The Hamilton Spectator

2024 MAZDA 3

Sport Review

- By Jay Kana

The satisfying thud of the driver’s door closing. The soft leather seats. The minimalism of the infotainme­nt system and HVAC controls. The low rumble of the engine coming alive. The astounding audio from a Bose speaker system.

I haven’t driven an inch yet. But these things are already making me a fan of this car.

Once I shift to first gear, Mazda’s precise driving qualities shine. (There’s an automatic available, too, of course.)

The farther and faster I drive, the wider my smile becomes. The upmarket Mazda 3 glides me through urban and rural road.

And it does so for far less money than a traditiona­l luxury brand.

Mazda’s dedication to blending premium vehicles with excellent driving dynamics shines through in its hatchbacks. In most cases, subcompact­crossover buyers could choose this five-door alternativ­e. In a world where manufactur­ers are toting crossovers as the best thing, the Mazda 3 Sport (the carmaker’s term for a hatchback) is an excellent alternativ­e.

Of all its strengths, versatilit­y is its biggest asset; you can opt for frontwheel drive, all-wheel drive and allwheel drive with a turbocharg­ed engine.

The base model is well dressed and my second from the top GT trim tester has more than enough features, from safety to convenienc­e.

Yes, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla come in hatchbacks but neither offer the value of the Mazda 3. Sure, it won’t outsell the Civic or Corolla, but for those looking in this segment, the Mazda 3 is hard to beat.

Unfortunat­ely, for now, there are no hybrid/plug-in hybrid offerings; it’s gasoline only. That will change at some point.

In its front-wheel drive version, the Mazda 3 uses 8.5 litres of gas per 100 km on average in the city, 6.5 on the highway, and 7.6 combined, running on 87 octane fuel, according to Natural Resources Canada. (The vehicle has a 50-litre fuel tank.)

What does this mean for you? More than 600 km of driving between refills. If you opt for the manual transmissi­on, the combined figure rises to 7.8 litres/100 km. Upgrading to the all-wheel drive and or turbo further raises fuel use and your fuel tank takes 48 litres. (Note that the Corolla and Civic have lower fuelconsum­ption rates.)

All Mazda 3s use a 2.5-litre, fourcylind­er engine, which produces 191 horsepower and 186 pounds-feet of torque (motive force) through a sixspeed automatic. On the GT trim, you can choose a six-speed manual transmissi­on. It is silky smooth.

The sprint to reach highway speeds with the non-turbo engine is an exercise in simplicity and effectiven­ess. And the turbocharg­ed engine gallops with up to 250 horsepower and 320 lbs.-ft. of torque at your disposal.

The low centre of gravity and smartly tuned suspension means manoeuvrin­g is done quickly and accurately. The Mazda 3 performs very well on city and highway routes, and has a slightly firmer ride feel than the Corolla and Civic. Also, it’s easy to drive and park given its compact size.

Four trims offer plenty of choice from seat material (leather, leatherett­e, cloth) and colour (black, red or brown) to infotainme­nt screen size (8.8 inches or 10.25) upgraded audio, power seats and more.

Standard features include heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You have to climb to higher trims to get goodies such as a sunroof, wireless charging and a heated leather steering wheel.

Mazda’s minimalist approach to interior design is oh-so tasteful. The interior feels larger than it is through its use of space. It’s uncluttere­d. The two-out-of-three analogue dials are easy to read, day or night. Throw in the traditiona­l gear selector lever and hardtouch HVAC buttons and it’s modern with splashes of convention­al.

Practicali­ty also scores high with 569 litres of cargo space and that more than doubles to 1,334 litres with the rear seats folded.

Standard safety includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Disappoint­ing. Opt for the second trim GS and you’ll get adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, lanekeep assist, lane-departure warning, forward-collision avoidance and more. The top GT and Suna trims add in a 360 camera, traffic sign recognitio­n and traffic jam assist.

The price ranges from $24,950 for the GX to $38,900 for the Suna with turbo charged engine trim. The Civic hatchback has two trims, which closely align with the GT and Suna trims here. The Corolla hatchback has one trim with four packages, and it’s competitiv­e with the all trims but the Suna.

The GT trim holds the best value at $32,450 for the manual and $34,895 for the automatic.

The Mazda 3 Sport is a comfortabl­e, everyday vehicle in its own class. It’s not quite a luxury vehicle, but it’s the next best thing. This hatchback compares well with subcompact crossovers, although a few drivers may want a few extra inches of ground clearance.

Do you really need a crossover? This hatch will have your back unless you feel you absolutely must have one.

 ?? ?? The premium materials used in the Mazda 3 use a minimalist­ic design and creates a premium cabin experience.
The premium materials used in the Mazda 3 use a minimalist­ic design and creates a premium cabin experience.
 ?? ?? Sleeker and longer than its stablemate, the CX-30, the Mazda 3 Sport is stylish, svelte and sophistica­ted.
Sleeker and longer than its stablemate, the CX-30, the Mazda 3 Sport is stylish, svelte and sophistica­ted.

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