Mazda3 Car of the Week

If you’re anything like us, always behind the wheel of something, always on the road, frequenting mountain passes, and with a penchant for premium amenities and interiors, then there are few brands that can match the value that Mazda brings to the table. 

Whether you’re looking for a fun-to-drive crossover, hatchback, or sedan, all of the brand’s cars are perfect for the driving enthusiast who wants a reliable Japanese daily driver that really punches above its weight class in terms of capability, price, and value. 

So for this feature, we’re going to show one of the classics in the Mazda lineup. While the brand may be fielding some of the best crossovers in the market today, the humble and still sultry Mazda3 continues to be sold. The nameplate was at one point the brand’s best-seller but it has taken a back seat. Still, however, it’s one of the best cars that you can buy today in the compact sedan and hatchback segment. So without further ado, let’s go over why this is perhaps the perfect daily driver for the driving enthusiast. 

There are few design languages out there that really capture the essence of a brand. We love how Mazda has stuck to its guns and kept refining and refining its Kodo Design language, and we love it. The Mazda3 isn’t exactly the newest version of the language, but it’s not like it needed it. Mazda Philippines quietly updated the nameplate for the 2024 model year with a few added and tweaked features in its spec sheet, plus an updated powertrain, but the model continues to turn heads even as it enters into its mid-product lifecycle. 

With the refresh on the wall, Mazda continues to sell one of the names that catapulted it to success in the country. Plus, as far as body styles are concerned, the team is split between the sedan and the Sportback. The younger of us love the sporty and athletic form that the Sportback brings, even if the Sportback design carries a few penalties with it with regard to its practicality for rear passengers and its styling. The older of us in the team would rather go with the sedan, as its more mature design brings executive levels of premium to the model, even if it isn’t an executive sedan in size. 

It can be argued that the Mazda3 is by far the most stylish and sultry compact sedan in the market today. While Honda may be going strong with its Civic, and the 11th-generation model has a more mature look, it’ll never be as elegant as the Mazda3. Some of us love Honda’s sedan, but the AutoDeal team is more or less unanimous with Mazda’s sedan and hatch in the lineup. It’s just that good to look at. 

Another aspect that Mazda gets with their cars, whether you go to the subcompact ‘2’ or the hulking CX-90, is that the interiors are always on point with all high-touch areas, all buttons, and all ergonomic functions are dialed in for maximum driving comfort. For Mazda, being one with your horse, or Jinbai Ittai, is very important. Regardless of whether you’re in a ‘2,’ ‘3,’ CX-30, CX-60, CX-90, or MX-5, you will be able to find the perfect driving position all the time. Mazda spends extra to make you feel like you’re one with the car and the 3 features seating flexibility that is rather unmatched by the rest of the industry. 

When you’re sat right and satisfied with your view in the cockpit, boy what a cockpit it is. When it comes to modern interior design, Mazda is one of the brands to watch. Plastics are standard in the industry, but Mazda goes a step further with soft-touch materials, stepped and leveled dashboards, buttons that you can fidget with all day, and leather colors that are absolutely luxurious. In terms of getting all the emotional aspects of the interior correct, Mazda knows how to make you want to drive in a classy fashion. If you ever get the chance to drive a Mazda3, make sure that you take a minute to appreciate all of its interior features first before setting off. It’s a “long drive” in and of itself exploring every surface of the dashboard. 

Ergonomically speaking while on the drive, the 3 is suitable for daily driving, if you prefer a sporty yet comfortable driving position. On top of that, the sightlines in the vehicle are also choice with the infotainment screen in your line of sight to help you focus on the road, a HUD that can display all manner of information, and a steering wheel that is excellent to grip. It’s only when you get to the back that you realize that this car is meant to be more of a driver’s car. Rear seat space is not the 3’s strong suit, but if you’re the one driving the vehicle for your personal use and enjoyment, then few vehicles cocoon you as well as this one. 

Mazda3 Sportback

If there is one thing that Mazda got right then and continues to get right now is the fact that it understands how transmissions and engines should feel. You can say that the brand is lagging behind on the latest and greatest transmissions like CVTs, DCTs, and others, but while the industry is moving forward, did it really need to? Considering that Mazda invested heavily in making the SkyActiv-G engine platform work, achieving a balance between performance, fuel economy, and driving feel, the transmission was something that didn’t really need changing. A lot of drivers will say that the traditional torque converter is already good enough, why muddy the water with the vague feel of a CVT, or the added complexity of a DCT? 

To us, a torque converter is just good enough. While it is not the most efficient when it comes to helping along fuel economy figures, it will be the best-feeling one, and the type that most people will be accustomed to. That’s why Mazdas feel solid to drive, the 3 included. Six speeds are all you need, and paired with the potent SkyActiv engine tech that delivers potent naturally-aspirated power, you have a recipe for a very enjoyable drive. 

Speaking of, that engine is a 2.0-liter across the lineup. Once upon a time, the 3 had a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, but the 2.0-liter was definitely the one to get. Now, however, the brand has expanded on its engine options. While we don’t get the 1.5-liter anymore, the 2.0-liter has since become the base option while the top-spec HEV trim gets a 2.0-liter with a 24-volt Hybrid System with a 0.216 kWh Lithium-ion Battery. At 162 hp and 213 Nm of torque, it’s not going to outclass turbocharged cars anytime soon, but it does make a huge impact when it comes to fuel efficiency and driving as the electric motor helps the 3 achieve smoother and more powerful performance whether slow or fast. 

Mazda3 Sportback

On its own, the hybrid part of the powertrain includes an Integrated Electric Motor with a torque output of 49 Nm and a power output of 6.8 horsepower. It may seem that the motor doesn’t do much, but considering that gasoline motors are rather imperfect when it comes to delivering their power, the electric motor will smoothen out the powerband and result in a rather seamless delivery of torque. 

If you want to know the difference between the standard 2.0-liter variants and the 2.0-liter HEVs, you’re looking at 153 hp and 200 Nm of torque for the gasoline-only models and 162 hp and 213 Nm of torque for the HEV models. Because of the hybrid system, we’re getting an additional 9 hp and 13 Nm of torque at the top end. While that may not seem like a lot, that figure is constant no matter what RPM you are in. If you get to drive a car with an electric motor assist system, you will find that power is smoother compared to gasoline-only engines, and the same rings true for Mazda’s 3 sedan or Sportback in its HEV trim.  

Mazda3 Sportback

What the Mazda3 offers is one of the best handling packages in the industry for compact sedans and hatchbacks in the mainstream end of the market. However, we have to set your expectations right, it’s not going to be the most comfortable over bumps. One generation prior to this one, Mazda was fielding a 3 with a fully independent rear suspension, so the setup was a MacPherson in the front and a multi-link in the rear. However, going into the newest generation of 3, we got a MacPherson front, and a Torsion Beam Axle, which Mazda claims improves the handling of the car, at minimal expense to comfort. 

During our time with the car, we felt that the rear suspension setup was tuned well enough for daily driving, and the car wasn’t as bumpy as let’s say a subcompact sedan or hatchback. Of course, the car won’t be outright comfortable as compared to its rivals, but for the most part, it’ll outhandle the others, at least in terms of dynamic driving feel. Is it faster overall? That depends, but the level of connectedness that the setup brings is undoubtedly something special in the category. 

The Mazda3 whether in its sedan or Sportback body style is one of our top picks if driving is one of the things that bring you joy and you need a car that can handle the hustle and bustle of life in the city and trips and runs out of town. 

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