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Motoring: 2018 Mazda3 GS


Though its performance is not the absolute greatest, the 2018 Mazda3 GS is still a great, reliable family car that will get you to points A to B in no time.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 8th, 2018

Once upon a time, the Mazda3 was the second-best selling compact sedan in Canada — behind the ever popular Honda Civic.

Nowadays, the Mazda3 has slipped a few spots in its ranking, mainly because a lot of Mazda customers are flocking to their other compact model, the smart, stylish, and capable CX-3 crossover.

Still, the Mazda3 has a sizeable chunk of the market, and in order to keep it that way, the Hiroshima-based manufacturer has been constantly updating its best-seller!

For 2018, a few new changes have been introduced, and as I discovered, my tester had an interesting combination of specs.

My 2018, Mazda3 GS tester had a new “i-ACTIVSENSE” package, which gave it a heads-up display, radar cruise control, smart brake support, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, LED headlights with auto levelling and high beam control, LED taillights, and to finish it off, a black metallic grille.

All these features are new to the GS trim — usually such equipment is reserved for the highest trim model. But remember when I mentioned that it now has an odd combination of specs? I said that because, while this Mazda3 GS with i-ACTIVSENSE package gives you such high tech goodies, this model still misses out on some equipment that I expected it to have — mainly automatic climate control.

It really felt odd to be driving a car with such high-tech features, only for it to not have automatic climate control, which is fairly common these days. Don't know why Mazda left this feature out, but they did.

Also, while my tester had radar cruise control — which keeps a safe distance between you and the car ahead — the system cuts off at speeds below 20 kilometres per hour which means, it isn't of much help in traffic jams — some competitors, namely: Subaru, offer a full-range radar cruise control, which can bring a car down to a full stop.

Another feature missing was a built in navigation system as standard with this trim. There is a button in the car that read “NAV” but when I pressed it, a sign came up that this feature is not on the vehicle, but a visit to a Mazda dealer can resolve this, albeit at a price.

Apart from that, the 2018 Mazda3 is still a very nice vehicle, made to look better with some refreshed styling at the front. Unless you're a keen Mazda3 observer, you won't notice the changes. The interior looked and felt the same as with the last Mazda3 I tested a few years ago — which means, on the plus side, the seats are comfortable and interior volume is good, but on the negative, there is still too much road noise at highway speeds.

As for speed, this is not what you'd call a fast car! Under the hood is a 2.0 litre, inline-four cylinder motor that makes 155 horsepower and 150 pounds per foot of torque. Power is fed to just the front wheels, via either a six-speed manual, or sixspeed automatic — as per my tester.

The drivetrain set up is to maximize efficiency, not performance, and it feels like that — this is not a car that would “Wow” you with its performance. It is adequate for normal driving, and that is the kind of driving most of these compact cars are destined for on a regular basis.

However, Mazda engineers still love a good handling car, and as a result, this 2018 Mazda3 does go around corners remarkably well, and the steering feel is simply excellent. Further aiding handling is G-Vectoring Control, which helps rotate the car more effectively around corners — the result is great stability through low and high speed corners.

The most (pleasantly) surprising feature of this Mazda3 was its fuel economy. I did a highway run of about 50 kilometres at a speed of 104 kilometres per hour and the car was sipping just 4.6 litres per 100 kilometres of fuel — that is better than most hybrids I've tested. A city and highway combined run averaged 7.0 litres per/100 kilometres — which is still among the best in its class.

Pricing is also still very good. The 2018 Mazda3 GS starts from $20,300. My well-equipped tester was priced at $25,995 (including freight and PDE).

To sum it up, the Mazda3 is a good compact, family car, which will give you reliable service for many, many years. It falls just short of being labelled “Great” — but that might be coming in the future.
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