Want to know the true reason why nobody should suffer driving a car they don’t love?
And also the reason why car shoppers are fools to make up their mind online instead of on the test drives?
The shining example for both is the delightful 2018 Mazda3 GT. Here is a car that will hit 35-mpg on the highway and keep your payments easily below $300 a month. All while having truly fun performance and actual torque to keep you ahead of traffic!
Driving the Mazda3 for a week is like a slap in the face or a dunk in cold water for those who’ve been driving joyless machines day in and day out for far too long.
Amazing driving position, cabin refinement and tech to go along with your mid-20’s pricing ballpark? An intriguingly pure and sexy design language outside that is future-proofed with the best (optional) full LED lighting front and back?
And finally, the Mazda3 in 5-Door form even brings the excellent practicality that comes from a hatchback with fold-down back seats.
In short, the Mazda3 is the perfect antidote when you are sick of gutless engines that rev for days but make no power. When sick of understeer and sensation-free steering. And when you want the premium sense of quality that is not evident in many midsize cars these days.
Drive the Mazda3. You will thank me later!
Here we have a very enthusiastic performance drive review video and a few dozen photos to share.
Section headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing round out this love-fest.
One of the things we mention in the above drive review is how cool and special the Mazda3 feels on the road. You can really tell that the driver picked this car for him or herself, and didn’t just have it foisted on them by a family-member or as a company car. Even VW Golfs these days do not have the cool and non-conformist vibe that this loaded Mazda3 has in spades.
The loaded-up example certainly helps to make the core design shine. Larger anthracite-metallic 18-inch alloys, special $200 snowflake white paint and the optional LEDs make for a seriously chic look. (More on these below)
These dress up what is already a cool and unique design. Both the Mazda3 sedan and 5-door look pretty great these days, but the 5-door is extra special in profile and from tail angles. The bodywork is just so shrink-wrapped and sexy that it’s hard to believe there is practical cargo space and rear headroom in there! But there is indeed.
Subtle creasing across the front and rear fenders is visible in certain lights from some angles, and it looks damn classy and elegant (…for a hatchback…)!
In fact, there is the swoopy, low-roof brilliance in this design to recall the sportiest wagons out there, such as the new Panamera Sport Turismo – which shares almost this exact silhouette. Versus a Golf?
Mazda3 is much more Scirocco-slinky than Golf stodgy in its pillars and glasshouse.
The cabin of the Mazda3 made a perfect first impression on this driver with its seating position and perfect touchpoints for the controls. The ultra low dashboard is premium and calm, and looks downright classy with the parchment white leather upgrades of the test car.
Steering wheel falls perfectly to hand and the shift paddles feel like extensions of your fingertips.
You sit low and ensconced in the car – unlike any recent Focus we’ve tried! – and the seats are absolutely perfect for long-haul comfort and holding you in place around corners. Great bolsters and support.
The one caveat that takes a few days to master? The central control knob that operates the radio and nav system does take a bit of time to familiarize yourself with. You will indeed learn it and it becomes second nature to adjust your radio presets and nav stuff, eyes-free with your right hand while left stays on steering wheel. And eyes on road!
We also lamented the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – but Mazda has fixed this and is adding these features to most of its cars as a midyear update.
The only other place Mazda3 feels like a compromise versus stale mid-size sedans? The back seat. It is indeed kinda tight on knees and hips in the back of Mazda3 versus Mazda6 or Camry.
Mazda3’s have two motors available: the base 2.0-liter or the uplevel 2.5-liter on our tester.
We really expected the Mazda3 to be slightly slow even with this larger engine, just from driving the same setup in larger Mazdas.
But no! Praise the Mazda gods, even the six-speed automatic is game to hustle.
The 2.5-liter makes 184HP and 185 pound-feet of torque, which is plenty to hustle the 3 off the line with some tire squeal and also plenty for passing at highway speeds. It genuinely feels pretty rapid versus some compacts, and the sport mode on the torque-converter automatic really delivers. G-vectoring control is on duty to balance out the handling feel around corners, and it all just works together brilliantly.
Mazda3 is a seriously fun car to drive in traffic as well as on twisty two-lanes.
Base pricing for the Mazda3 is about $18k but this 5-door Grand Touring automatic stickers from $25,790 (with $875 delivery charge included.)
The options on our test car did make us love it more, and are definitely worth considering. $200 for that white paint, $75 cargo mat, $100 rear bumper guard and $125 sill trim plates are the main standalone options.
The largest option pack is the $1600 Premium Equipment group that includes nav, paddle shifters, adaptive front lights with LEDs, cornering function and auto highbeams, heated steering wheel and active cruise w/ lane-keep assist.
All in the total is $27,920 and feels like brilliant value.
We start waxing romantic toward the end of the drive review video above. Noting that the Mazda3 doesn’t just seem like good value in theory. But we, your humble scribe writing in second person, might actually spend our “very limited personal monies” to own this car.
It is that good.
Rewarding to drive, satisfying to own and bringing a joyful mood to even the most humdrum of roads and on-ramps.
Mazda3 is a terrific machine.
It turns out that Mazda3 is not just “The best Mazda can do...” as noted in above video.
It is the best compact hatch available for 2018.
Go drive this car!