Mazda 3 Grand Touring
i-ELOOP and Jinba Ittai
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – Good chefs like my Grandmother eschew cookbooks and add a pinch of this and a small helping of that when making a favorite dish.
In the end, the featured dish always comes out much better than the printed version thanks to those little touches.
Same for the Mazda 3.
What sets it apart from the other compact cars is the sporty ingredients that make it fun to drive.
And the fun starts with the 2.5-liter engine housed in the tested top-of-the-line Grand Touring model – a robust 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm with 185 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm. The standard 6-speed automatic joined in the party to produce a zero to 60 in about 7.5 seconds, yet it feels faster from the driver’s seat.
You can thank i-ELOOP, (no relation to Alley Oop), for fuel economy that came to 27 mpg in the city, 37 highway, for a combined 31 mpg. My average dipped below that to 29 mpg perhaps because it was such a great driving experience that it hurt when they picked it up after seven most delightful days.
Oh, what is i-ELOOP you ask? It is a capacitor that uses electricity captured during coasting and braking to power accessories. That takes the burden off the alternator and kicks out an extra mpg or two. Plus, it is a great name.
A well thought out suspension works in complete harmony with the engine, transmission and steering to make back road carousing entertaining. Your initial and lasting perception will be that small compacts are just not supposed to be this much fun to drive.
Those who think cornering G’s are something you put in a soufflé will not be impressed with the somewhat stiffer suspension and choppier ride that is part and parcel of that crisp handling. Some may also find the interior just a tad noisier than expected.
Girls and boys who “just want to have fun” will find it just right. Okay, dated reference but you get the idea. After all, there is a reason why the 3 made Kelley Blue Book’s list of the ten “Coolest Cars” this year.
It would be my commendation to pop for the top of the line trim model because it spiffs up the interior with leather trimmed sport seats that will hug your bod. The driver’s seat is 6 ways adjustable with lumbar alterations and the front seats were heated.
Also the steering wheel and shift lever were leather trimmed while rear passengers get am arm rest cup holder.
Those sitting out back might find the available space just a touch on the tight side. Storage space with the 60/40 folded down is average for this type of vehicle.
The government gave the 3 five stars out of five for crash protection, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave it a top rating in moderate overlap and small overlap front offset testing. So there is some peace of mind here, aided by a long list of safety features including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and stability control.
Further, owners can expect better than average reliability according to Consumer Reports.
With a lengthy list of options the test car carried an MSRP of $30,270. You can reduce that by $1,750 by opting out of the Appearance Package.
Since 2013, the Mazda 3 has produced millions of miles of enjoyable driving and that carries over to the 2017 models as well. And it picks up a new term, the “Jinba Ittai” driving experience or “horse and rider as one.”
This involves a wide variety of factors such as braking, turning, and accelerating to more closely match inputs from the driver, including load transfers to the front and rear tires thus “enhancing responsiveness and stability” Mazda said.
The result is a “natural driving feel enhanced by quicker and more precise control than is possible for a human driver to achieve.” It also improves handling and stability on wet and slippery roads.
Further, the 2017 is said to be 3dB quieter over rough roads thanks in part of improved sound insulation.
So an already slick little compact just gets better. I can recommend the 3 wholeheartedly. The 2017 is now in showrooms.