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2015 Mazda3: What You Need to Know

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 3/12/2015 Stefan Ogbac
© Mazda

New for 2015

The 2015 Mazda3 is now available with a power moonroof in the s Touring trim but the HID headlights are now exclusive to the s Grand Touring model. A six-speed manual transmission is now available with the larger 2.5-liter I-4 engine. All models except the base i SV trim, which is only available in the sedan, come standard with the Mazda Connect infotainment system featuring a seven-inch touchscreen. All i Touring 3s gain a standard rearview camera while a power moonroof is now part of the available i Touring Technology package.

Vehicle Summary

The 2015 Mazda3 is a compact car available in sedan or hatchback body styles and is one of the most engaging vehicles to drive in its class. It became the third model in Mazda’s lineup to receive the full suite of Skyactiv technologies, featuring ultra-high compression ratio engines, improved transmission, lighter and stronger bodies, taut and rigid chassis, brake energy regeneration, and a host of safety aids.

Overview

Two engines are available in the 2015 Mazda3: a 2.0-liter I-4 with 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque in the Mazda 3 i and a 2.5-liter I-4 rated at 184 hp and 185 lb-ft in the Mazda 3 s. Both engines can be paired to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Fuel economy is excellent with automatic-equipped 2.0-liter sedan being the most efficient at 30/41 mpg city/highway. Opting for the manual drops those numbers down to 29/41 mpg while hatchbacks achieve 30/40 mpg with the automatic and 29/40 mpg with the manual. The larger 2.5-liter is just as fuel efficient with sedans achieving 25/37 mpg with the manual, and 28/39 mpg with the automatic. Hatchbacks equipped with the larger engine are rated at 26/35 mpg with the manual and 27/37 with the automatic. The s Grand Touring model with an automatic transmission is available with a Technology package that includes a brake energy regeneration system called i-ELOOP, which improves fuel economy to 29/40 mpg in the sedan and 28/39 mpg in the hatchback.

Among compact cars, the 2015 Mazda3 is one of the best-handling vehicles, along with the new Volkswagen Golf. The 2015 Mazda3's taut chassis and suspension tuning is ideal for spirited drives through twisty roads without sacrificing ride comfort even with the larger 18-inch wheels. The car’s steering is also one of the best, providing good feedback to the driver. Acceleration is good with both engines, giving the car ample power for passing and merging. For those looking for the most potent acceleration, the larger 2.5-liter I-4 provides even more horsepower and torque while still offering impressive fuel economy.

Interior space is good for the class, however rear seat passengers may not have as much space, since the swoopy styling cuts into headroom. Cargo space is generous especially with the hatch, which has up to 47.1 cubic feet of volume with the split-folding rear seats are folded. Mazda offers a long list of tech and convenience features—especially in the 3 s—that make the car feel upscale including a head-up display, Smart City Brake Support, navigation, blind spot warning, rearview camera, two-tone leather upholstery, and Mazda Connect infotainment, which includes access to smartphone apps such as Pandora and Stitcher. Build quality is excellent with soft-touch materials in touch points and in the dash as well high-grade leather and leatherette upholstery in higher trim levels.

However, the car sacrifices some refinement in favor lightness and engaging driving dynamics with a cabin that is slightly noisier than some of its competitors.

The NHTSA gave the 2015 Mazda3 a five-star overall safety rating (out of a possible five stars). In IIHS evaluations, the 2014 model earned the organization’s highest award, a Top Safety Pick+.

What We Think

The 2015 Mazda3’s combination of engaging driving dynamics, impressive fuel economy, attractive styling, and premium-feeling interior makes it one of the top choices among compact cars. In a 2014 Big Test review that compared seven compact cars, the Mazda3 won because it of it was the most fun to drive, fuel-efficient, and had a long list of available features and safety aids that made it the more complete package. While the models with the smaller 2.0-liter have generous equipment and impressive driving dynamics, variants equipped with the more powerful 2.5-liter build upon that, offering even more gadgets, stronger acceleration, and better handling. We said in a 2014 First Test review that the 3’s “grin-inducing performance carries over to the street” and that it “can be rotated with the throttle like a rear-drive car.”

The interior is also a strong point with high-quality materials and a lot of tech features that make the car feel upscale. However, in a 2014 First Drive review, we noted that refinement is slightly behind some of the competition with some exterior noise entering the passenger compartment.

You’ll Like

  • Superb handling without sacrificing ride quality
  • Great fuel economy
  • Tech-laden cabin

You Won’t Like

  • i-ELOOP should be standard on 2.5-liter models
  • Cabin can get noisy
  • Rear seating is snug

Key Competitors

  • Ford Focus
  • Honda Civic
  • Kia Forte
  • Volkswagen Golf
  • Toyota Corolla

Rating

5 star

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