Mazda 3 will “zoom, zoom” into your heart

Mazda3 is a vehicle that exceeds expectations, from its impressive fuel economy to its sophisticated ride and handling to features that are rare or exclusive in its class like available adaptive high-intensity headlights

2016 Mazda 3 five-door sedan

Rating:Star5 Star Star Star Star

Price as tested: $30,270

Engine: 2.5-liter, 184-horsepower four cylinder

Mileage: 30 city / 41 highway

Curb weight: 3,028 pounds

Zoom zoom is right. We finally have definitive proof that affordable compact sedans don’t have to be boring to drive. And that proof lives in the 2016 Mazda 3. The Mazda 3 exceeded my expectations on every level from the moment I saw it. Available in both four- and five-door body styles, this sleek looking compact sedan screams speed and offers premium features typically reserved for class-above cars.

Mazda3 is available with a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter engine or a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter engine. Either engine can be paired with a six-speed manual or available six-speed automatic transmission. The test car had the 2.5-liter 5-door with the grand touring package, which with the $1,800 “appearance package” shot the 3 from a base price of $17,845 to a whopping $30,270 with $920 dealer delivery charge. The appearance package gives the 3 and extra sporty look by adding a front air dam, side-view mirror caps, a real spoiler and bumper skirt and side sill extensions. New for Mazda3 Touring is the available “preferred equipment package,” which adds 16-inch alloy wheels, bright beltline trim, heated body-color dual power door mirrors with integrated turn signals, premium cloth-trimmed sport seats, a rear-seat armrest with cup holders, auto on/off headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and blind spot monitoring.

The Grand Touring package also adds an auto-dimming interior mirror, dual-zone (driver and front passenger) automatic climate control system, Bose nine-speaker surround sound system and SiriusXM satellite radio with four-month subscription, and a CD player. Navigation and heated leather seats are also standard. But it’s the experience from the driver’s seat that really makes the compact car shine. Sure, the 3 isn’t the most powerful car in its class, but no matter which engine you pick, you’ll be more than pleased with the results. Both bring solid performance and better responsiveness than most compact cars.

Overall, driving the Mazda 3 is a completely satisfying experience. The sedan’s sporty lines and athletic look only add to the excitement. However 3’s sexy curves do slightly impact the interior cabin space. Yet all that fun and excitement hasn’t harmed the new Mazda 3’s safety record. The sedan has been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, and all models are fitted with six airbags: front and side bags for each front-seat passenger, and side-curtain bags stretching the full length of the cabin. There also are several systems that use a combination of camera and radar-based sensing to assist and alert the driver in potentially hazardous situations.

And the 3’s new automatic braking system, which will prepare the brakes and alert the driver when a collision is eminent, is a feature rarely found on affordable sedans. The 2016 Mazda 3 also offers impressive fuel economy of up to 31 mpg on city streets and 40 mpg on the highway.

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