2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door Grand Touring - Quick Review

2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door Grand Touring - Quick Review
2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door Grand Touring: the Zoom Zoom compact family car

(Contributing Editor: George Straton)

In 1938, Ferdinand Porsche designed an simple, efficient, affordable small family People's Car for a national road network conceived for theoretically unlimited speeds.

Almost 8 decades later the United States never did get public roads designed for unlimited speeds. Fuel became a lot more costly.

But that didn't mean that small family cars couldn't be attractive, well made, practical & efficient. And, at the same time, ENGAGING TO DRIVE.

WHAT: 2016 Mazda3 i 4-door Grand Touring manual

2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door GT: at night
2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door GT: at night


Over The 5-Door (Hatchback): Sedan has a trunk. Front to rear overhangs appear more proportionate. Lower drag coefficient & improved front / rear weight distribution for slightly better fuel economy.

In Looks: Same swooping "KODO" language low nose rising to high arching fenders, making even 16" alloy wheels seem diminutive. Low cowl & sharply raked windshield. Sloping rear backlight meeting high notchback yields 4-Door Coupe profile. Think 5/6ths Mazda 6 mid-size family sedan.

WHY: For the more discrete look; Trunks are practical; JINBA ITTAI; DRIVING MATTERS.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late fall 2015

WHERE: Mazda new car dealers

WHERE MADE: Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan

HOW STRONG: 2.0L DOHC direct injected gas I-4 / 6-speed manual gearbox combo is so willing that 29 hp > optional 2.5L isn't missed; Feels quicker than 8 second 0-60 run. Powerplant is same screamer [turned lengthwise] in ND 2016 Mazda MX-5.;But newly improved insulation makes cabin oblivious to posted 2500 rpm on the tach; 4th & 5th gears have short enough ratios to avoid mucho downshifting. Such positive lever action means never missing a gear shift; Clutch pedal takeup is smooth; Brake to accelerator pedal placement pair well for heel to toe action.

HOW LIMBER: Electric assist steering rack is overly sensitive at speed, but delivers abundant road feel; Front strut / rear 4-link independent chassis resists roll in fast cloverleaves; It forgives hard braking well into a hairpin: A heavy front driven nose threatens of understeer at 8/10ths, but grip ample for confident quick turn in; Initially tepid brake travel response must be regarded. Damping is compliant without heaving.

HOW FAR: Mazda says EPA says 33 mpg combined. We say 36 mpg; Almost 500 miles on a tankful of 87 octane gas.

2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door GT: trunk/ cargo space
2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door GT: trunk/ cargo space

HOW BIG: Generous cabin leg and elbow space despite short wheelbase; Low front cowl for improved outward sight-lines.

HOW LITTLE: Sloping roof shaves some rear seat headroom; Rear outboard bucket seating bunches center position.

HOW USEFUL: Trunk fits 2 full size and two carry-ons; That's before folding down rear split seat backs; Thin door panel & large Bose speaker housing deplete door pocket storage; Glove box adequate; Smart phone size tray is fore of shifter; 2x USB ports 1x 12V power outlet inside front center armrest bin.

HOW SAFE: earns IIHS 2015 Top Pick Plus trophy: 8 airbags, Lots of high tensile steel; Driver assist technology: BSW, Rear camera w/ park gridlines, Rear Cross traffic warning.

HOW FRIENDLY: Spirited-driving suited, leatherette/ contrasting red-piping sport front buckets; Entire dash top & upper door panels are pliable; Tilt & extending leather-wrapped helm & shifter knob sized right; Redundant media switches need more distinction; Conflict between simulated brushed metallic accents, piano black bezels & faux carbon fiber surfaces; Triple channel door seals and thicker glass have improved cabin muting.

2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door GT: cabin instrumentation, controls
2016 Mazda3 i 4-Door GT: cabin instrumentation, controls

Primary pod analog speedometer is ELD, with glowing red LED halo, flanked by bright, concise TFT tach and MFD, but still a bit sun-glare prone;

√ 7"-inch LCD media display is mounted high atop the center stack the better for every surrounding vehicle to gawk at; Never quite sure when to spin, depress or toggle center console rotary command controller;

HOW "APP" -LICABLE: Not sure when Mazda's future Android Auto and Apple Car Play infotainment interface update will happen; For now: Pandora, Aha & Stitcher each must be separately sync'ed to corresponding smart phone apps; Bose Centerpoint 265 watt audio isn't significantly louder than base unit.

HOW MUCH: $23,435 , including HDD GPS Navigation and BSW, Rear CTW. This year saw a much needed price drop and content increase across the Mazda3 line.

WHAT'S MISSING: Nothing other than less nervous steering on center. More distinguishable steering wheel spoke switches.

ANY COMPETITION: Volkswagen Jetta TSi , spiritual successor to original People's Car. Not MCA exhibit worthy. Like the Mazda3 i, it has a fully independent suspension; (So do the re-designed 2016 Honda Civic and about to be discontinued Dodge Dart .) Jetta rides more compliant and has less fussy steering; However, Jetta's manual transmission is somewhat sticky 5-spd offered only on lower trims; New Honda Civic sedan resembles a hatchback. It's front seat comfort is narrow, with a steep bottom cushion, gauges distractively digitized. Despite Civic being a sweet handler, ride isn't that forgiving, optional 1.5L turbo engine is slightly laggy, and steering wheel disproportionately large.