Mazda3

Car And Driver Review Of The 2018 Mazda3

What makes the Mazda 3 one of our favorite cars—not to mention a multi-time 10Best Cars winner? Its winning formula is simple and continues to win us over: sharp looks, a near-premium interior, and sublime driving dynamics. The 3 is available in both sedan and hatchback body styles, with one of two efficient inline-four engines and either a slick-shifting six-speed manual or an almost-as-satisfying six-speed automatic transmission. Neither powertrain will embarrass a competitor in a stoplight drag race, but the 3 is a star when charging curvy back roads. As a daily driver, it’s practical, comfortable, and stylish. Blend those virtues with a focus on driving pleasure and it’s no wonder the 3 finds itself at the top of our list.

What’s New for 2018?

While the base Sport trim still has the 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, Touring models now have the Grand Touring’s 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder as standard equipment. All trims now have automated emergency braking—though it only works at lower speeds—as standard and Touring models feature a new, dark-colored aluminum wheel design; illuminated vanity mirrors and an overhead sunglasses holder become standard rather than optional equipment on that trim. The top-spec Grand Touring trim’s Premium Equipment package now includes Mazda’s i-Activsense active safety suite, which was previously offered as a standalone package. These include automatic high-beam headlamps, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and traffic-sign recognition.

What Was New for 2017?

The 3’s refresh for 2017 was relatively mild, including subtle nips and tucks to the front and rear, plus additional sound insulation for the lightly revised interior. A new steering wheel similar to that in Mazda’s CX-9 crossover can now be heated, while nicer materials grace the door panels and seats. The optional head-up display is now rendered with color graphics, and a new camera was added to the active safety system for improved automated emergency braking. Mazda’s new G-Vectoring Control technology, which cuts the engine’s torque on corner entry to sharpen the 3’s turn-in response, became standard on all models.

Trims and Options We’d Choose

We’ll stand by our choice from 2017: the Grand Touring hatchback with a six-speed manual. This top-spec trim starts at $24,770; that’s $750 more than a similarly optioned Mazda 3 sedan, but the hatchback’s extra versatility is worthy of the upcharge. Standard equipment on the GT trim includes 18-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, power and heated exterior mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a head-up display, and an upgraded Bose nine-speaker stereo system. Other noteworthy features include:

• Leather upholstery with heated front seats
• A power sunroof
• Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert

We’d opt for the $1600 Premium Equipment package and its navigation system, adaptive LED headlights, a heated steering wheel, and the aforementioned active safety technologies. The final outlay comes to $26,370, which, combined with the 3’s other attributes, makes it highly attractive for the money.