By on April 10, 2017

2017 Mazda 3 5-door – Image: Mazda

Mazda hasn’t always proven capable of winning hearts and minds in the U.S. marketplace. But in buff book comparison tests, Mazda possesses a recipe for success.

Possessed.

Nine months ago, for instance, a 2016 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring spanked the Nissan Sentra and scored substantial victories over the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze LT and 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited in a five-car Car And Driver comparison test. Only the 2016 Honda Civic EX came close. Car And Driver was quite right in pointing out the Mazda 3 overachieved “in a world where excellence isn’t always rewarded with sales.” TTAC’s east coast reviewers came to the same conclusion four months ago.

Indeed, U.S. sales of the Mazda 3 fell to a 10-year low in 2016. Now, with sales in 2017 on track to fall to a 13-year low, the Mazda 3 has lost a comparison test.

And not just to one car, but two.

Time isn’t the only factor that’s worked against the Mazda’s favor. In Car And Driver’s last Mazda 3 comparison test victory, the magazine was exploring sedans, and the 3 faced off against its top challenger — the Honda Civic — with a base engine against a base engine. 2.0-liter vs. 2.0 liter.

In Car And Driver’s April 2017 comparison test, however, hatchbacks take centre stage, meaning Honda delivered its excellent 1.5-liter turbo.

The 2017 Mazda 3 Touring 2.5 was simply not able to perform at the 2017 Honda Civic Sport’s level.

Plus, there was a 1.8T-powered Volkswagen Golf in the test.

With 203 points, the Mazda 3 didn’t lose by much, trailing the Golf by only three points and the Civic by five. (The Chevrolet Cruze was 31 points behind the Mazda.) And Car And Driver didn’t shy away from complimenting the Mazda.

The steering is pure satisfaction.

The interior matches with upscale trim and controls that fit into your hands like plugs into sockets.

In the real, eight-tenths world of traffic and guardrails, the Mazda makes time with a confidence that fully masks its humble ­asking price.

But complaints about rear seat space, limited cargo volume, and busier ride quality came to the fore.

So did the relative lack of urge from the naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter, 184-horsepower four-cylinder.

At a glance, the 3’s 2.5-liter engine was the most powerful in the quartet, with the most horsepower and the most torque. But the 177 lb-ft torque peaks in the Cruze and Civic arrived at 2,000 and 1,900 rpm; the Golf’s 184 lb-ft peak at 1,600 rpm.

Not until 3,250 rpm does the 3’s torque climb Everest.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback - Image: Honda

With each car entering the test equipped with a manual transmission, the Golf accelerated quickest from rest to 60, the Civic was quickest to 100, and the top-gear acceleration from 50-70 mph was 4.5 more seconds slower in the Mazda than in the Honda.

Meanwhile, the 3 has the lowest EPA fuel economy ratings in the test and the Civic — the real performer of the group — achieved the best real-world fuel economy of the test.

Nine months ago, the Mazda 3 was a marketplace loser and a comparison test winner. Now the 3 is losing on both fronts.

The good news for Mazda? In a market that’s quickly becoming anti-car, Mazda’s crossover trio is up 16 percent to 34,386 sales through the first-quarter of 2017. The CX-3, CX-5, and CX-9 form half of all Mazda sales. This momentum is obvious even before the next edition of the CX-5, already Mazda’s best seller, arrives this spring. As U.S. auto sales slide 2 percent compared with 2016’s record results, despite rising incentives, Mazda USA volume is up 7 percent.

Among non-luxury brands, only Mitsubishi, GMC, Volkswagen, and Subaru are growing faster.

Perhaps a comparison test loss for a third-generation Mazda 3 that’s now in its fourth model year is finally a pill that’s easier to swallow.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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142 Comments on “The Mazda 3 Can Lose A Comparison Test, Apparently...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    “Not until 3,250 rpm does the 3’s torque climb Everest.”

    Oh dear. Fetch me the fainting couch. My manual-equipped “sporty” compact may require more revs than a Cummins.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      lol @ ajla and +1.

      If you are buying a Mazda then you darn well better enjoy rowing your own. That’s why Mazda builds such sweet shifting manual transmissions.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        The manual in the Mazda is better than in the Honda, and this is coming from a Honda guy.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          Seems many people disagree. C/D did prefer the Mazda though.

        • 0 avatar
          u2haveaniceday

          Ty mine is Sport 2006 Mazda3 fully loaded I had 3 choices a Honda Subaru And Mazda 3 went with the Mazda but I liked all 3 for what I was looking for it served it purpose.but I do have to say where I live.I see many driving a Honda and they are known for the car that just keeps going so I would not knock it and kids love the car.i still like my car but I definitely would not count the Honda out.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      Are you having a bout of Female Hysteria?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Thanks for the laugh…LOL.

      But they do have a point when it comes to torque in compacts. In everyday traffic, it makes a big difference.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        It makes a difference, but outside of staged tests, all in Mazda’s favor. 3250rpm for peak tq, is fairly low. As in daily driver optimized. As in, where the ideal passenger car engines of all times, BMWs vaunted NA I6s, peaked. Noone half sane who wants to accelerate fast, drives around below that.

        1600rpm in a small gasser, is for idling around looking for parking, or sitting in traffic. And then you want predictable, instantaneous, levels of torque and backtorque. Not, as in turbos, path dependent torque. Where you, for the same position on the accelerator, sometimes get a lot of tq, sometimes none for a second or two. Sometimes no engine braking, other times a bit more, all dependent on what you did a while ago.

        Not that I necessarily recommend driving that way, but tailgating within an inch or two of the car in front in stop and go traffic, is sooo much safer and easier with a precisely fuelled NA engine (and a manunal transmission, of course.)

        And you still have power when you need it. Just a flick of the wrist away.

        Kind of like a powerdrill with two or more speeds. Instead of have to fidget around, clumsily trying to drive a little electronics screw, with your industrial sized hammer drill.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          If you don’t think it matters, drive a manual equipped 3 and a 1.8T Golf manual around in traffic and you’ll change your mind. I did.

          And I say that as a guy who shopped the 3 (which was actually the car I thought I was going to buy) and Golf heavily, and ended up with a 1.4T Jetta. All that turbo torque makes a HUGE difference in everyday driving. My Jetta makes effortless power around town, and I don’t have to wind the engine out to do it. Drop to second around 3,000 rpm, and you get instant torque. A Golf with the 1.8T is even better. The numbers don’t lie – the Golf’s almost a second quicker to 60 than the 3 in this test.

          Ask the man who owns one – it makes a difference, for sure. It’s even more pronounced with an automatic transmission. Try it for yourself if you don’t believe me.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            FeedMike I think you’re missing the point that stuki is making, which is a fair one. It relates more to throttle/power precision rather than debating what makes more or less power down low in absolute terms. Now it might be that the latest variable vane/twin scroll (I’m not up on who uses what) turbo with modern drive by wire throttle mapping can iron all of that out.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Just curious, gtem…have you driven one of the new compacts with a turbo, and compared it to a naturally aspirated one, in around-town traffic? If you do, you’ll see the difference immediately. The numbers don’t necessarily convey the sensation.

            Try some out and you’ll see what I mean. The Mazda and Golf from this very test would be an excellent example.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            FreedMike not with a manual, but I’ve had a Jetta SE (1.4T or 1.8T?) with the automatic, and a Passat 1.8T, no manuals unfortunately. On both I found the an annoying little second of lag before the power came on strong, that very well might be down to transmission programming, but it sure felt like a bit of lag and then a big rush of torque. Again, only on initial throttle application from a stop. Certainly either one blows my humble 1.8L Civic 5spd out of the water in terms of around town power and response, but that little initial delay was rather annoying.

        • 0 avatar
          cgjeep

          So I have an 04 E46 wagon and wife has a 16 GSW so I get a lot of seat time in both. Both are automatics though. The BMW is smoother, and makes nicer sounds. The VW is marginally faster in a stop light race but in everyday driving it feels much much quicker than the BMW. BMW really needs to be rung out. That is fun while purposefully doing spirited driving but a bit of a chore in the daily commute. I commute with kids and I have to go from stop and go traffic to the fast moving HOV lane. The 5-30mph punch in VW is much quicker and makes it less stressful.

          With the automatics not exactly fair as the VW has 6 speeds and the BMW 5. Their performance numbers are similar but I think the BMW does it with lower gearing and that makes fuel economy suffer. So the BMW gets 20mgg in everyday driving while the VW gets 31mpg. My wife prefers the engine dynamics of the VW all the time and for 70% of the time I do too.

          Edit: mine is the M54 (189 hp) at 6000 rpm and 181 lb·ft of torque at 3500 rpm.

        • 0 avatar
          newenthusiast

          “3250rpm for peak tq, is fairly low. As in daily driver optimized. As in, where the ideal passenger car engines of all times, BMWs vaunted NA I6s, peaked. Noone half sane who wants to accelerate fast, drives around below that.”

          ?????

          I don’t think I’ve been above 3200rpms ever. I cruise on the highway at 2100rpm or so, and when accelerating never get much above 2700.

          My wife’s current BMW 135 and her former 325 did 70-75mph below 2000 rpm. Both are inline 6 engines.

          Maybe she gets it up that high under hard acceleration, but not as an ideal driving condition.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            A turbo would make more sense if the 114 hp that the 2.5L provides at 3250 rpm is inadequate for someone who doesn’t like to use the full rev range. It all depends on how you like to drive.

            Once the engine is warm, I go over 3200 rpm pretty much every time I accelerate when there’s nobody in front of me. 1-2-4 and 1-2-5 are the typical shift patterns in that scenario. I enjoy winding out an engine with linear power output and have hit the 6500 rpm power peak on my Mazda3 many thousands of times.

            The 2.0L in the current Mazda3 peaks at 4000 rpm. You’d never be below that when you’re driving hard anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I was going to say, a 3250rpm torque peak is impressive as heck for a N/A 4cyl in a compact car.

      • 0 avatar
        Der_Kommissar

        Exactly. The n52 inline 6 in a BMW hit torque peak at 2850, and this engine drives much like that one did. It’s not quick like a turbo, but it is fun like an older school NA engine can be. It’s the civility of the car that holds it back. And the fact that its a hatchback that you can’t get a decent size stroller into.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Touche!

          As far as passenger car engines go, the relevant metric is: How close is it to an NA BMW I6. Not how “fast” of a crude appliance it is.

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          @Der_Kom

          Is it really that bad? We can fit a Baby Jogger City Elite into the hatch of our ’10 Mazda3 without an issue, though there isn’t really room for much else after.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        You’re right, gtem – there’s nothing wrong with the 3’s engine per se, but it really suffers in comparison to, say, a Golf. In everyday driving, a Golf (or my Jetta, with the smaller turbo) feels a lot quicker. And the performance stats bear it out – the Golf’s almost a second quicker to 60 than the 3.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          Part of the reason the Golf is quicker to 60 is that there’s 1 fewer shift required because it’s a 5 speed.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            You’d probably hit 60 in third in the Golf if you were doing an all out sprint. Not sure how much difference the fifth gear would make.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            2nd gear in the Golf is good up to 68 mph. The Civic’s goes to 58, and the others are 61. Depends how fast you shift, but the Golf still has plenty of revs left once you hit 60 in 2nd.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Good point, I’m going off my Jetta, which gives up around 25 hp to the Golf, so I’d probably be in third by 60. The trick is to keep the engine in the torque band.

            But going by the the test results, both the 3 and the Golf hit 60 while in second gear, so I don’t know if gear changes had much to do with the 3 losing that race (which it did, by over a second). The quarter mile race was a lot closer, which tells me the Golf was stronger at lower speeds (again, the torque), but the 3 has better high end power.

            But as someone who’s driven both cars (and almost bought a Golf), I can tell you the Golf *feels* a lot faster, and the speed is effortless, whereas in the Mazda, you really have to wring the engine out to get max power. I think that’s where a lot of the perceived “noise” issues for that car start – you have to drive it harder.

        • 0 avatar
          TDIandThen....

          Thank you guys for this discussion, it puts words to why the Mazda always felt ‘meh’ to me on test drives compared to my Golf. Could never figure out why people were cracking up over the Mazda shifter but then I figured it was because I was too used to driving a diesel or something.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      3,250 RPM peak torque is OK when you have a lot of torque. The Mazda does not have a lot of torque.

      High revving engines are fun when winding the engine out is a choice. I mean my 350Z was not exactly a top end screamer, but it was faster than everything on the road revving to ~4K. So I had the choice to rev out or just chill. With the SKYACTIV NA mainstreamers, unless you are OK sticking with traffic, you cannot just chill. You don’t have that choice.

      And FWIW the 1.8 TSI is underrated. It puts down about what it’s rated at the crank at the wheels. Combine that with the superior fuel economy and it’s really no contest. It’s not like SKYACTIV engines are zingy or great sounding. Given the choice, I’d go for the 1.8 TSI over all the smaller turbo engines in the segment as well. I had a Golf 1.8 TSI and a Jetta 1.4 TSI for rentals and the 1.4’s power delivery was a lot lumpier with a worse engine note.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Actually, I really like the engine note in my 1.4T Jetta. Just sporty enough. And with the windows down, it lets off a cool turbo whistle. YMMV.

        But somewhat agreed on the power delivery. It’s very easy to catch the motor napping at low revs with the manual (which I have). The automatic I tried seemed to do a better job of minimizing this, but I just didn’t want an automatic.

        • 0 avatar
          993cc

          I wish VW would offer the 1.4Tsi in the Golf wagon as a higher gas milage alternative for those (both?) of us who don’t care so much about power, want a wagon, and can’t get a diesel anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            The TSI engines are not far off from the old diesels in power. I bet they could tune them to that end.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    all that is evidence of is that buff book “comparison tests” are worthless.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d say their observations are pretty much spot on. The last Civic the 3 beat had the 2.0 NA engine, and a CVT. Whole different ball game there.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        for 0.0005% of car buyers, that is. Enthusiast myopia strikes again.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          No, all it means is for performance oriented buyers – i.e., the folks who buy their magazine – a 1.5 turbo Civic is a better bet than a 2.5 Mazda 3. I’d agree.

          I’m sure the readers of “Cars Suck As Anything But Transportation” magazine might choose a Corolla. But I don’t see that mag on the rack over at my grocery store…perhaps because no one would buy it…

  • avatar
    threeer

    The Civic may outperform the Mazda and in some areas, the Golf…but I am 47 now and don’t want/need my car to look like a teenager’s winged wonder. I love manuals and hatchbacks, and I used to be as big a fan of Honda as the next guy, and while styling is strictly subjective, I just can’t when it comes to the new Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      I turned 46 yesterday. I’m no longer willing to pay for tickets and increased insurance premiums. I still like to drive at 5 over the limit on a country road, holding that through a few corners when the sight lines are good and there are no families with stollers to hit. AND I want to be able to carry some things in the back. I’m not willing to sacrifice utility for the sake of fast and furious aesthetics. The Golf comes closest. I miss the high-roof offerings like the old Forester, Civic wagons, etc.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “rear seat space, limited cargo volume” – If I want to haul, I don’t buy small car…

    So Mazda few points behind, huh? Now, add to it reliability factor and Japanese ‘3-2.5 will be in outer space vs English Civic hatch and Mexican VW

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Mazda’s problem is that the competition in the segment, namely the Corolla and Civic, offer livable rear seat space for most. Not that it’s a huge volume player, but the Jetta offers a cavernous rear seat considering it’s technically a compact.

      The hatch has cargo space issues too, not being as wide or deep as the trunk in sedans. it does make it up in height and opening size though, but for an average airport run not being able to load 2 suitcases side-by-side is an annoyance.

      I have a previous generation 3 and the space issue is my largest complaint after road noise now that I have a kid that needs hauling on occasion. It’s not a dealbreaker and I’ll be hanging onto it for another couple years, but the other compact options are significantly more livable as an only vehicle for more consumers as a result.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        The room in the back seat is tiny in the Mazda. The Corolla and Civic and of course VW is cavernous back there in comparison. I compared and drove them all.

        • 0 avatar
          tbone33

          I think this generation of 3 finally has adequate rear seat room. It seems like as cars get bigger, so does everyone’s view of how much rear legroom is needed.

          VW does it right when it comes to interior space. Move the rear seats back to increase legroom at the expense of trunk space. Also, have the rear window be vertical to allow for more trunk space up top.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “VW does it right when it comes to interior space. Move the rear seats back to increase legroom at the expense of trunk space. Also, have the rear window be vertical to allow for more trunk space up top.”

            FWIW The Jetta’s trunk at 15cu ft is near the top of the compact class, albeit a quick googling shows that the MKV had a big 16cu ft which is properly midsize. My ’12 Civic only had 12.7cu ft and it was noticeably inadequate every once in a while (I have a 4Runner for big hauling so it was never critical).

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “If I want to haul, I don’t buy small car…”

      I did want to haul and did buy small car. Because Mazda cramped and loud, Mazda got no sale and stayed in Japanese outer space not my driveway.

      Seriously, the Mazda3 is a lovely car in a number of ways but it has real drawbacks, and running to their defense every time someone legitimately points them out doesn’t change this.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        For me, it boiled down to the deal. I wanted something to lease, and Mazda’s program wasn’t very good.

        On a buy, a 3 with the 2.0 might well have been the car I settled on. For $19,500 or so (before incentives) it’s an epic bargain. At a minimum, at a lower price point, the 3’s product flaws become far less objectionable. It works better as a fun-to-drive, cheap everyday compact than it does as a $25,000 GTI wannabee.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          The performance of the 2.0 engines in the Mazda and Civic are both really impressive for their size and market position.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I never did get to try a 1.5 turbo Civic but the 2.0 was definitely good enough to make it a finalist for me last fall. As long as the styling works for you…which it did for me, but YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          sutherland555

          FreedMike I with you on that. I get what Mazda’s trying to do by putting the 2.5 in the 3 but it’s a hard sell at the higher price point. They’re a small company so extra sales with minimal investment helps out the bottom line though. The 3 with the 2.0 is very competitive at the lower price point.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        “running to their defense every time someone legitimately points them out doesn’t change this.”

        Nor will putting down every non-Mazda car out there, which is what most of Slavutas comments consist of.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Point here – what drawback are important to whom? I drive 95% alone. For family trips I have Highlander. My car doesn’t need space in the back. But I really want to puke when I see Civic’s dash. I like the way ‘3 goes though corners, how it steers and how its clutch and shifter operate. For me, this is more important than having rear legroom, etc. This is why I will always pick ‘3 in the current situation. civic has many drawbacks too. The multimedia screen alone in Civic worth kicking it off the list

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I can’t argue about the styling, Mazda has Honda beat there. I don’t have an automotive Chrystal ball so I cant say who’s more reliable.

          Considering what you look for in a 3 I think a Miata would work much better.

        • 0 avatar
          gwlaw99

          I couldn’t agree more. The interior of the civic looks and feels cheap. It has no coherence with angles in every direction. Having to use the touch screen for everything is terrible. Even the steering wheel volume control is a bizzare haptic touch slider. The hatch is also really ugly. Dont even get me started on how bad the CVT is. I can understand buying the civic if all you care about is room, but that’s the only thing better than 3.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        I think I’m still almost the only person here whose problem with the Mazdas is “they’re ugly”…

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Oh brother.

      For starters we got an English Civic- the EP3 hatch- and it was just as reliable as all the rest. And various VWs have made CR’s recommended list, including my Rabbit which has given me 4 relatively trouble free years.

      Secondly, if rear seat and cargo space don’t matter, you don’t buy a 3, you buy a Miata.

      Fanboism is a disease, and I’m glad people are beginning to speak honestly about Mazda. They don’t make bad cars, but the 3 is not the jizz-in-your-pants feedback machine people tout it to be, especially compared to the competition. I’m still reeling with disappointment after my time with one. When you take that away all it really has in the segment is the best interior… which matters, but isn’t everything.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        @sportyaccordy

        you are really funny, OK? Civic hatch only sold for 3 days and you already know, it is reliable. I have 10 and 11 ‘3, 95 and 73K miles (not km), and they keep going with little maint and no issues. I am familiar with Civic/Corolla reliability, I had honor to take these cars through nearly 200K. But also Protege. you don’t need to start with VW reliability. This is cul-de-sac. I wonder what other cheating devices they placed in there…

        I am too old to be a “fanboy”. I just get into the car and the one that drives better is mine. So far ‘3 drives better than Civic. slower… how slower, .5 sec slower?

        Miata? Oh no. That is a car that you can drive for an hour. Unsafe in case of crash. I was thinking Chevy SS, Camaro, Mustang, something with substance. Miata is for metrosexuals.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          “Civic hatch only sold for 3 days and you already know, it is reliable..”

          And you know it already isnt reliable, so….

          As far as the Miata goes, I dont see what makes anymore/less manly than an economy-box, just sayin’

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            No, I don’t know how reliable it is but I know that nothing reliable came from England.

            Ok, again, Miata is a torture to be in. In Mazda 3 I have 8 inches of space between door and my leg. In Miata not so much. In Mazda3 I can lie down and sleep at lunch, in Miata there is only 1 seat position. I took 6 hour non-stop trips in Mazda3 and came out without back pain. Good enough

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          No, I was talking about the EP3 Si, which sold for 4 years (02-05) and was as reliable as any Honda built in the US or Japan.

          Clearly you are emotionally invested in the Mazda brand, which is fine I guess. But don’t let that emotional investment put you out of sorts when you hear that someone doesn’t like Mazdas as much as you do. They’re not that good.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      Our new 3 came from Japan – but the dealer had 3’s in GT trim (meaning the 2.5 motor) from both Japan AND Mexico on the lot when ours came in. Apparently this is new – only the 2.0 cars were initially being built in Mexico. No longer the case.

      I read a story about the Mexican plant after it opened in ’14, having a ton of teething problems. It took VW forever to get its Puebla operation straightened out – they new turn out cars built just as well as Wolfsburg there – but I’d much rather have a Japanese Mazda at this point, with the Mexican operation still being so new. Thankful we got one from the homeland.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Kevin, at this point there are still plenty Japanese ‘3 out there. Surely, the numbers will fall but as long as they build them in Japan, you will be able to see then in US occasional. that was the case with Camcords. For years, even though wast majority of them were built in US, you could spot few made in Japan. It will depend on consumption of ‘3 in other countries. If other countries demand more, there will be some shipments into US from Japan.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        First I’ve heard about this. I thought the 2.5 was the safer buy, but I guess you have to check that VIN now. It’s too bad that Mazda is offering less choices now, but they did have a pretty ridiculous number of combinations when the 3 came out. Either engine/trans could be combined with 3-4 trim levels.

        Oddly enough, there’s only a $100 difference between the Touring 2.0 and 2.5 now. There’s got to be something else that’s different, otherwise that’s the upgrade deal of the century right there.

        Edit: Ah, it looks like the 2.0 Touring only comes with the automatic, while the 2.5 gets you the manual.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    That Civic is a mess from the rear door handle back. No matter how well it drove, all that good feeling would be lost when I would be constantly throwing up in my mouth every time I looked at the rear styling.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Except for the rear styling, it looks like Honda was trying to copy the Subaru Impreza/WRX.

      • 0 avatar
        ShoogyBee

        The new Civic hatch looks like something that Mitsubishi designers from the mid 1980s (think Starion, Cordia, Galant, etc.) might have come up with if they were still designing cars in 2017.

      • 0 avatar
        ShoogyBee

        I’ll also add that if there will be a replacement for the Acura ILX based on the new Civic platform, there’s good reason to make the Civic appear to be less sophisticated and mature… it’ll build some value for the ILX’s higher price.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Every time I see that Civic I involuntarily break the 4th Commandment. I was passed up by a white hatchback on Saturday night and let out a quick “Oh, God!”

    And not the good kind either, more like the kind that escapes when you stumble upon a corpse during the morning jog.

    There is such a thing as too ugly. Doesn’t matter what her personality is if you can’t look at her.

    On a good note, I no longer shudder when I see a WRX. Suddenly that ugly wallflower doesn’t look so bad.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    So, if they start losing comparos, might their sales start going up?

    /reverse psychology

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    When I bought my new car last fall, I drove the 2.0 and 2.5 versions of this car pretty extensively. If you look at the actual performance stats here, you’ll find the 2.5’s performance envelope is only slightly better than the 2.0’s, and the 2.5 costs around $3,000 more. This more or less confirms the same conclusion I came to: the 2.0 is the best way to go here.

    The 3’s perceived power deficit is also more pronounced with either engine when it’s equipped with an automatic. Manual is definitely the way to go.

    This car makes a far more compelling argument for itself with the 2.0 and a manual at a sub-$20,000 price point.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      When C/D tested the automatic versions the Mazda was faster than the Golf in pretty much every metric.

      caranddriver.com/comparisons/2016-mazda-3-25l-vs-2015-volkswagen-golf-18t-tsi-comparison-test

      What elevation do you live at?

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Keep in mind that is the 2.5 Mazda3 in that test, not the 2.0.

        The question is whether the performance of the 2.5 over the 2.0 justifies its pricing premium. In that comparison (using highest available trim level) the prices were the same, (Golf having higher base price), but the 1.8 TSI is of course the engine found in the base Golf.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Good point, ajla – maybe the automatic is the way to go on the 2.5. Or maybe C/D got a ringer (possible, since the transmission in the 2.5 is nothing special). Either way, every test of the 2.0 and 2.5 manual has them both around 7.5 seconds to 60.

        And when you do a 2.5 automatic, you’re looking at a $25,000 pricetag, at which point you’re now up against cars like the GTI, FoST, and even the WRX. The pricetag doesn’t really justify the performance, and all the “refinement” issues inherent in the design get magnified.

        I just don’t see the value proposition on the 2.5 either way.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Maybe I need to drive a 2.0 manual. I’m out of the market but I was crushed with disappointment from the 2.0 automatic. If you want an automatic hatchback that won’t make you wince, the Golf is it. They handle about the same and the Golf’s engine is godly by comparison. I rented a Golf and 3i at essentially sea level and the 3i was an absolute dog. Let me not say that, I have a whippet mix that is pretty quick…. point is the 3i was very slow.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The manual 2.0 is quite a bit faster, but for me, it’s more in character with the 3 in general. The car’s basic “personality” is that it’s direct. It’s unfiltered. Some people see that as “lack of refinement,” but I don’t think it really is – it’s just that the 3 has a pretty strong “flavor” over the road that Mazda’s not covering up with sound deadening. They want the driver involved. I’d argue that approach works better the cheaper the car is. Thus, the 2.0 with the manual.

        Try one out. It’s one of the best “have fun and go slow for cheap” cars I know of. If it’d been a decent lease deal, that’s the one I’d have gotten. But the residuals on the 3 suck, and that translates into higher lease payments.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          I’ve had my fill of “slow car fast”. I beat the crap out of my poor Civic. Just today I had to get it towed…. junkyard engine swap stemming from a spun bearing had some kind of electrical problem. I think riding a motorcycle has acclimated me to a baseline of accessible performance I don’t like to go under, especially during A/C weather…. plus with the bike at one extreme of engagement and refinement it’s nice to be able to go to the other end. So I think my G37 is a better fit.

          If I got another “slow car fast” kind of car I’d really love to build an Excocet Miata, or just get an old Miata, strip it out and drive it with ear plugs.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Car and Driver is a good source of standardized performance stats and light entertainment, but if you’re going to buy a car based on their tiresome groupthink rather than your own set of priorities, you’re a dope. So I wouldn’t be too concerned that the 3 lost a comparison test, because it will cost Mazda 0 sales with a margin of error of +/- 0.00%

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      my wife and I shopped these last year and preferred the Golf a little bit over the 3. So I think they might be spot on here. We would have been happy with either one but the Golf was just more refined. I preferred the handling of the 3 but was going to be the wife’s car. Then the extra space of the wagon made it not even close. Though in 3-5 years may wish we got Mazda. The new Civic wasn’t out yet but based on its looks we never would have considered it. Looks like all of the old Pontiac designers got jobs with Honda. Wow is it ugly. I was parked next to one at a light and even the wheels are “stylized”

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        In 2010 I cross-shopped the Mazda3 with the Jetta Sportwagen. Bought the Sportwagen and never regretted it. The extra rear seat and cargo room was essential, the additional refinement and noise control was delightful. I think Car and Driver preferred the Mazda back then, but their opinion of either car never entered the equation.

  • avatar
    5280thinair

    That engine is one of the reasons I crossed the (admittedly heavier) Mazda6 off my list when car shopping a few months back. You really do need to shift a lot to keep it in the power band, and even when you do it doesn’t feel all that powerful. I imagine the engine probably is fine in the 3, but the 6 was just too much car for it to haul around (and there was no engine upgrade available.)

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      How different was it from everything else with a 2.4/2.5 in the midsize segment? We have a 3 with the pre-skyactiv 2.5 and I’ve never had an issue with it power-wise. Apples to oranges if you’re comparing it to V6/turbo competition though.

      I’m asking because I’m shopping midsizers next time around and was not even considering the larger motors due to fuel economy and entry price.

      • 0 avatar
        zoomzoomfan

        It’s not. The 6 is actually quicker than its similar (4 cyl. auto) competition. 0-60 in 7.3 seconds. The people crying about it not having enough power are mad because it doesn’t have an optional turbo or V6 like the others (Accord, Camry, et. al.) do.

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          That’s what I thought. I’m lucky enough to have a fun car for when the weather calls for it, and I’ve never had an issue with ~180hp in a midsizer to this point.

          This would be my commuter anyway, so as long as it can cruise at 75 and idle at 5 (I do both every morning and afternoon, thanks DC beltway) without incident I’m content.

        • 0 avatar
          5280thinair

          “The people crying about it not having enough power are mad because it doesn’t have an optional turbo or V6 like the others”

          I liked a lot about the Mazda6 (handling, interior space, etc.) but the relative lack of torque compared to its turbocharged competitors, plus being noticeably more noisy inside than most competitors, hurt it. This wasn’t theoretical tire kicking; I needed to buy a car if it hadn’t been for these two issues I might well have bought the 6 instead of what I ended up buying. I’ve owned a Miata for a long time and really wanted to like the 6 but felt competitors were more compelling. Another 40 lb-ft of torque (even if it cost a grand or two more to get a turbo) and a bit more sound insulation and it would have been different.

      • 0 avatar
        5280thinair

        “Apples to oranges if you’re comparing it to V6/turbo competition though.

        I’m asking because I’m shopping did sizers next time around and was not even considering of the larger motors due to fuel economy and entry price.”

        The Mazda6 was similar (or slightly better) than other cars with similar power plants when it comes to power and acceleration. The problem is that competitors offer turbo motors in the same general price range. Those turbos can get similar fuel economy when you use a light foot, but have *much* superior torque when you put your foot down. The Mazda6 I test drove was fun so long as you kept it on the boil, but in traffic at lower revs was kind of lethargic to respond. (The situation was likely exacerbated for me as I live in the Denver area and the altitude saps power from naturally aspirated motors more than it does from turbos.)

        That sort of behavior is fine in a sports car where the point is to stay really engaged with the driving experience at all times. It’s not (for me, at least) so great when you’re using the car as a family hauler and you’ve gotta drop two gears to get it into the power band to take advantage of a fleeting hole that opens up in traffic.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Bleh, even when the Mazda looses their writing comes off as pure fluff. Gotta keep the advertisers happy somehow.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Tim really is trying hard to find something to attack Mazda on. First it was that sales were falling, now that they are increasing it is poor reviews (as if that mattered to the Corolla!). It is an older vehicle than the Golf or the Civic and it barely loses – the point is?

    I wonder if Tim will deign to reply as he seems to reply very rarely to comments compared to some of the other authors on this site.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      There’s also the part about being the co-author of a comparison test between the Civic and Mazda that the Mazda won, linked to above and below.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/12/comparison-test-2017-honda-civic-hatchback-vs-2017-mazda-3-5-door-grins-matter/

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      You are still taking anything less than gushing praise of Mazdas as a personal attack I see.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        The 3 Key Points of being a Mazda owner:

        1. None shall speak ill of Mazda, for they are nothing more than heretics .
        2. All non-Mazdas suck, Mazdas are only the best of cars.
        3. Only FWD Japanese built Mazdas are REAL Mazdas.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Well, I’ve owned two (’93 Protege twincam, and a ’88 323 my ex had when I married her), and neither gave me reason to bad mouth the brand.

          • 0 avatar
            zoomzoomfan

            I’ve owned 3 Mazdas (had a 2008 Mazda3 and currently have a 2013 CX-5 and a 2016 6) and all 3 were/are very good cars but I won’t deny that they have some serious competition in this market and they can’t rest on their laurels lest their market share shrink more than it already has.

            I LOVE my 6 but I can’t deny that the Accord is just as good, if not a slightly better, car. I just wanted a 6 and that’s what I got. I’m stubborn like that.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            A fair take. Never mind my screen name, I haven’t owned an an Accord in nearly a decade. But the current car is really good. I enjoyed an Accord LX more than a non-Sport F30 328i.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          At zoomzoomfan:

          Bah! How dare you be…level-headed and logical!

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Not at all. I am personally not a fan of the 3. It looks odd as a hatchback and is small. It has been outclassed by newer competition (huge surprise). Rather my comment is about Tim’s choice of article. I await his “Subaru Impreza sucks in sales AND reviews” article!

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          Might be a long wait, Mike978. Impreza sales are up 22% for the year thus far (and up 35% for March of ’17). Yet it’s only a paltry 8th for sales of small cars in March. Maybe Tim is waiting for the Impreza to drop to 14th in sales with a 7% drop in sales for the year which was evidently his trigger for this post on the Mazda 3.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Tim does write frequently about Mazdas. My perception is that it’s because he likes Mazda, and finds it somewhat baffling that their cars sell so poorly in the U.S. They’re quite popular up here in Canada.

      As an O.G. Mazda3 owner myself, with many close friends who own Mazdas, I feel the same way. When the first-gen Mazda3 briefly overtook the Civic as Canada’s best-selling car in the mid-2000s, it seemed only logical to me. It’s been my clear choice during every round of compact car test-driving I’ve done since it was released. I can’t say I was a fan of the second-gen styling though. It would have made me consider other options more seriously.

      Too bad about the propensity to rust, of course. But since I coat the insides of my fenders and doors in Rust Check twice a year, I have no visible rust on my ’04 yet, while I’m now regularly seeing many makes and models of the same period with obvious rust.

  • avatar
    robc123

    I think the the 3 is not selling because mazda has terrible pricing and financing/lease terms.

    the interest rate needs to be 0 to 0.99% and the price for the top 3 model needs to come down a couple grand.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Or you know arrange your own financing…

      Mother-in-law just bought a new vehicle and arranged credit union financing so she could play it off the dealers rates. Ended up going with the credit union.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      For the Mazda 3 in my area, Mazda is offering 0% for up to 5 years plus $500 on the hood, or $1,500 and BYO financing. Same offer on the 6, which I took advantage of last month.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Financing terms are OK, but when I tried working a lease deal on one last year, the payment was way too high.

      Low residuals are to blame.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    So Mazda3 is slow, rough-riding, noisy and cramped? It has always been that but the auto journos always loved them. How it can lose to something as downright ugly as the Civic hatch is a mystery, but I can see the Golf beating it handily.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I love civic hatch but… I hate instrumentation, dash and software. Mazda 3 is damn rough riding brilliance. And BTW, the tires take most of blame. Fitted my ‘3 with Pirellis and half the noise went away.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Could it be that the Mazda 3 is fading because it’s become so down-right ugly? Reminds me of a Kissing Gourami fish.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    Car magazine writers are terrible judges of cars for their intended audience. Which ever one has the stiffest ride usually wins, and so that’s why Mazda tends to do well in comparison tests.

    If a car narrowly lost in a hatchback comparison and one of the reasons was the ride was too rough, it must be a miserable car to actually use day to day. Which might be why Mazda as a brand hasn’t done all that well. Not everyone wants a car that rides like a Miata for their daily driver.

    • 0 avatar
      xtoyota

      I sure agree with your statement

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I believe that Mazda doesn’t do as well because they can’t compete with others in incentives. They have some of the lowest incentives. Honda, Toyota and Hyundai/Kia are huge companies vs Mazda. + dealer network is an issue. I don’t think, this is ride. In my area we have good number of Mazda dealers and correspondingly, I see them Mazdas everywhere on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      I can assure you that it doesn’t ride like a Miata. Firmer than a Golf? Yes, we have one for direct comparison. But harsh? No. I’d call it sporty-firm. Not punishing at all.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        In fact, I had a Civic and we added Protege to our lineup. Civic was so much harsher. Protege thought me that good-handling suspension doesn’t need to be harsh.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I just shopped around for a 3 GT manual and compared it to a Civic Sport and GTI. I ended up with a 6 Touring manual.

    From my enthusiast perspective, one thing the Mazda 3 offers that the regular Golf and Civic hatchback do not is the availability of stick shift on a fully loaded model. If you have to have manual on the Civic or Golf, you are stuck with a Golf S, Golf Wolfsburg, base 2.0L Civic LX or featureless 1.5T Civic Sport. The Golf and Civic can get much more comfortable but only with CVT/Automatic.

    When I say fully loaded, I mean the Grand Touring trim with the ability to option-in the iActiv Safety Package and adaptive LED headlights. The availability of the saftey package alone with the manual transmission puts the 3 in rare territory. Find me a brand new car in the USA that pairs active cruise control with manual transmission and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I won’t hold my breath.

    Those, in addition to full leather seats, proximity key, nav, dual zone A/C, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, that already come with the Grand Touring trim.

    I just bought a 2017 6 Touring manual, and was bummed that Mazda does not offer the same trim and options on a manual 6. You cannot get a 6 Grand Touring in manual, nor can you get a Touring manual with any options. Confusingly, the 6 Touring automatic is able to be optioned up a little with the safety suite and lighting package.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      The 6 would be on my short list for next vehicle except for its odd option packaging. The lack of heated seats in the touring trim even with one or 2 of the extra packages is a non-starter for me.

      I can see that potentially impacting the new CX-9 too (at least for top trims), since it seems to be the only thing in the segment that doesn’t offer a pano sunroof or cooled seats (at nearly $50k!).

  • avatar
    KevinC

    There’s a brand new Mazda3 GT hatchback in the driveway right now. Less than 300 miles on it. My girl’s Golf TDI gets bought back on April 20th. She ordered the 3 in November and it was just delivered recently. She wanted a full-zoot GT, but also wanted a 6MT, hence the factory order – they are pretty rare fully loaded and manual. But Mazda is just about the only game in town if you want such a configuration – manuals are generally limited to lower trim levels with everything else in this segment.

    She shopped the Civic, Mini, some Kia hatchback that was an absolute turd, and considered a Golf 1.8T. The 3 wins out in the looks department, by a country mile. Subjective of course, but I don’t know how anyone can embrace the looks of the new Civic – it’s just awful. She also wanted xenon or LED lighting after having the lighting package on her TDI – this also eliminates the competition. The Mazda has new-for-17 LED adaptive lighting that’s nothing short of incredible. Totally puts the xenons on my Golf R to shame.

    Yes, the 2.5 gasser doesn’t have the grunt that the diesel motor had, but in everyday driving, for what we’ll be using it for (lots of road trips too), it’s more than satisfactory. And the interior is very nice for this segment, including nice leather and other nice touches. The 6MT is great, though clutch engagement is very high and seems highly damped, like just about every other manual on the market nowadays. It’s as if they’ve dumbed down clutch engagement for people who can’t drive sticks – even though the only ones of us left know exactly how to drive them or we wouldn’t be clinging to them. Oh well, relatively minor nit. We’re thoroughly satisfied with the 3 so far.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    All Mazdas with a hatch look like they’re straining to become clown-shoe BMWs.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      It’s mainly due to the exhaust system design. They use a “bundle of snakes” header that requires extra length and space due to its long-tube design. It ups both power and efficiency compared to a more compact header.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      It does look a bit strange. They took a beautiful long-hood RWD body, and then moved both axles back 10″ on it, resulting in a handsome design with awkward proportions.

      I probably like it more than I should simply because it replaced the ugly second generation.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    The nice thing about a modern turbo-gas engine is that you can drive them like diesels and easily keep up with traffic while getting fantastic fuel economy. I usually shift up in my Mini Cooper S at 1800-2000 rpm and am in 6th by about 35mph, and I get 36+ mpg in mixed driving. The previous generation base Mini had a normally aspirated engine with much less power and much higher torque peak, so to keep up with traffic you need to rev it much higher than the S, and when you do that the mpg drops to lower than the S. That is why everybody is converting to turbos – Mazda will eventually as well.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I had a rental Golf last week with what I found out was the 1.8T. Since it was a blue plain jane rental and I haven’t paid much attention to regular Golfs I was expecting the 2.slow behavior of generations past. That 1.8T would easily burn the tires and had a lot of linear pull. I was surprised as I had never even bothered anything spirited with a Golf prior that didn’t have a GTI or R badge on it.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    4 time Mazda owner here.

    I was in the market for a cheap, fun, manual transmission car to replace my Camry V6. Can’t do the automatic anymore.

    I just drove a Mazda3 hatch, manual, 2.0L. Brand new, and the interior smelled like coolant. It drove nice, but was pretty basic, and you get a horrible little digital tach unless you get the top of the line model. But the coolant smell, that was the biggest turnoff.

    Ended up with the new Elantra Sport for $800 more than a basic rental car grade Mazda3 2.0L sport. Whatever driving dynamics advantage the Mazda3 has over the Elantra Sport (as a causal enthusiast, I don’t see a huge difference), it’s not worth giving up heated leather seats, HIDs, Android Auto, Apple Car play, a much better warranty, BETTER BUILD QUALITY (no coolant smell, not made in a new Mexican factory), and an engine with respectable power (190 lbs-ft of torque @1,500 rpm).

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Not surprised on the Elantra Sport’s pricing – around here, the more basic models are being advertised for five grand off.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        It’s A LOT of car for the money.

        I’ve always been a Honda/Mazda/Subaru guy and would’ve never considered a Hyundai, but the Elantra Sport was really compelling.

        We’ll see how it holds up.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Interesting. You should do a write up on it.

          I looked at a more basic Elantra late last year and it was darn nice. Loved the app integration. Plus, they skipped the CVT.

          But trying to get lease-deal figures out of the two dealers I was working with was almost impossible (it was always “come on in, we’ll figure it out,” which translates into “let’s see how many high pressure closes we can do on you,” and I ain’t for that life).

          In the end, I didn’t really like it enough to move forward.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            I am going to wait and see what Elanra GT ought to be?

          • 0 avatar
            nels0300

            I’ve only had the car for 2 days, but I can share what I think so far.

            A little context:

            I’ve owned 14 cars now, 12 of them manual. Integra, LX 5.0L Mustang, 6sp Accord V6 sedan, Prelude Si, Mazda 626, Protege, 3 and 6, etc, I’ve had some fun cars.

            I wanted out of a Camry V6 automatic for cheap. I was resigned to getting a cheap, sporty-ish, econo-car with a manual transmission. Something under $20K and NEW. Wasn’t expecting anything fancy, just wanted a manual transmission without taking out a huge loan. Don’t want used, been there, done that.

            I looked at the Corolla Im hatchback, made in Japan, available with a 6 speed. Made in Japan Toyota, this thing would last forever. This was the car I was going to get, it can’t be THAT slow. Then I drove it, it is that slow. The manual transmission wasn’t very good. It had a very weird clutch, the catch point was almost at the top of the pedal’s travel. The clutch needs to be adjusted, it doesn’t feel right. Twin Cities street price: $17.9K.

            OK, on to the Mazda3. The 2.5L model is more than I want to spend, so that’s out of the question. Didn’t like the idea of the 2.0L models being made in a new factory in Mexico, but I convinced myself that it should be OK now with a few years under it’s belt. I checked out a Mazda3 sport hatchback with the 6 speed manual. The fabric on the seats looked wrinkled, the fabric wasn’t pulled tight when the seats were made. Same thing with the carpet in the rear hatch. Not looking good so far. I drove it and it smelled like coolant inside of the car. Like the heater core was leaking, or they spilled coolant during manufacturing inside of the dash. Didn’t like the tiny digital tach, the the way it looked with the 16 inch wheels, the plastic steering wheel and shift knob. I really like Mazda and I felt bad that I didn’t like this car more. Street price: $17.7K

            Can’t do the Civic, looks too weird, even though everything else about the car sounds great.

            As much as I want to, and I’ve been THIS close after driving a GLI in 2014, can’t do VW, I am too much of worry wart.

            I still can’t believe it myself, but I looked at Hyundai. I found that the Sport model Elantra, not just the regular model, fit within my price range.

            I drove both the Elantra Sport DCT and the 6 speed. Didn’t care for the DCT, I found it to lag.

            I fell in love with the 6 speed right away. Part of it surely is that I was so glad to drive a decent manual after suffering for 3 years with a modern 6 speed auto. On the other hand, I’ve had many cars with good manual transmissions, Mazdas, Hondas, and this one is just fine. It’s really nice to drive, the clutch is light, and not hard to drive. It’s good.

            The ride is pretty nice for a car with 18 inch wheels and 40 series rubber, but you have to realize, it does have 18 inch wheels with 40 series rubber. It’s not super quiet, and I have a feeling it’s all the tires. The base Mazda3, even with it’s tall sidewalls seemed louder.

            The gauges are really nice, basic, analog, tach and speedo, with bright white illumination and red needles. Straight Audi rip-off and I love them.

            It sounds like it has an aftermarket exhaust, but not obnoxious, just a mild little burble. It sounds nice, I like it.

            The engine sounds OK, not bad. Coming from a 2GR-FE, it sounds like a smooth 4 cylinder that makes whooshing sounds.

            The power is pretty good. Put it in 6th and just cruise on the freeway, no need to downshift on hills or for passing. Unlike the Camry V6, and like all modern turbos, it has low end and mid range power. Balls out, the Camry V6 feels like it would destroy the Elantra Sport, but in regular driving, the Elantra surprisingly feels more powerful. Turbo torque is really nice in every day driving.

            The base audio unit sound quality is great, nothing in it’s price range comes close, but Android auto is buggy, doesn’t work with a Galaxy S7.

            Heated leather seats, HIDs, LED tailights, smart trunk, keyless entry, push button start, android auto (buggy)/apple car play standard.

            5/60 bumper to bumper warranty, 10 year 100K powertrain warranty.

            Street price: $18.5K.

            So that’s that. That’s how I ended up with a Hyundai. Sheesh, I need to slap myself to see if I’m dreaming.

            Car and Driver is correct, the GLI/GTI are more polished, but even at sticker price, they’re thousands more.

            The others in the Elantra Sport price range seem like the proverbial penalty boxes in comparison, which I was OK with to get out of the ass automatic. I was swayed by the turbo torque, warranty, and amenities of the Elantra Sport, Hyundai nameplate be damned.

            I have my fingers crossed that it’s not too good to be true.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            Yeah, that tach is ridiculous for anything with a manual. It can only really be used to relate engine rpm to speed and then remember where the shift points are on the speedometer, because there’s no way you’re going to be able to track that out of the corner of your eye at full throttle. It’s also difficult to determine precise values at the lower end of operation, in that 1500 rpm area where you need to choose appropriate gearing and speed to cruise efficiently at steady state city speeds without lugging the engine.

            http://image.automotive.com/f/2016_mazda_mazda3/152268764/gauges.jpg

            The GT, on the other hand, has my favorite instrument layout, just like the RX-8. Big tach right in front of you with a small but clear digital speed display housed within.

            http://image.automotive.com/f/news-1312-automotive-com-editors-pick-our-five-favorite-cars-tested-in-2013/55716755/2014-mazda-3-gaugesjpg.jpg

            Even the CX-5 has a decent layout. Why couldn’t they have at least done that with the 3?

            http://tinyurl.com/kdmxba3

            Plus, there’s no temperature gauge anymore. The first gen still had a real one!

            Congrats on the Elantra. I’ll have to drive one sometime.

        • 0 avatar
          ShoogyBee

          Did you get the DCT or manual?

    • 0 avatar
      ijbrekke

      We bought a 2016 Elantra GT for my wife. $16K-ish out the door and it came with a warranty deal that extended everything out to 10 year/100,000 miles (the whole car, not just power train).

      If you look at Truecar prices the Korean brands simply can’t be beat. They easily give you the most car for the money.

      My impressions of actually driving it: More power than most compacts, well equipped, overall comfortable. Has two big flaws: lack of believable steering feel (all 3 modes don’t feel right) and the suspension tuning feels far less sophisticated than most Japanese brands. Otherwise it’s a darn good car. Best of all, my wife is very happy with it.

  • avatar
    ijbrekke

    Owning any Mazda is like living at an amusement park. It’s really, really fun the whole time you’re in the mood for it. Then there comes a point when you’re over it, but all the noise and activity happening around you doesn’t just go away, you have to live with it. It’s exhausting and makes you dislike amusement parks. The road noise, un-sophisticated suspension (not handling, ride quality), and occasional whiffs of cheapness just flat-out suck and clearly are not necessary in a modern vehicle. People talk about the nice interior, but get the car above 45 mph and it becomes very clear where the money was spent.

    Also, the pricing structure on the 3 hasn’t made sense since the day it was released. The 2.0 is always on the upper end of all budget car offerings because of MSRP+lack of regular incentives, and the 2.5 is trying to compete with a GTI, which is just a bad idea. When I bought my 6 a big part of it was that I could get the 2.5 for thousands less.

    Take away the “fun-to-drive” quality of the 3 (something other brands are quickly catching up to) and maybe their gorgeous red paint, and what can Mazda claim over the larger brands? The 3 doesn’t have a silver bullet.

  • avatar
    Rday

    In a previous life I had two mazda’s. One was a van and the other a 323. 323 was just OK. Pretty basic and worked. the van was a problem with many squeaks that were annoying. I think Mazda time has come and gone. they compete in a busy category and don’t have a van, a pickup or a hybrid. So they are just another ho hum company picking up what the big boys give to them. Not too many dealers and i guess their resale is not that good. So unless you can get a hell of a deal, why bother???

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Stuff like this is why I read TTAC. Real people discussing their rides/why they like them/why they bought them. On a lighter note; would I be able to walk after 10hours in a Miata?

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I’ve done over 600 miles in a day in my ’99 just for fun and achieved my goal. From what tiny amount of time I had in the new one, it’s far better.

      That said, don’t expect it to be a completely serene ride. Miatas are noisy, especially with the top down, and like with motorcycles, earplugs help if you’re going to be on the road for a few hours. If you’re over 6′ tall, you’ll find the Miata’s cabin to be a compromise. At 5’9″ I have no issues with the seat a couple of clicks from all the way back.

      If you’re looking for a car in which to zone out and be extremely comfortable for hundreds of miles at a time, the Miata will disappoint you. If you want an intensely involving car which gives you just enough practicality and livability that you can get away with making it a daily driver, while looking for any excuse to take it for a spin when the sun is shining, it’s a rewarding car.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I’ve done 6 in an S2000 with racing buckets and harnesses driving to VIR. I could walk afterwards. I would imagine a Miata would be more pleasant.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    Rode once in a previous gen Mazda 3 a few years ago with a friend. Tried the current gen 6 for giggles 18 months or so ago.

    A lot of car for the money, but too loud (engine, road, and wind noise,) too stiff, couldn’t find a seating position I liked, wheels are too big……

    They look more refined than they actually are.

    I will say that if the 5 had the old Speed3 engine in it, I’d probably have done that when I bought my current vehicle. I’d live with the noise for that kind of acceleration while loaded with stuff.

    And a friend of mine owns a CX-9 and it is decent. But it has 20″ wheels when 17 or 18 would be fine. So, again, noise and feeling every bump are concern for her.

    I get that they are catering to a niche segment, but they can’t do that and expect to have sales more in line with, I dunno, Subaru, or something.

    It doesn’t surprise me that the 3 loses comparisons. It surprises me it wins any. I wonder sometimes if the people who test cars for a living have any clue what consumers actually want from a car?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      There are many different types of consumers, and Car and Driver caters to those who enjoy communicative steering and chassis setups, and using every rev that an engine can provide. It’s somewhat of a niche market. There are plenty of other sources for the more sedate drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Too-big wheels are an industry standard at this point if you want anything besides a base model. I’ve never seen a dealer that wouldn’t be willing to swap the high-trim wheels with base ones from another one on the lot to close a sale. It also means they can charge the buyer of the base model extra money for the upgraded wheels, so it’s a win-win for them.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Really? Every dealer I ever mentioned switching wheels with gave me some sort of runaround. No no, we can’t do that, the wheels are coded to the car! Uh, yeah…

  • avatar
    don1967

    The problem with all of these ragazine shootouts is their obsession with ranking things in numerical order, as if one car is “better” than another in absolute terms. They are also obsessed with “new”, in much the same way as a child throws aside Woody in favour of Buzz Lightyear.

    Although spoiled by my daily ride (an increasingly obsolete but exquisitely solid and comfortable Volvo S80), I can honestly say that there’s a place for each of the three compacts which also grace our driveway.

    The Mazda3 is a youth car, for those who want style and go-kart handling and can tolerate a little extra road noise. You’ll need to wire in some extra 12v outlets, and overlook the annoying “smart” key that requires you to dig out the remote to unlock the doors and then put it away to start the engine. But if you want a cool and practical (especially in hatchback form) car with some street cred, this is a great choice.

    The (2011-16) Elantra is for those who seek cutting-edge design with lots of features, and who don’t spend much time on broken pavement. The car won’t win any performance comparisons, but it does have a veneer of sportiness that some will enjoy. Build quality is at least as good as the Japanese. Ours still feels new after six years, with no squeaks or rattles or visible wear.

    The Sentra is for those who seek a smooth and relaxing commute. It’s roomy, nicely-finished, and the much-maligned CVT actually does pretty good Buick impressions at 1/4 throttle. (If you have to ask about the other 3/4, then this car is not for you.) It’s my least-favourite of the trio, and yet the one I would pick for extended use.

    Having recently rented a Corolla I was surprised at how unappealing it was on every level. Slow, noisy, clumsy ride, cheap finish, rattles, etc. Not sure why it still has a cult following, but it does and I guess that’s worth something.

    Bottom line is that all of these cars are reliable, and easy on the wallet in terms of depreciation and operating costs. Drive them all, choose the flavour you like best. And for gawd’s sake tear up that C&D magazine.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I don’t think anything is wrong with the ragazine comparisons as long as you take them for what they are- entertainment. Anyone who buys a car based on a C&D comparo deserves whatever they get.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    Both of these cars are newer than the Mazda3 and I’d say the Civic is one of the most improved cars in any class in recent memory. The last couple generations were really average cars. This one is class-leading.

    Just for fun, I wish someone would have the guts to throw something like the Mercedes CLA into a comparison test with the best of the compact car segment. I feel like so many of the things that reviewers might find wrong with a Mazda3 or Golf or Civic (ride quality, noise levels) would also be shortcomings of the CLA that can cost twice as much.


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