Age Is Just A Number
The Mazda 3 has been with us for quite a while now, and despite all the fresher, faster, and newer competition, the Mazda 3 ages gracefully, still showing some flair and flamboyance the same way that Audrey Hepburn did as she ages. There’s no denying that an all-new Mazda 3 is just around the corner, inside it will be Mazda’s groundbreaking SKYACTIV-X SPCCI gasoline engine, but while that’s still a few years away, a few years is still a long time to wait for those who want to splurge the cash for a Mazda 3. Four years since its launch, does the Mazda 3 still hold up against its competitors? Let’s find out.
From the outside, one would still think the Mazda 3 looks fresh, especially if it’s in hatchback form. This sedan still manages to pull off an Audrey Hepburn rather than a cougar smoking crack in a spooky alleyway. It’s got all the curves and volumetric shapes in the right places, down to the front character line that flows from the grille all the way above the front wheel arches, creating a vehicle proportion that makes that car look like a rear-wheel drive sports sedan born from Munich. The long hood, short rear deck design just works, though the trunk height could be lower. As this is the 2.0 R variant, it’s fitted with glitzy goodies that range from trendy Adaptive LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights, LED tail lights, snazzy 18-inch alloy wheels, and a slightly revised front fascia that debuted in the 2017 model.
Like any other Mazda, the Mazda 3 is a nice place to be in, especially at the front, with its driver-focused cockpit that orients all controls towards the driver. As expected, the interior feels posh and premium for the class, with loads of soft-touch and leather materials on the doors, center armrest, dashboard, door panels, and of course, the seats itself. It gives off a premium interior that its rivals are only now starting to understand. It is an interior that feels crafted rather than manufactured, like an artisan creating a dense truffle cake rather than a baker working at Julie’s. Adding further spice to the cabin is its sunroof, which floods the dashboard with light, bringing out the sensual design of the car’s interior. The analog gauge is attractive, flanked by two LCD screens that show critical driver information in a cohesive manner. Front and center of the interior is the 7-inch MZD Connect infotainment system with its rotary controller knob or touch screen interface.
Space and Practicality
There’s no denying the Mazda 3’s premium and sporting aspirations, but it seems Mazda’s engineers and designers didn’t really give the car’s space and practicality aspect a high priority. Not that it’s a cramped and poorly designed interior. It’s just that, the rest of the segment has interiors that rivals sedans from the midsize executive class nowadays. As a whole, it remains practical, but not as practical as, say, a Honda Civic. The Mazda 3 has a good number of storage places, while the center cupholders can be neatly covered by the center console.
At the back, the space is just alright for two full-size adults, and while two is a company, three is certainly a crowd. If you want to store your cargo, there’s 419 liters of trunk space, which is about par for the class. 60:40 split folding rear seats further boost the car’s practicality aspect.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
As ever, like all Mazdas, the Mazda 3 Sedan has Mazda’s proprietary MZD Connect infotainment system, which is controlled by either a touch screen, or the rotary knob controller inspired from systems like BMW’s iDrive. MZD Connect doesn’t include Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto, but the infotainment system works well enough that a smartphone integration feature is not really needed. With my reviews, I always can’t stress enough how much I prefer using infotainment systems such as this, since the rotary knob controller is good for a driver’s cognitive memory, enabling less distractions while driving. Speaking of driving, a Mazda Drive Mode Selector enables the driver to change the car’s characteristics with a choice between Sport or Normal. Sport merely lets the automatic transmission downshift more aggressively and holds gears for longer.
Safety-wise, the Mazda 3 2.0 R does not disappoint with standard dual front airbags and side curtain airbags. Amazingly, both a rear view camera and electronic stability control are offered even in the base 1.5 V variant. We here at Go Flat Out think that any form of electronic stability control should be standard on all cars.
There’s more toys under the hood, too, including Mazda’s i-STOP engine start/stop system, which shuts off the engine momentarily while in a set of lights. Meanwhile, there’s also i-ELOOP, which is a regenerative braking system that absorbs the car’s kinetic energy from the brakes and cleverly charges a capacitor depending on the situation. G-Vectoring Control, Mazda’s proprietary torque vectoring technology, gives the car better handling characteristics by braking the inner wheel under hard cornering in order for the car to rotate more aggressively.
Powering the Mazda 3 2.0 R Sedan is a 2.0 liter inline-4 high compression and direct injected SKYACTIV-G petrol engine that produces 153 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Power is sent through the front wheels via a standard 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
How It Drives
The Mazda 3’s world class driving dynamics shine through in this car, even after a few years since its release. As it ages, the car continues to shine, with its quick and responsive steering that, not only does it provide decent feedback to the driver, but it also is very precise that you know what exactly the front wheels are doing. An achievement, considering that many electric power steering nowadays feel like video games when driving the car.
And that’s what Mazda has always nailed from the start, which is to satisfy the driving enthusiast in mind. Its suspension is well balanced, with MacPherson Struts up front and Multi-link ones at the rear that provide a good balance between comfort and sport. Despite the 18-inch alloy wheels, the Mazda 3 ride well enough, though large bumps can’t hide the fact the Mazda 3 is riding on 45 series low profile tires.
As you enter a corner, the Mazda 3 enthusiastically obliges, as its suspension enables good body control that inspires confidence to drivers. If you start to doubt yourself, standard stability control will help you keep in check, while the brakes give excellent bite if you desire to scrub some speed. G-Vectoring Control becomes the icing on top of an adrenaline infused cake, as it turns a driver into a hero as they attack corners with the Mazda 3 2.0 R.
Out on the highway, the Mazda 3 2.0 R stays planted and composed, feeling solid and refined for the most part. A bit of engine noise comes in at higher revs, and road noise can also slightly also spoil the ambience.
Off the line, the Mazda 3 2.0 R is quick, but in overtaking situations, the Mazda 3 2.0 R unfortunately doesn’t feel like a car with a 2-liter engine. While it is not by any means slow or underpowered, the transmission somewhat neuters the experience, probably how the automatic transmission is calibrated in this 2.0 R variant. The 1.5 V feels a bit punchier, thanks to its transmission being more willing to downshift when overtaking.
Under my hands, the Mazda 3 2.0 R netted a fuel consumption of 10.3 km/l, which is about par for the course when it comes to sedans with a 2-liter engine. This has been achieved through trips to Clark, Pagsanjan, and other places that isn’t EDSA, especially since I live in the South.
On The Downside
As with everything in life, nothing is perfect, and the Mazda 3 2.0 R is no exception. I would’ve wished for Mazda to increase their priority in making cars that are both practical and fun to drive, but then, that might overly spoil the athletic character of the vehicle. Also, refinement could be better, and though its refinement is just par for the course, there are noticeably quieter and more refined rivals, such as the Honda Civic.
The Mazda 3 2.0 R Sedan has managed to stand the test of time. Despite newer, more refined and more high tech rivals, the car manages to pull off an Audrey Hepburn, standing poised and proud in the midst of newer and fresher competition. Its looks stood the test of time really well, still looking slick even after a few years since its release. As such, the Mazda 3 2.0 R is still one of Go Flat Out’s top picks for a compact sedan, especially to buyers who think that the journey is the highlight of the trip rather than the destination. With this Mazda 3 2.0 R Sedan priced at P1,270,000, it also remains to be one of the best value among compact sedans. While some cars fade into the background after years of existence in the market, the Mazda 3 2.0 R Sedan continues to shine among its peers.
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★☆☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.4 out of 5