2017 Mazda3 Promises a Better Drive, as If That's What the 3 Needs and Consumers Want
Mazda sales representatives across the United States finally have the golden ticket for all of those eventual Honda Civic buyers who walked out the door before even test driving a Mazda3.
“When the driver maintains a constant steering angle, GVC immediately recovers engine drive torque, transferring load to the rear wheels to enhance vehicle stability,” Bill will tell his next up, quoting Mazda USA’s press release. Says Joe to the young couple expecting their first child: “The extremely subtle amount of deceleration force added by GVC normally amounts to 0.01 G or less.” Tom, with a patronizing over-the-glasses glance at the fixed-income senior citizens across the desk, says, “GVC demonstrates its effect consistently over a wide range of driving situations, regardless of the driver’s level of skill.”
GVC, or G-Vectoring Control, is the next step in Mazda’s Skyactiv-branded technology. G-Vectoring control debuts on the refreshed 2017 versions of the Mazda6, a chronically unpopular midsize sedan, and the increasingly uncommon Mazda3, sales of which have tumbled by nearly a fifth since the car’s 2012 peak.
To be sure, the 2017 Mazda3’s G-Vectoring Control will be yet another step forward for a car that is arguably the best-driving compact car on sale in America already. By claiming greater front-tire grip, quicker and more precise control, and enhanced vehicle responsiveness and stability, Mazda is doubling down on the 3’s areas of expertise despite a large degree of consumer rejection for a car which already excels in those very areas.
In search of success, Mazda doesn’t need the 3 to steer and handle better. But let there be no doubt, Mazda will try to sell you a 2017 Mazda3 which steers and handles better.
By emphasizing GVC, I didn’t expect Mazda to also deliver precisely what the 3 needs — a massive dose of refinement made apparent by sharp reductions in noise, vibration, and harshness — in a mid-cycle refresh.
Mazda nevertheless make claims on that front for the 2017 model, but Mazda doesn’t appear to have aimed high. “The 2017 Mazda3 is a substantial 3 dB quieter at 25 mph over rough roads, thanks to tighter body gaps and improved sound insulation,” Mazda says, citing internal studies.
Yes, if you’re going slow and the roads are rough, we have internal studies which suggest the new 3 will be quieter than the old 3, Mazda seems to be saying.
Mazda also notes improved ride comfort from a reduction in “jolt sensations.” Modest interior alterations — new steering wheel, electric parking brake, a better heads-up display — are unlikely to be noticed by the typical buyer who also won’t be able to spot changes to the 2017 Mazda3’s exterior.
But Mazda is most keen on pointing out the merits of G-Vectoring Control, a software control system which Car and Driver initially said, “just feels as if it makes the steering a little heftier.” After more driving, K.C. Colwell clearly came to recognize the benefits, but questioned how Mazda would manage to inform the typical compact car buyer. I would question whether a car that already features a measure of genuine performance credentials (which mainstream buyers are intent on avoiding) should initially reveal itself on a test drive with heftier steering.
From the standpoint of someone who believes the Mazda3 was the best small car on the market prior to the dawn of G-Vectoring Control — that’d be me — an improved Mazda3 will continue to stand tall as a car I can happily recommend to friends and family. But don’t expect the 2017 Mazda3’s G-Vectoring Control to dramatically alter sales results. Mazda is on track to sell fewer than 100,000 3s and fewer than 45,000 6s in America in 2016, down 8 percent and 25 percent, respectively, year-over-year. (Brand-wide Mazda volume is down 7 percent in 2016.)
G-Vectoring Control isn’t able to instantly change the U.S. Mazda dealer network, about which TTAC’s B&B so vociferously complains. It also won’t instantly flip Mazda’s dreadful 30-percent loyalty rate, just as recommended ratings from Consumer Reports don’t instantly alter the collective consumer’s beliefs regarding Mazda reliability.
G-Vectoring Control does, however, instantly become standard equipment on all 2017 Mazda3s and Mazda6s. Making Mazda USA viable on a larger scale will take time. “It will likely be early in the next decade before all the pieces come together from a product standpoint,” TheDrive reported in July after a conversation with Mazda’s North American CEO, Masahiro Moro.
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