By Larry Lark / Herald Special Sections Writer
The completely repackaged 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring continues to improve on a short, but impressive legacy in the compact category.
Since its introduction in 2004, the Mazda3 has sold more than five million units worldwide — the Japanese automaker’s most widely sold model. It has also been named a finalist for World Car of the Year and Car and Driver’s 10 Best List multiple times.
And this version has gotten better. Engineers have elevated the car’s design, added refinement, increased usable performance, and made the Mazda3 a stronger value at all trim levels and price points (Sport, Touring and Grand Touring).
Powered by a 2.5-liter, DOHC, four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the combination generates 184 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque, the Mazda3 seats four adults and receives an EPA rating of 36 miles per gallon down the highway.
The trunk is generous, for a compact sedan — my golf clubs and Sun Mountain push cart both fit without a struggle. If more room is needed, the 60/40 rear seat folds flat.
One performance-enhancing feature is G-Vectoring Control, which now comes standard across all trim levels. The exclusive technology uses engine timing to control chassis dynamics, leading to smoother, more accurate steering. The end result is greater confidence and control for the driver.
The exterior benefits from a redesigned front grille that exudes a three-dimensional look, stylish wrinkle that runs the length of the car, and 18-inch alloy wheels. My wife loved the Eternal Blue Mica coat of paint, which is a new color choice available this year.
The cabin has been made more quiet and refined. Highlights include leather trimmed sports seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, electronic parking brake, dual-zone climate control, rear-view camera, Bluetooth, two USB ports, Bose nine-speaker stereo system and a power moonroof.
An even longer list of safety and security systems are standard. Goodies include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, dynamic-stability control, traction control and hill-launch assist. An optional i-Activsense package bundles high beam control, lane departure warning, LED headlights with auto/off, lane-keep assist, smartbrake support, radar cruise control and traffic sign recognition.
My tester included another $1,600 optional package that added a navigation system, paddle shifters, auto-dim rear view mirror, and heated steering wheel.
Taken in totality, the Mazda3 Grand Touring is anything but a starter — or commuter car. The execution and features belie a compact car in the near luxury category. If you’re looking for a fun ride, good gas mileage and most of the bells and whistles at an affordable cost — this car will talk to you.
BASE PRICE: $24,195
AS TESTED: $27,930
Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. Prices may vary at local dealerships.