2016 Mazdas provide fun to drive, jazzy attributes on test drives
by Jerold B. Smith
We’ve tested a series of Mazda models recently and found them generally fun to drive and usable vehicles. While the 2016 MX-5 Miata is a hot sportster that is indeed fun to drive, we found it a bit small for larger drivers in regards to entry and egress, but it was loaded with standard equipment for a price of $32,300 with a $3,400 Bremco brake package.
Two models we especially liked are the Mazda3 hatchback and the CX-3 crossover. Both had Mazda’s jazzy Soul Red metallic exterior paint (a $300 option), Mazda SKYACTIV Technology, and each provided us with sufficient cargo space and usability for compact cars.
The 2016 CX-3 S Grand Touring AWD unit, the top of three trim levels, is powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-L DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine that produces 146 HP and 146 lb.-ft. of torque. Not the beefiest engine we tested of late, but mated with a sport mode automatic transmission with paddle shifters (no manual available), it provided EPA/DOT fuel ratings on the AWD model of 27 MPG/city and 32 MPG/highway (an overall of 29 MPG; FWD versions garner slightly more at 29/35). During our weeklong test we posted 30.5 MPG.
While the Mazda MX-5 recently was honored as the World Car of the Year, as well as the World Car Design of the Year award, the CX-3 (and the Mazda3 for that matter) is a well-designed and attractive 5-door unit. It offers plentiful front seat space (somewhat tight in the rear) and with the rear seats down it provides 44.5 cubic feet of cargo space which we used to its fullest as usual.
With 18-inch all season tires mounted on 18-inch alloy wheels (standard on both the CX-3 and Mazda3 Grand Touring models), the ride is improved on the unibody ring structure chassis (both units) that features a MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension on the CX-3. There is also a front stabilizer bar, traction control, and Dynamic Stability Control. Combined with the i-ACTIV AWD, this crossover performed well in some challenging road conditions we experienced.
Exterior likes on the CX-3 include heated power mirrors, a rear roof spoiler, LED fog lamps, and intermittent front and rear wipers (highly usable when you live in a mountain rain forest). We also liked the LED headlamps for nighttime driving.
Not much is overlooked on the interior of the CX-3 from a navigation system and seven-inch color screen to heated front seats to a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Likeable items included a rearview camera, a seven-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, plenty of connectivity, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, and abundant safety features.
With dozens of standard features, there was little to add as options on the CX-3. The Soul Red paint, door sill trim plates, and a rear bumper guard added $500 to the $26,240 MSRP. With solid ride qualities, more than adequate head room, and comfy seats, we liked the new CX-3.
The 2016 Mazda3 S Grand Touring is truly a sibling to the CX-3 with one exception being the power plant. Our tester had a 2.5-L DOHC engine that had a bit more pep and produced 184 HP. It also has a six-speed automatic transmission with overdrive and manual shift modes. Fuel ratings ate 31 MPG overall (27/city and 37/highway). Again, we topped out just above the ratings at 31.3 MPG during our test.
The suspension on the Mazda3 is independent front and rear, the Bose audio system pounds out slightly more sound with nine speakers, there are leather-trimmed seats, it has Bi-Xenon headlamps that blast light on dark roads, and there is a one-touch moonroof. Most safety and convenience features are the same as the CX-3, but we did have a few more options on the 5-Star safety rated Mazda3 that included Mazda Mobile Start, cargo net and mat, and a $1,750 appearance package. With those, the final price on our Grand Touring model, the top of five trims (the base iSport starts at $18,545) was $29,450, much similar to the CX-3. Our only real frustration with the Mazda3 was more road noise than we like.
Mazda’s SKYACTIV Technology involves a variety of systems from the engines and transmissions to energy recovery. The SKYACTIV-G engines are engineered to produce more low/mid range torque, less emissions, and top fuel economy. The automatic transmissions on Mazdas are designed for smooth, steady acceleration with an advance control module, or brain, that allows for responsiveness and reliability.
The SKYACTIV i-ELOOP is what Mazda call a “groundbreaking regenerative braking system that harnesses the car’s kinetic energy and converts it into energy.” Basically it means that the electricity generated powers the vehicle’s electronics and allows for higher fuel economy.