ROAD TEST: 2015 Mazda Mazda3 Sport

mazda-3

By Shari Prymak

There’s no denying the appeal of a crossover SUV. The crossover is to the car world what the iphone is to tech world. It’s a hot commodity. Given the realities of urban life, however, a bulky, thirsty, and often pricey, crossover, no matter how trendy it may be, sometimes comes off as a little silly.

So why not go with something a bit more sensible, such as the superb Mazda3 Sport? Yes, it is a hatchback, which means you won’t get the high driving position that you get in a crossover. But here’s the thing. The Mazda 3, even in top-spec form with the big engine option, gets roughly 9.0L/100km in city driving and around 6.5L/100km on the highway. That’s pretty astonishing, especially when you consider that the Mazda3 Sport, when all is said and done, probably has at least 80 percent of the cargo capacity and the same number of seats as a small crossover.

The Sport may not be able to match a crossover in terms of all-out practicality, but when it comes to driving dynamics, no crossover comes close. Mazda’s a brand that prioritizes infusing each of their models with a bit of MX-5 sportiness, and it shows. The 3 has a certain nimbleness and agility to it that’s often reserved for far more sporting cars. The nicely weighted steering feels hard-wired to the chassis, ready to obey your every command. Acceleration is impressive as well, thanks to the GT’s powerful for the class 2.5L engine and its finely matched 6-speed transmission.

I’ve driven cars that cost twice as much as the 3 that aren’t nearly as satisfying to drive, nor as nice to sit inside. All of the materials and controls have a quality look and feel that wouldn’t look out of place in an entry-level Audi. The central command knob which controls the centre display, not unlike the kind you’d find in a BMW, is even intuitive enough to keep driver distraction at bay.

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The Mazda3 lineup has a starting MSRP of $15,995. Budget permitting, I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to fork out the $26,995 it takes to land the Sport body style with the GT trim. This configuration has just about everything one could want in an everyday runabout; including a few luxuries like HID headlights, Bose speakers, head-up display, and a navigation system. The $1500 Luxury package, with its beautiful off-white, two-tone leather is a nice addition as well.

There’s no question, 28 grand plus extras is a lot of money for a compact car, especially when a top-spec Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla can be had for thousands less. As far as hatchbacks go, the Hyundai Elantra and Subaru Impreza fit the bill as well. Though all are solid alternatives, none of them can quite match the Mazda3’s well-rounded, premium feel and fun to drive nature. All things considered, the Volkswagen Golf comes the closest as a total package, but given the generally high cost and frequency of repairs for Volkswagen products, I’d still rank it behind the Mazda.

Crossovers may be the current trendy thing, but what’s also trendy are quality feeling, technology-laden compacts like the Mazda3. It’s a car that doesn’t require you to give up anything in exchange for downsizing. And even though there’s an incredible amount of automotive choice out there, the Mazda 3 Sport is probably the only car that most people actually need. When one car does so many things so well, it really begs the question: why not a Mazda3?