Mazda3 Sport hatch­back a heck of a ride

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - AUTOS - By Rob Roth­well

NOW in its third gen­er­a­tion, this week’s Mazda tester pushes through the econ­omy car en­ve­lope while re­tain­ing its econ­omy car pric­ing.

I was greatly im­pressed with the up­scale at­ti­tude and sporty driv­ing dy­nam­ics of my 2014 Mazda3 Sport GT tester. Bear in mind though, the car I drove was far from the base unit, and was tagged at $26,855. With freight and de­liv­ery charges, plus taxes, the quote for own­er­ship es­ca­lated to $32,116. Of course, many of the at­tributes I so ap­pre­ci­ated in my GT trimmed ex­am­ple are found in the base Mazda3, which is pinned at a more rea­son­able $16,995.

While the Mazda3 has al­ways been a top con­tender in the econ­omy class, it tran­scends that bar­rier for 2014 with dramatic styling and a re­worked cabin, while rid­ing on a new plat­form with an in­creased wheel­base. The ad­di­tional stretch be­tween front and rear wheels trans­lates into more in­te­rior legroom, in ad­di­tion to im­proved ride/han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The ex­te­rior lines of the Mazda3 now swoop and swoon un­der the aus­pices of KODO, Mazda’s new across­the-board de­sign lan­guage in­spired by the di­vin­ity of “Soul in Mo­tion.” The re­worked body is cer­tainly more artis­tic than the for­mer, though I’m not sure I find it more ap­peal­ing. That in­de­ci­sive­ness is all but an­ni­hi­lated when it comes to the spa­cious cabin.

The ma­te­ri­als lin­ing the ren­o­vated liv­ing space, and the qual­ity of its con­struc­tion, el­e­vate the Mazda3 to heights that were once the do­main of ve­hi­cles such as the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

I found the front seats in my GT tester to be re­mark­ably sup­port­ive and com­fort­able and long enough to pro­vide ex­cel­lent thigh sup­port, some­thing that’s gen­er­ally in short sup­ply in econ­omy-class ve­hi­cles.

More than seat­ing, it was the straight­for­ward lay­out of in­stru­men­ta­tion and Mazda’s HMI (hu­man ma­chine in­ter­face) con­troller and ex­ter­nally-mounted screen that won the day for me. This in­fo­tain­ment in­ter­face is su­pe­rior to sim­i­lar ex­e­cu­tions in far more ex­pen­sive rides, yet it’s stan­dard fare on the GS and GT vari­ants.

In ad­di­tion to HMI, the GT also re­ceives more heat un­der the hood as stan­dard equip­ment, along with a voice-ac­ti­vated nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem and a heads-up driver in­for­ma­tion dis­play. Re­gard­less of which trim level is se­lected, the Mazda3 is fit­ted with the full scope of Mazda’s SkyActiv econ­omy- and per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing tech­nol­ogy.

While the GX and GS ver­sions of the Mazda3 make do with a 2.0-litre SkyActiv four-cylin­der en­gine dis­pens­ing 155 horse­power, the GT puts forth 184 horse­power. This car is beau­ti­fully bal­anced, with near-per­fect driv­ing dy­nam­ics, and it in­cor­po­rates out­stand­ing struc­tural rigid­ity, such that I looked for rough patches of pave­ment just to feel how ef­fec­tively it ab­sorbed the degra­da­tion without an ut­ter­ance of ob­jec­tion from the chas­sis or un­der­pin­nings.

And yes, it did this far bet­ter than many pre­mium rides I’ve driven.

The com­bi­na­tion of the for­go­ing height­ens the Mazda3’s driv­ing plea­sure be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions, and my ex­pec­ta­tions were high for this car, hav­ing driven the se­cond gen­er­a­tion model a num­ber of times.

Mazda has elim­i­nated torque-steer from the front-wheel-drive setup and man­aged to in­fuse the chas­sis with en­er­getic han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics that put merit in its “Sport” nomen­cla­ture. And it did this without com­pro­mis­ing ride qual­ity.

My tester steered and tracked with deft pre­ci­sion, never be­com­ing un­gainly or re­bel­lious in the process, which added to the rush of push­ing the prac­ti­cal five-door hatch when the stars aligned. Too bad the full “sport” ex­pe­ri­ence is cur­tailed by the ab­sence of a man­ual gear­box. This would be an ideal sled for a clutch and stick; hope­fully that chasm will be bridged soon.

The Mazda3 is rel­a­tively quiet on the road. My GT ver­sion with twin ex­haust ports de­vel­oped a pleas­ing note un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion — a req­ui­site nod to its GT-ness — prior to set­tling into a sub­dued, re­fined op­er­a­tional mode. It ex­ploited the best of both worlds without over­com­mit­ting to ei­ther.

A fi­nal note be­fore wrap­ping Mazda’s prac­ti­cal yet en­gag­ing com­pact must go to the car’s brak­ing abil­ity. A closed-eye drive would’ve had me guess­ing the pedal to the left of the throt­tle was of Ger­man her­itage not Ja­panese, and that’s about as good as it gets for a pseudo econobox.

Though my GT First Steer tester eclipsed $32,000 all in, it’s still a bar­gain in the af­ford­able com­pact class. This car looks, feels, and drives be­yond its price tag, and thanks to its SkyActiv tech, de­liv­ered fuel econ­omy of 8.8 L/100 km in the city, which I thought was pretty de­cent con­sid­er­ing my in­sen­si­tiv­ity to such mat­ters be­hind the wheel.

The Mazda3 Sport GT looks, feels, and drives be­yond its price tag, and it also de­liv­ers ex­cel­lent fuel econ­omy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.