Driving each day solidified my positive thoughts on many parts of the car but also highlighted a few shortcomings…

The traditional one week in a media test drive car offers a good chance to get to know it… but two weeks is even better!

Recently, I go a chance to spend a week in the base Mazda3 and a second week in the higher performance Mazda3 GT. This real-life experience driving each day solidified my positive thoughts on many parts of the car but also highlighted a few shortcomings.

Looks

Mazda has done a great job of producing a compact car that looks stylish and upscale in both the sedan and hatchback forms. The hatchback version, called Sport, I test drove was the middle GS trim, which is where most people in this segment will typically shop. The GS starts at $19,695 for the sedan and $20,695 for the Sport (hatchback) version. The top GT sedan I drove is much more expensive, starting at $25,855 for the sedan and $26,855 for the Sport. There are some nice upgrades to the GT, like LED marker lights and tail light, Xenon headlamps, bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, versus 16-inches on the lower trim levels. Then there is the added power from the larger engine. A fully kitted out GT runs up to the $30,000 mark. Yes, compact cars have more features then ever but the price has moved up accordingly.

Inside

The interior of the middle GS and high end GT trim is worth the extra cost, over the basic GX, as it features a centre mounted screen on the dash for things like radio, telephone and navigation features. This is activated by a controller in the centre of the two front seats and is easy to master. The radio reception I found was rather weak, the FM signal faded in and out, as did the volume and treble. Both versions of the Mazda3 performed this way. The higher end GT model comes with a few extras like automatic climate control, a small heads-up display in front of the driver’s position and optional leather seats. The back seats are comfortable but the doors are high and the side windows small, making outward visibility a problem for kids.

Drive

At the heart of both the sedan and GT is the same great “Skyactiv” platform developed by Mazda that is lighter than the previous car and can be matched to two powerful and fun to use engines. The base engine is a 155hp 2.0L direct injection engine. This engine surprised me with the amount of very usable mid-range torque. The bigger 184hp 2.5L version of the same engine has more grunt but I’m not sure it is worth the added money, the smaller 2.0L is that good. Yes the GT comes with the bigger wheels and tires, plus a sport button to make the automatic transmission livelier but this is the only gearbox offered on the GT, no manual. For the car with more power and road-handling prowess, I’m surprised the manual is not offered here, it’s only offered with the 2.0L engine.

Verdict

I have mixed feelings about the Mazda3. I do like the engineering that went into this car, the lighter platform, the impressive direct injection engines, great styling and comfortable cabin. The dash and interior looks upscale and in some cases is expensive. The FM radio reception needs to be fixed and that back seat is claustrophobic for small children. I’m usually drawn to more powerful cars like the GT version but in this case, the base 2.0L is so good, you might want to save a few dollars and get the cheaper car. If you want the best Mazda has to offer, the GT will not disappoint

Contact: zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The Lowdown

Power: 2.0L 4-cylinder with 155hp or 2.5L with 184hp

Fill-up: 9.9L/7.0L/100km (city/highway)

Sticker price: $15,995-$30,855

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