH THE STARS
2015 Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Fri, Apr 24, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Editor-at-Large Doug Stokes gives the Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring a 10 out of 10 in the category of…Dance. That puts it in some pretty star-studded territory—except that the Mazda can be had for just a tad more than the proverbial plug nickel. It’s evidently all about the balance. Stokes explains why this one can dance with the stars.
By Doug Stokes
To tell you the truth (which everyone on our highly-respected and oft-quoted LA Car review board does for every car, book, and event review they publish), I honestly expected the Mazda3 (and the name of this one on the car and in all the company-supplied literature and their adverts as well, is the Mazda3, one word, no spaces) to be a good, compact, five-door hatchback.
But just how good? And just how much fun? Let’s just say that I had some very serious thoughts of moving away from the home that I’ve lived in for more than 30 years during the week I was assigned to drive this one, so that I could evade the people from Mazda’s service agency who would be coming back to the address where they had dropped the car off to pick it up …AND TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME.
It took very few miles behind the wheel of this one to come up with a one-word description: Balance. The Mazda3 is just that in every respect and that fact is perfectly set off by two numbers: 184 and 185. The first is the horsepower rating of the four-cylinder 2.5 liter, double overhead cam engine, and the second is the torque rating of that engine in pound-feet. My friends, THAT is balance. And that near perfect balance of the two measurements of engine performance means this machine has a quickness and an all-round performance profile that just works all the time to please its operator, whether simply cruising along or seriously going for it.
And the above balance theme runs deep in this hot hatchback. For instance the styling, it’s definitely Mazda—the family lines are well seen here: Large grille area, double compound fender lines blending into the sides of the car, and so on. This is a modernized, scaled-down “shooting brake” that will be ever so pleased to accompany you and three hale and well-met friends to the IndyCar races for the speed, Coachella for the music, Silver Lake for the scene or the XGames to be seen.
About two of the above three friends: The compact “3” does not boast the biggest back seat in the universe, nor even in its class, but it is quite serviceable for two average adults. And the rear hatch area adds a good amount of luggage and assorted sports gear room for all.
On the other hand (or actually other parts of the anatomy), the front pair of seats are excellent, with the command chair electrically adjustable six-ways. Every part of the interior package seems correct, logical, and accessible. The fairly large (seven-inch) touch screen information module set mid-dash looks for all the world like it is either removable or that it tucks away. Ours resisted either option, but did a smart job of giving us the information (like destination, what’s playing on the radio, phone calls, e-mail, time, weather, temperature, do whatever one does on Bluetooth, our horoscope, and some handy everyday etiquette tips) we requested. (Okay, I made those last two up.)
If the court be pleased (I was going to say, “For the record” but this sounds more official), our every-friendly public officials at EPA/DOT rate the mileage figures on this one as 29 average with 26 city and 35 highway.
As noted in the subtitle, our ride for this review is the Grand Touring model, which is another name for “full boat” package. What does it have? Easy: Everything. What was the last number on the paper? $28,385. And if that doesn’t make this one a best buy under $30,000, I don’t know what qualifies for that title (see below for all the goods that this one features).
Beyond the aforementioned, the perfectly-balanced “SKYACTIVE®”* engine, the 3’s handling may also be so described. This car is the heir to the same wonderfully eager handling that the original Mazda Miata surprised and delighted us with when it came on line back in 1990—25 years ago. As an aside, I was then writing a monthly auto review column for a lifestyle magazine called (for obvious reasons) “North Shore” in Chicago.
The editors had asked me to write about my Top 10 for that year, and I did—except that I made it 11 in a tribute to the rock-mockumentary “Spinal Tap”. I named then new Miata for special recognition as the standout beyond the dual lists of the 5 domestic and 5 imported models I thought were pretty darn cool for the day. (Want to see Stokes’ favorites from 1990? See “Though the looking-back glass” also somewhere below). I said of the Miata, “… I defy anyone who drives the Miata not to be impressed. For the most sophisticated car enthusiast or the novice, there’s no escaping the captivation of this brilliant little machine. The experience is automotive magic. It’s a once-in-a-decade sweetheart.” And I meant every gushing word of it. Another reviewer (I thought it was me, but I can’t find the attribution) said that the Miata was a car that made you want to go to the grocery store for a dozen eggs … one egg at a time. The Mazda3 is much like that, I kept wanting to go to the store for a six-pack of branch water, one bottle at a time. This car quickly becomes a friend you can talk to, confide in really … a good buddy who’s always up for some fun. Zoom-zoom.
You will be reading below the extensive list of standard equipment that this machine is blessed with at the $25,545 level on its window tag. The biggest chunk of the extras tag on this get you the cool GT appearance package totaling $1,750. And there’s a bunch of “no charge” items like the navigation system and Sirus/XM satellite radio that tag along on that list. Oh yeah, there’s always that damnable “Delivery, Processing, and Handling Fee”, in this case: $795.
And here’s some fun news: Heads-up displays are (maybe) back, and this one is way cool. Push the start button and a little Star Trek-like communicator screen wakes up and obediently rises from the top of the dash to say “Mazda3” and then faithfully display your ground speed.
In other news, the age of e-steering is upon us and Mazda has got it very much right with this one. There’s good road feel and car control with this light, precise electric power-assisted steering. It adds greatly to the whole car feeling confident and youthful, but not irresponsible.
Another recent addition to the motoring world, and which, happily is quickly becoming a standard feature, are blind spot indicators in the side rear view mirrors. I’m beginning to trust them—a sign of which is that I miss them when I get back into my own car which (alas) is not so-equipped. I’m still a look-back-over-the-right-shoulder person when it comes to reversing, even though all of the TV backup systems (including this one) seem to work perfectly well when I bite my lip and try to use them. Personal confession: I’ve review-driven at least half a dozen cars with variations of the auto-park feature, and have never even had my conscience tell me that I, as a hard-hitting motor-journalist, must try it (perhaps at an abandoned airfield or vast empty parking lot). I have not. (This 3 does not boast that feature, by the way.)
The GT that I’m driving for this review is equipped with a crisp-shifting six-speed manual gearbox which is also labeled “SKYACTIVE®”. I get the “active” part, and I enjoy a good manual trans as much as the next guy (but not as much as Jay Leno), and this one is one of those. In really high HP road cars, manual transmissions are a waste of time. In a car with balanced horsepower and torque, like this one, the fun is there all the time (except maybe in bog-slow commuting traffic when one of the Kardashians decides to stop to powder her nose on a Tuesday on the 405 at 4:05 p.m.). I recommend a open road and winding out third gear as exhilarating and soothing (at the same time) tonic.
Okay, I owe the reader at least one or two low points here (Hey, where would Car & Driver be without listing those?). Yeah, the back seat area is not all that “sumptuous” and older, less flexy people WILL need to bend a bit to get in. But this is a GT. Once you’re aboard, the touring is grand, and who needed you to come along in the first place? You fly over and we’ll meet in ‘Vegas. Second, I strongly suspect that the interior designers (ALL of them, not just Mazda’s) must drive only by night. How do I come to that conclusion? Easy, if any of them ever drove one of their cars in the early morning or late afternoon with the sun over their shoulder, that BIG CHROME COMPANY LOGO right in the middle of the (otherwise wonderful) steering wheel would be sending searing solar flares into one’s eyes. They would not do that. I always take the masking tape off before returning a review car. If it were mine, I would be de-badging it on opening day.
Okay, summing up: Looks 10, Dance 10. Category winner. I want one. (Can I have one with an automatic “SKYACTIVE®” transmission please?) This car is young enough to make older people feel young, and serious enough to make younger people feel (almost, but not crushingly) responsible. I avoid reading other peoples’ reviews of cars that I drive until well after mine are published, but I predict that a great number of them will have a similar reaction to the Mazda3.
*That’s Mazda’s very own eco-code word, coined to name the process of diligently making power whilst disturbing the environment and the world around us less. It encompasses many of the known mechanical and electronic techniques, like the use lighter weight/high strength structural materials and very high engine compression (14 to 1) ratios and puts them to work in their own formulation that’s able to produce both top performance and excellent efficiency.
Through the Looking-Backward Glass, my “Top 10” automobiles for 1990 … or: What Were YOU Thinking Twenty-Five Years Ago? - North Shore Magazine
The editor’s categories were: Full Size, Luxury, Mid-Size, Utility, and Sports. For the record, my top 5 domestic picks were: Chevrolet Lumina, Cadillac Allante, Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable, Oldsmobile Silhouette APV, and the Buick Reatta convertible. For the 1990 imports, I chose the Audi Quattro V-8, Mercedes-Benz 500SL, Acura Integra, Nissan Axxes, and the Volkswagen Corrado.
Looking back at a “Top 10” list created twenty-five years ago is something of a comeuppance … but that was then and I’ve got a bound copy of the magazine that those picks were published in to prove it. I dug it out to relate the fact that the original Miata was so good that it would not easily fit in as one of a subjective Top10 picks and that my experience with the new Mazda3 was a lot like that. But what my little “time capsule” really seems to underscore, is just how much has changed in the automotive world and how much has stayed the same.
The above were MY category-defining vehicles of that time. At the end of this article there’s a feedback opportunity for readers who are so-inclined to reach back and list their (retro-active) top 10 for 1990. Should be fun!
For more information about Mazda products, go to mazdausa.com
Name of vehicle:
2015 Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring
$28,385 (as tested)
EPA fuel economy estimates:
26 city/35 highway miles per gallon
Engine type: Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine Horsepower: 184 @ 5700 rpm Torque: 185 pound-feet @ 3250 rpm Transmission type: Skyactiv-MT 6-speed manual transmission Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive Steering: Electric power assisted rack and pinion steering with variable assist Brakes Front: Vented disc Rear: Solid disc Wheels: 16-inch alloy wheels Dimensions Overall length: 175.6 inches Overall width: 70.7 inches Overall height: 57.3 inches Curb weight: 2,919 pounds